Ask Sail: Are Self-trackers Worth It?

Author:
Publish date:
You lose no power in a rig with a well-designed self-taking headsail

You lose no power in a rig with a well-designed self-taking headsail

Q: I’m seeing more and more self-tacking jibs out on the water (and in the pages of SAIL) these days. I can’t help thinking these boats are all hopelessly underpowered, especially off the wind, when compared to boats with even slightly overlapping headsails. But I could be wrong. How much extra power do you get from an overlapping headsail (as opposed to, say, a 150 percent genoa) compared to a typical self-tacker?

— Bradley Connor, San Diego, CA

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

When a yacht designer comes up with the sailplan for a design he/she has a certain amount of sail area that can be incorporated based on the righting moment of the boat. In the past, there was a feeling that a big headsail and a small mainsail was the way to go, in part because mainsails were a pain to deal with. However, as hardware changed and mainsails became easier to manage, designers found that it was better to concentrate the sail area there rather than the headsail. They, therefore, increased the sail area of the mainsail and moved the mast forward to keep the center of effort (CE) in the correct place. The net result is that you have the same sail area as before only distributed differently, so no, the boats are not underpowered. Also, except in all but the lightest of conditions, overlap is overrated. The 50 percent that wraps back around aft of the mast only causes the boat to heel once the wind comes up. Self-tacking jibs also more than pay for themselves in terms of convenience.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

November 2018

Related

02-'17-Trans-Atlantic_Downwind-Schralpin

At The Helm: Man Overboard!

Imagine this simple scenario: the boat’s powered up, sailing close-hauled in a building breeze under full sail. I come on deck as the skipper during the watch change to make sure the new crew is comfortable and the boat is properly set up for both the current conditions and ...read more

Promo-01-LEAD-MGR00321

Contrasting X-Yachts & Moody Cruisers

One of the most fascinating things about sailboats is the different ways that sailors, naval architects and builders will approach a single design problem. The result has been a bewildering array of rigs and hull forms over the years, and in the case of the two boats we’ll be ...read more

04-Yacht-anchored-in-front-of-one-of-Lastovo's-gunboat-tunnels-(3)

Cruising Charter to Croatia

As is the case with so much of the Mediterranean, to sail in Croatia is to take a journey through time. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Greeks traded amphoras of oil, wine and grain across these waters. During the first millennium, the Romans built lavish palaces and ...read more

m123728_13_01_171012_PMA_02901_9999

Alicante Announced as an Ocean Race Europe Stop

The Ocean Race Europe, a new event in offshore sailing, will include Alicante as one of four stopover cities. This European offshoot of the former Volvo Ocean Race will include the biggest change to the racing rules under the new title—fully crewed IMOCA 60s will join the ...read more

01-LEAD-doublehanded2

Preparing for a Doublehanded Race

A few months ago we took a look at the development and attraction of doublehanded racing (Two to Tango, June/July 2020). Hopefully, that served to whet your appetite. If so, the question becomes: “How do I get started? The good news, as we explained in Part 1, is that if you are ...read more

01-LEAD-Day-three---dolphins.-300-dpi

A Key Approach to Passagemaking

How you approach offshore sailing is key to the success of each passage. In addition, some of the most valuable, even crucial attitudes and skills may not be either learned or valued in everyday life on shore and may even fly in the face of talents that are greatly admired and ...read more

OceanVoyagesInstitute-2048

Point of SAIL: Mary Crowley of the Ocean Voyages Institute

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a not-for-profit based in California that has been both educating sailors and working to preserve the health of the world’s ocean ...read more

01-Ocean-Voyages-Institute_PHOTO-READY_1_pg

Tracking and Catching Plastic Waste

Plastic waste—in the form of everything from plastic soda bottles to abandoned fishing nets—constitutes a major threat to the health of the world’s oceans. Giving the immense size of an ocean, though, actually finding all the plastic floating around out there in a time-efficient ...read more