Do headsails make a rig more efficient by definition?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by SailsAhead, Oct 22, 2018.

  1. SailsAhead
    Joined: Oct 2018
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    SailsAhead New Member

    I'm contemplating what rig to choose for my ~21ft custom sailboat. Ease of handling is of utmost importance to me, hence the appeal of a headsail-less rig, but i do not want to sacrifice too much speed.

    If the boat's speed plays a role in answering the efficiency question assume it will not exceed about 6.2 knots (hull speed) while going windward.

    Assume the total sail area will be about 16 square meter (172 square foot) for the singe mainsail or mainsail and jib in total.
  2. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum

    Starting another rig style debate?

    My axiom of fingers;
    For every rule of thumb quoted here, there will be at least four fingers of exception pointing in different directions.

    To say that one type of rig is always more efficient, faster or better than another, in all situations is absurdly simplistic.

    I will say:
    A well designed rig which coherently utilizes both the air foils and aquatic foils will usually out perform a slapped together rig. Regardless of any style difference between the two.
    The number of sail shape controls will greatly enhance a rigs performance potential. Because it is the sailer's knowledge and skill at fine tuning that has the most significant effect on boat speed.

    IMO sloop rigs have only a slightly more performance potential than cat rigs. Sloops have the additional potential adjustments offered by the jibs.

    I find sloops easy enough to handle and enjoy tweeking the sail shape.

    If you find jibs inconvenient, or just want to hoist it and forget it, then go cat rigged.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2018
    JamesG123 likes this.
  3. CT249
    Joined: May 2003
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    CT249 Senior Member

    Blueknarr said it well. If I may say one thing, though, it's that cat rigs have been clearly proven to have higher speeds in classes with very low drag such as Moths, A Class and C Class cats while sloops are clearly faster in other classes. So as Blueknarr says, it's simplistic to say that one rig is always better than another.

    As a broad rule of thumb it can be argued that the higher the hull drag, the more important it is to have a big headsail. The small cat rigged cruiser/racers that were built in the '80s (mainly the Australian Alien, the Freedoms and perhaps the little Farr design for Italy) normally seemed to be slowed down by their rigs - just about all the Aliens, for example, have been converted to sloop rig as far as I can see.
  4. The Q
    Joined: Feb 2014
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    The Q Senior Member

    It's perfectly possible to have a furling self tacking jib, if you worried about ease of handling..

  5. rob denney
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    rob denney Senior Member

    I doubt you will notice much, if any difference in a 21 footer. If ease of handling is paramount, then removing the headsail is a no brainer. The taller rig will see more breeze in light wind, the mast head will bend in heavier wind, assuming an unstayed rig. These will be of more importance than which is theoretically better. The no headsail rig will be far faster on a broad reach where the headsail is not working. Unless you can sheet the headsail well outboard, it will also be slower on a 90 degree reach. Tacking will be quicker and easier with the unstayed rig (unless the stayed one has a self tacking jib, which is even more work to trim correctly on a reach), gybing will be far safer and easier in strong wind. Hoisting, reefing and lowering the sail regardless of wind strength or direction is a big plus for the unstayed rig, especially if you are short handed or sailing without a motor. Fully battened sails are much more sedate when eased than unbattened.

    Check out the Wylie cats Wyliecat Performance Yachts: Wishbone Cat Rig These are more or less state of the art, far more relevant than boats built in the 80's.

    Build the mast yourself and the unstayed one will be cheaper.
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