Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Preparing your sails for winter

After a glorious summer the weather has finally broken with a vengeance and reminded us that the sailing season is now rapidly drawing to an end. Many sailors will now be making plans for laying up their boats for the winter but it is important at this stage to give some thoughts to your sails. All too often we see furling genoas being left up all winter whilst the boat is ashore; the same goes for mainsails that are left on underneath their sail covers. This of course means that the sails are at the mercy of the elements for extended periods of time, in fact during the winter of 2013 – 2014 we saw many furled headsails that had been completely destroyed because they had shaken themselves loose during the winter gales and literally flogged themselves to pieces.
Trashed jib that shook itself loose in a gale on its marina berth, the sail was destroyed in minutes!
That’s not the only risk however, tightly bound and folded sails combined with a damp salty environment become perfect breeding grounds for mould and mildew. We strongly recommend therefore that if the boat is out of use for any period of time, especially over what can be a long and harsh winter at the very least sails should be unbent and stored somewhere dry. If you are in a position to rinse and dry the sails yourself and inspect them closely prior to folding them away that’s great but if not we are happy to take care of the whole process for you.

Sail repairs and service by professionals

Regular maintenance of your sails by skilled sailmakers can significantly enhance their working life, saving money for the owner and ensuring reliability when it is needed most. Sails operate in a hostile environment where salt and pollutants can cause serious damage to even the best kept sails. Similarly, constant wear & tear requires careful repair and maintenance with an end of season overhaul being essential for the longevity of your sail wardrobe. It is important that any damage, no matter how small is repaired as quickly as possible in order to prevent further damage occurring.

Recuts and retrofits

A simple recut can improve shape and give a new lease of life to a ‘tired’ sail. With improved shape comes improved performance and handling, something that is well worth thinking about whilst the sail is off the boat anyway. Retrofit extras include UV protection, luff flatteners for shape retention when genoas are partially furled, changing from hanks to luff foils, altering batten configurations, adding reefs to mainsails etc.

Sail Laundry

OneSails recommend that any sails that are salty or damp get washed thoroughly prior to winter storage. The laundry process will remove any salt and any other airborne pollutants which may harm the sails if left for any period of time. This in turn helps to prolong the overall life of the sail. It also has the added benefit of making the sails easier to work on if any service work is required, and means that they will be dry when they are put away for the winter. If they are put away whilst damp, they are more likely to attract mould or mildew and will not be in a pleasant state when you come to bend them back on next season.

A variety of other sail treatments are also available. Seal ‘n’ Glide is a process that coats the sail in a very thin and slippery nano-layer that helps repel water. This helps to rejuvenate spinnakers that have gone soft and helps furling genoas and mainsails to furl away more efficiently. The fact that it helps repel water also means that it reduces the chances of attack from mould and mildew. M5 is a dedicated anti-fungicidal process that involves cleaning and coating the sails. The special chemicals don’t harm the sails in any way but will kill off any mould and mildew that is present and offer further protection for up to 9 months.

At OneSails GBR we are pleased to be able to offer a full range of sail repair and maintenance services, please feel free to contact us to see what we can do for you and how we can help to extend the life of your sails. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Cruising Sails - Good versus bad, what difference does it make?

When talking to sailmakers about new sails, many people quickly get bogged down and preoccupied with the myriad of different fabric choices that are available and what can be large differences in price between one sailmaker and the next for what appears to be a similar product. Fabric choice is important of course as it will have a bearing on how well the sail lasts and how well it performs across time but it is really easy to over-look the rather fundamental issues of design and engineering when choosing your sails.

Of course fabric selection does make a difference, but it is the design itself, the actual aerofoil that the breeze gets deflected around that makes the biggest difference with regards to how the boat behaves and performs.

One question we often get asked is ‘all sailmakers these days design their sails on computers, so they should all be the same shape shouldn’t they?’

No! The computer is just a tool which the designer must be able to manipulate in order to produce the best shapes. Obviously the fabric choice is very important, but the advantages of having the best fabric are lost if the designer does not have the skill and experience to use the tools at his disposal. Similarly, the characteristics of a poor fabric cannot be covered up by clever computing. The advent of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and clever design programmes has meant that the difference between a bad sail and a good sail is not as obvious as it once was, but the differences are still there which is why it is even more important to err on the side of quality and reputation.

Believing that all sails are the same because all the sailmakers use computers to design them is akin to saying that all tailors use tailors dummies, so all suits are the same. As we all know, this is most definitely not the case!

The fact is there is no standardised aerodynamic shape for a given sail on a given boat. It is up to the sail designer to determine what the optimum shape might be and this will depend on the characteristics of the boat, the type of sailing it is likely to do (inshore or offshore, short handed or fully crewed etc), teh conditions it is likely to encounter and the level of experience of the owner. The sail designer will call upon his own experiences to determine what is best and the solution will clearly be slightly different from one designer to the next. 

The designer does not just concern himself with cloth selection and shape however. The designer is also responsible for the size, shape, and orientation of the reinforcing patches, the design of the batten pockets, positioning of hardware such as slides and cleats, making sure that as far as possible batten pockets aren't coincident with spreaders (including the reefed positions) and every other detail that you find on a sail. Typically, a more expensive sail will have had more time and effort afforded to it at the design stage, and will be more carefully engineered and manufactured to ensure the perfect fit first time, to ensure that the sail flies as intended and that it is as user friendly as possible.

So fabric choice, the skill of the designer, engineering and build quality are all contributing to the cost of the sail, but what will the differences actually be on the water?

The modern cruising sailor is increasingly aware of the benefits of having well engineered and constructed sails. Sails that hold their shape across a wider wind range allow for

·        Higher pointing: a well designed sail will point higher than a not so well designed sail. It will also be easier to trim

·        Less heeling: a boat that is heeling unnecessarily can be quite intimidating and uncomfortable for anybody, let alone the inexperienced or the family on a weekend passage. This will also affect the balance of the boat: less heeling means less weather helm.

·        Easier handling: a sail that holds its shape as the wind increases, or doesn’t go baggy when it is furled will ultimately be easier to handle. It is also likely to flog less which will contribute to the overall longevity of the sail.

·        The overall result is that the boat will get from A to B not only quicker but more easily.

Many cruising sailors may well feel that going faster is not important to them. This aside however, lets be really conservative and say that well designed sails will give you an extra 0.2 knots of boat speed for doing nothing else other than having them up and flying. An extra 0.2 knots equates to 400 yards an hour. On an 8 hour passage this is 3200 yards, or over 1.5 miles. How often would 1.5 miles translate into a missed tidal gate or missing a mooring for example? Being more realistic about the boat speed gain will result in the increased distance sailed or the time saved adding up considerably. It may also mean the difference between stemming a foul tide and having to kedge.

We have established then that the price differences between sailmakers can be attributed to quality of the fabric used, the skill and experience of the designer, and the quality of manufacture.

If you were buying a new washing machine you'd quickly establish that at one extreme you could buy one for maybe £150.00 but at the other extreme you might have to spend £1000.00 or more. Well they both just wash clothes don't they? At that point you'd start asking a few questions and you'd find out that the more expensive one has better quality components, it is better engineered, the manufacturer has a better track record, the after sales service is better, it is less likely to go wrong, it is more efficient (using less water and less electricity) and what do you know it actually makes a better job of its primary function, i.e. washing clothes (they come out cleaner and drier). If you still want to buy the cheap one at least you have made an informed decision.

When buying new sails you should have a similar set of considerations, price is important of course but it shouldn't be the primary driver in the decision making process and don’t be afraid to ask the sailmaker a few pertinent questions……

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Starting Tips - from the RORC Red Funnel Easter Regatta

Anyone starting out in sailboat racing will quickly learn the importance of start line bias and most sailors, most of the time will be pre-occupied with starting in good shape at the 'favoured' end of the line in the minutes leading up to the start gun as a good start goes a long way towards securing a good result. However, the 'favoured' end of the line might not necessarily be the end where the bias is.

Over the Easter weekend at the RORC Red Funnel regatta I was sailing on the Half Tonner ‘Chimp’ in IRC 4. On day 1 the wind had an average direction of 020 though being a North Easterly there were significant shifts either side of that number with the shifts becoming more pronounced the further up the beat you went, i.e. the closer you got to the shore. The start line was set more or less square to the average wind though clearly the bias on the line depended on which phase the wind was in.

So the big question was which end of the line to start at? The general strategy was to play the right hand side of the beat because all the forecasts were predicting the wind to slowly veer right as the day wore on. As our start time approached the wind was in the left meaning that there was a notable port bias on the line of around 15 degrees. I felt that was too much to give away so elected to start towards the port end on starboard with a view to getting onto port tack (the lifted tack) quickly. Although we executed a good start we unfortunately ended up with a slightly quicker boat on our windward hip which didn’t share the same enthusiasm as us for being on the other tack. By the time we did manage to get onto port we were on the left hand side of the beat and all of the main contenders in our fleet had gone the other way. The breeze had also now started to swing the other way meaning that we were now on the unfavoured tack on the unfavoured side of the course. We struggled to find clear air and struggled to get back in phase with the shifts and although we sailed the rest of the race pretty well we ended up a disappointing 7th from the 18 starters.

Conditions were similar for race 2 but this time we adopted a different strategy. Even though there was still a port bias on the line we decided that our priority was to get onto the favoured tack as a matter of urgency so that we were in phase with the shifts and heading to the correct side of the course even if that meant giving up the line bias. In reality the start line wasn’t that long so we weren’t giving up an awful lot of distance anyway. So, we started on starboard, on a header with nobody to windward of us, flipped immediately onto port tack and sailed for several minutes on the port lift before the next anticipated right hand shift came in. We tacked immediately and were able to cross the boats from the left that had taken the line bias. Now, perfectly in phase with the shifts, sailing in clear air and sailing in the best pressure we were second around the windward mark comfortably ahead of all the boats except one that gave us lots of time. In other words, in shifty / oscillating breezes the line bias was less important than being on the paying tack at the earliest possible opportunity and that factor would therefore dominate our starting strategies from then on.

So what were the other salient points from the day? Firstly, if the breeze was in the left, although there might be a few minor oscillations, the next significant shift would be to the right so it was important to position the boat accordingly to take full advantage of that when it happened. Secondly, try to get a feel for the timing of the big oscillations, how long did they tend to stay in for? Thirdly, when the pressure was up the breeze tended to be more to the left (the gradient direction). The breeze tended to go right in the sunnier spells when it was also a little lighter. Looking at the sky and the water further up the track provided some good indicators of what might happen next; if you needed a right hand shift, head for the sunny patch though bear in mind that the wind might be lighter there!

On days like this it is impossible to cover all the bases all of the time. On the first beat you need to be on the correct side of the first few shifts in order to take care of the bulk of the fleet. On subsequent beats when the fleet is more spread out you can use the shifts to pick off individual boats.

In summary, in deciding where to start, consider the line bias of course but also consider where you want to position the boat in order to take advantage of the next shift and get fully in-phase with the oscillations. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

How to bend on a furling genoa

It has got to that time of year again when boats are eagerly being polished, antifouled and readied in every other way for the new season. For some, fitting the sails back on to the boat is a straight forward enough job but for others it can be a little daunting. Here’s some tips for bending on a genoa.

First, if your sail hasn’t been serviced by a sail maker check the sail over to make sure that there are no outstanding repairs or service issues from last season that need addressing. It will be easier to address these now than find out about them after the sail has been fitted! Similarly, check that the furling gear is all working nicely, it is easier to check the top swivel before it is hoisted! If the sail has been down all winter there is a good chance that the groove in the foil has accumulated wind blown dust and salt so try and flush this through if possible with fresh water. You could even try spraying some ‘lube’ or Teflon spray into the groove and wiping this through with an off cut of a suitable sized luff tape.

Next, check that a sufficient length of the furling line is wound onto the drum and that it is wound on the correct way round. If the UV strip on the sail is on the starboard side then the furling line needs to exit the drum on the port side (and vice versa).  With the sail laid out on the foredeck, attach the tack of the sail to the drum and the head of the sail to the top swivel. The sheets should also be attached. Now the sail is ready to hoist which will be a lot easier to do if there are two of you, one to pull the halyard and the other to feed the sail carefully into the feeder in the luff foil. The person winding the halyard should pay careful attention to what is happening to the sail as it goes through the feeder in order to stop winding if there is any hint of a snag, this is the most likely cause of any damage. Once the sail is fully up take care not to over tension the halyard, there should be just sufficient tension to remove the wrinkles in the luff of the sail without the luff of the sail appearing taut. Then furl the sail away, double check that the UV strip is on the correct side and you should be set. One further note of caution however, try to bend your genoa on when there isn’t too much wind otherwise you run the risk of damaging the sail whilst it is flogging as you hoist it. You will also find it easier to do if the wind is well forward of the beam.  

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Asymmetric Spinnakers for Cruising

Anybody that is thinking of buying an asymmetric spinnaker for cruising will be looking for a sail that is easy to deploy and which is easy to manage when flying. However, all asymmetrics are not created equal so some thought needs to be given as to exactly how the sail will be used. A sail that is designed to be used as a downwind sail will be very different to a sail that is designed primarily for close reaching. Neither will fulfill both roles particularly well so compromises may have to be made. OneSails have a dedicated range of cruising asymmetrics to suit every end use and which are designed with ease of use and practicality in mind.

FFR – flat furlable reacher
Modern cruising yachts tend to be equipped with reduced area genoas that are very convenient and easy to handle but unfortunately make light air sailing, particularly when just off the breeze very slow and tedious. Even in more traditional boats with large overlapping genoas the sails tend to be so heavy that in light airs they just sag and do very little. The FFR is the ideal solution for the discerning sailor who wants to maximise the yachts potential in light airs and have more control at wider angles as the breeze builds.

These sails are considerably flatter and smaller than their downwind oriented counterparts and are designed to have a taut luff that enables them to be used with a dedicated free flying furling unit which makes them relatively easy to hoist and drop. The FFR is constructed either from Nylon (on smaller boats) or a dedicated ‘Code-Zero’ style laminate on larger boats. They are practical, easy to handle sails that don’t take up too much space and as such are ideal for yachts where space and manpower are often at a premium.

The FFR is a very versatile sail. Although it is designed primarily as a close winded sail it can be used in other ways too. In less than around 5 knots TWS it is possible to sail as close as 50 degrees TWA which is pretty well as close as the boat would sail with it’s regular furling headsail. The difference is that the sail is bigger and lighter. As the breeze builds the sail is used at wider angles as the luff begins to sag and the boat starts to get powered up. In 10 knots TWS the sail would typically be used on a beam reach when the boat would be underpowered with the furling jib but overpowered with a regular spinnaker. The same principles apply as the breeze builds further; the sail gets used at wider angles down to a maximum TWA of around 130 degrees but by this time a dedicated downwind oriented sail would probably be more stable.

Midi & Maxi Cruising Asymmetrics
OneSails cruising asymmetrics take full advantage of the technical advances made in recent years in the three dimensional shaping of downwind sails with the lessons learned resulting in versatile and stable sails aimed specifically at the cruising sailor. The ‘Maxi’ sail is as large a sail as we would recommend for a cruising application and is designed in a way that maximises its ability to help the boat get downwind. In perfect conditions it would be possible to get as deep as 160 degrees TWA though by this stage the sail would be on the verge of becoming unstable and 140 -150 TWA is therefore more like the norm.

The ‘Midi’ sail is slightly smaller and is regarded as the ‘all-purpose’ sail. It is a better reaching sail than the ‘Maxi’ though wouldn’t ultimately get as deep. This sail would typically be used between approximately 90 and 150 degrees TWA though as with the other sail options this will depend on the sheeting angle and the particular characteristics of the boat. Handling of the ‘Maxi’ and ‘Midi’ asymmetrics can be facilitated with the use of a snuffer or a ‘top-down’ furler that is designed specifically to furl this type of sail.

At OneSails we will of course be more than happy to advise on what the best solution is for a particular boat or the way in which the owners are anticipating using it. Whether you are doing day sailing around the estuary or have an ARC passage in mind we have the right product for you.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Storm proofing your furled genoa....

In the recent (late December and January) storms we have seen many furled genoas here on the river Hamble (river and marina berths) shake themselves loose and literally flog themselves to pieces. It might be great for business but much of the damage is preventable with a few precautions:

  • Firstly, make sure that the genoa is furled away tightly. You can achieve this by keeping just a little load on the sheet whilst it is being furled away.
  • The sail normally starts to unfurl in the upper half of the sail as this is where the furl is loosest. You can counter this my moving the genoa sheet cars further forwards than their usual sailing position to maintain some tension on the leech when it is being furled away.
  • Wind on an extra couple of turns after the sail has been furled so that the sheets wrap around the sail. Snub up the sheets nice and firmly and make sure they are well cleated.
  • Tie a sail tie or spare piece of line firmly around the furled sail at clew height as an extra guard against the sheets shaking themselves loose.
  • Wrap a spinnaker halyard around the furled sail so that it forms a spiral and tie this down firmly at the bow somewhere. If this is nice and firm it will help prevent the wind from getting into the sail and gradually working it loose.
Perhaps the best advice though, especially if the boat is being left unused for any period of time is simply to take the sail down. This will be the ideal time to have the sail serviced and laundered if necessary so that it is in the best condition it can be for the start of the new season. Leave the sail up in damp conditions and you run the risk of finding the sail covered in mould, mildew and green algae when you unfurl it in the spring.