Topic: Wind strength and sail size

Hi All,
I've recently purchased my Contessa and am getting acquainted with her.  So far, only 2 sailing days in... one with less than 4knots of breeze, so not much sailing occurred and then a quick sunset cruise last Saturday.  I estimate the winds were around 10 knots, although I didn't have the machine on and the >155% genoa, by itself was pulling me upwind around 4-5 knots (GPS SOG).  We were just out for a sunset cruise so we didn't have the main up and we weren't heeling much.

To give me a head start with my experimenting, I'm curious to know what combination of sails you use for a given wind strength/range.  Around the great lakes, I don't usually see anything above 25knots (although it has happened)

For example, what do you carry in 5-10knots?  10-15? 15-20 and 20-25?
At what point do you reef your main and at what point would you exchange a 155% genoa for a 100% jib?

Lastly, I'm considering ditching the 155% genoa altogether and having my 130% genoa cut for the furler as my primary head sail.  I'm having a difficult time with the decision as I don't know the wind ranges for each sail yet.  Is it a waste of money since my 155% is still good?  Or will it make a better primary sail for winds 5-15 knots?


Re: Wind strength and sail size

I tend to run a smaller headsail and try to carry a full main as long as I can...

3 (edited by Carolyn 2011-06-21 07:28:06)

Re: Wind strength and sail size

Hello Jordan: 

The former owner of my boat had the large drifter and the working jib taped for the furler.  He never used the 130 genoa and it still had hanks on it when I bought the boat 3 years ago.  I had the 130 recut and taped for the furler and its the only headsail I use now.  I sail on Georgian Bay, and last summer seemed to be windier than past.  I remember reducing the headsail only once, but after a few outings where I experienced heavy gusts, I began to take in the first reef when the wind was steady around 13 or 14kts. while leaving the 130 full size. The boat immediately became much more mannerly - it didn't feel like I was struggling with a boat that had the 'bit in her teeth' so to speak.  I didn't sacrifice any speed or performance - quite the opposite as Ephesus doesn't sail as efficiently with her rails under water.  I sail single-handed, so it was much less fatiguing as well.  Just under 20 kts I will take in the 2nd reef and reduce the headsail. 

I don't know how far you can reef the 130 in heavy wind before it starts to lose its shape.  I've been thinking about installing a second forestay and putting hanks on my working jib so I could use that if I needed to.  It would be much easier to raise a hanked-on jib than trying to lower the #2 and feed a working jib onto the furler on my own, especially if the wind is up.  Typically, a 2nd forestay is kept out of the way by leading it outside the shrouds and  shackling it to the base of a lifeline stanchion  until its needed.  Still pondering this option....If anyone has gone this route, please let me know how it worked out.


Re: Wind strength and sail size

HI Jordan,

Here's a cheat sheet (no pun intended) on which sails to use when.

0-12 Knots--------------------------Genoa and Full Main

13-18 Knots-------------------------Jib and Full Main or Genoa and Reefed Main

19-26 Knots-------------------------Jib and Reefed Main

26-32 Knots-------------------------Jib or Reefed Main

The others may have other suggestions but it gives you an idea which you can adjust to suit your sailing comfort zone.


Re: Wind strength and sail size

Thanks all.
I went and had the 155% measured today and technically, it's slightly larger than 155%... it still feels monstrous so I'll have to see if I can carry it with full main up to 12 knots.  Wish me luck. :-)

I prefer the idea of a smaller head sail while keeping the main full longer.  However, I think I will work with what I have for this trip and go with the 155% genoa and reefed main.  I don't intend to be out in anything over 20 knots but I will have the Jib, just in case.

Carolyn, I really like the idea of a second forestay.  That's simply not in the budget for this year but I'll consider it down the road.  I think it makes quite a bit of sense on a larger boat but I'm wondering if the extra weight and hassle is worth it on a Contessa, especially for those like you and I on the great lakes where we don't get over 30 knots of wind very often.  As you said, with the furling 130% head sail, you haven't needed anything else.

jcfoto, thanks for the guide. That was exactly the head start for which I was looking.

On a related note, I have been racing on a Farr 30 that sails quite a bit flatter than I suspect the Contessa will.  Does anyone know what the optimum heel angle is for our boats going up wind?  Are we talking 15 degrees?  25 degrees?

Re: Wind strength and sail size

I looked at (and continue to look at because it is pretty) the inner forestay.  It is a nice idea but, depending on the configuration you choose, you may run into the need for running backstays.  It becomes heavy and  complicated fast. 

I had a long talk with a sailmaker about this and decided that when I replace the 135% Genoa I will probably move to a 110-120% sail, cut as a blade.  It will utilize the maximum luff, unlike our current working jibs which do not.  A few turns of the roller will reduce area dramatically and should give a good reef.

If I need to reef further, then I would furl the sail completely and hank on a storm jib on a Gale Sail (this is a neat solution if you are not familiar with it).

As for optimum heel angle:  let us know what you figure out!

Re: Wind strength and sail size

Great thread... thanks all!

"Lolly Jo" #230
C. Paul Carter
Montreal, QC