Ask SAIL: Wrinkly Sails

Author:
Updated:
Original:

WRINKLY SAILS

Q: When I see photographs of raceboats, I notice all kinds of wrinkles in their mainsails. This is true even of small boats like Lasers at the Olympic level. How is it that these wrinkles don’t affect the aerodynamics of the sail? Surely it must slow them down, especially going to windward.

Kenneth Jenkins, Horicon, WI

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

I presume you mean those horizontal wrinkles and not the vertical ones. (The vertical ones are bad and are caused by too much bend in the mast or too much halyard tension.) The horizontal wrinkles, on the other hand, are not as bad as they look. Granted, all things being equal, it’s probably better to take up on the halyard or cunningham to remove them, but not if that comes at a cost to sail shape. Understand that a sail is designed to a certain shape, and you have a limited number of tools with which to manipulate it. In light winds you want more draft, which means keeping the mast a bit straighter. In heavier winds you want a flat shape, so you bend your mast more and take up on the outhaul. Also, understand that the main has to operate in winds from zero to 30 knots. The sail may be optimized for certain wind speeds and not for others, so what you may be seeing is the result of a compromise on the part of the sailmaker. A few wrinkles along the luff in the area just behind the mast is also experiencing a certain amount of turbulence from the mast anyway, so the issue is not a critical one.

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

June 2017

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