Ask Sail: Speed with a Staysail

I own a 1973 C&C 30 sloop that came with a staysail setup. We race the boat frequently, and it’s surprisingly competitive for its age using just the jib, spinnaker and mainsail...
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Q:Lawrie Yearsley, White Bear Lake, MN

I own a 1973 C&C 30 sloop that came with a staysail setup. We race the boat frequently, and it’s surprisingly competitive for its age using just the jib, spinnaker and mainsail. I was wondering if it would help on any point of sail to use the staysail. I see quite a few large boats using them, like the Volvo Ocean 70s.
Win Fowler Replies

Whether a staysail can help you depends entirely on what the staysail is. A full hoist, high-clew sail with a vertical leech (70 percent or so LP, i.e., the length from the luff to the clew) can sometimes help under spinnaker on a beam or broad reach, and can be quite useful as a wind seeker when there is too little wind to fill the genoa. Bear in mind, though, that flying the staysail with a spinnaker should only be attempted on a relatively long leg. Otherwise, you may lose more distance setting and dousing it than you gain from flying it.

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