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SoFastSoSlow

Sail Area - how much is TOO BIG to handle for one person?

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How big, from either experience or arm-chair trimming, is a sail just too big to handle single/short handed?

Because a main has a boom, it handles differently than the front sail, and then we have the monster kites... so perhaps we could separate all three?

 

random examples...

The M32 cat has a 560sq/ft main...

A Beneteau Figaro II has 320sq/ft of front sail (jib)...

A J/105 has 950sq/ft of spinnaker... 

 

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The old rule of thumb was 500'. That was for hanked on sails.

Furling changed everything but there are still limits. a 500' jib and a 500' main (1000' total) means a pretty big boat where other loads might be the limiting factor. Just getting a 500' sail up on deck can be quite a workout.

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Our 520 sq ft genoa was fine on a furler. A bit of a bitch to wind in the last few inches but could I have dealt with 600' and a bigger winch? Sure.

 

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I kind of think we're talking about normal boats that regular sailors might own - not specialty race giants like Macif or the old V-13 or Club Med.

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This was why Henri Amel built ketches.

And as he go older he had electric furling gear and winches on his 55 ft cruising boats.

Lots of happy older couples circumnavigated in his boats.

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*Totally* depends on equipment and how patient you are. I knew a guy who singlehanded a 90 foot sloop. With the big 24 volt electric winches it was probably less work than my 35 foot boat.  Mechanical advantage = slow, so you might be able to grind in or hoist some huge sail with a big winch with a 3:1 slow setting on  2:1 or 4:1 tackle, but it might take 20 minutes to do it.

So to cut to the chase, past 35-40 feet for a totally ordinary boat not rigged with singlehanding in mind, you get up to some real difficult loads. For an old IOR girl, singlehanded tacking a big genoa can get old for one person pretty quick in the 40+ foot range. If I were doing something like that,  I would use the Tides Marine super-slipppery mainsail track, a 120-130% furling genoa, and some variety of asym sail on a furler for getting big sail area for off the wind. Even my homemade asym system with my originally intended for a pole spinnaker works pretty well singlehanded for light air from DDW to a little higher than a beam reach and I don't even have a way to roll it up. When the wind gets up Otto has a hard time with it, so we revert to the genoa if I am alone.

 

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9 hours ago, SoFastSoSlow said:

How big, from either experience or arm-chair trimming, is a sail just too big to handle single/short handed?

Because a main has a boom, it handles differently than the front sail, and then we have the monster kites... so perhaps we could separate all three?

 

random examples...

The M32 cat has a 560sq/ft main...

A Beneteau Figaro II has 320sq/ft of front sail (jib)...

A J/105 has 950sq/ft of spinnaker... 

 

Its not the sq/ft....its the height of boom above deck.  If you must climb onto the boom to square away a reef the boat it too big .

jibs are on furlers...they dont present a challenge.

downwind sails that cant be hoisted by hand...that must be winched up...indicate that the boat it too big 

 

all of the boats you mentioned  are easily handled by a single hander once the deck layout is modified  

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9 hours ago, SoFastSoSlow said:

How big, from either experience or arm-chair trimming, is a sail just too big to handle single/short handed?

Because a main has a boom, it handles differently than the front sail, and then we have the monster kites... so perhaps we could separate all three?

 

random examples...

The M32 cat has a 560sq/ft main...

A Beneteau Figaro II has 320sq/ft of front sail (jib)...

A J/105 has 950sq/ft of spinnaker... 

 

I can tell you from experience that a J-105 spinnaker is too big for one person to handle...... well, one skilled person -can- hoist, set, and douse it; under good conditions. When things start to go a little bit wrong, unless you include "cutting it loose and forgetting about it" among your legit sail-handling routines, one person is going to experience some mighty difficult times.

Same thing applies to other sails. With the right gear, one person can handle an amazing big sail; until the gear starts to fuck up (loss of 24V power, winch jam, etc etc) and/or conditions get hairy. And K-I-S is exactly right.... adding more purchase to handle greater loads also means that everything proceeds more slowly.

So IMHo the old rule of thumb of 500sq ft is still good but somewhat fungible. I'd put it at a bit less actually, my father had a catboat with a sail that was somewhat less than that; it had all the appropriate gear, and it was a difficult PITA that almost got the better of me several times.

FB- Doug

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You also need to define "handle". Handle as in get from A to B without dying or keep up in a race. The J-105 chute is maybe as big as mine, maybe smaller, and it is no issue to handle a chute that size for what a cruiser uses it for - getting downwind in light air where the white sails are too slow. For pushing it racing - an entirely different story.

* I once was singlehanded headed to Baltimore under chute and the wind kept building up until I was flying into the harbor at 8+ knots hand steering because otto was hopeless and looking at a shit-ton of traffic ahead of me. I really felt like I had a tiger by the tail :o I gave up on looking dignified and just blew the tack attachment and wrestled the chute down. I had it rigged that day to be able to release the tack from the cockpit and had the halyard run back to the cockpit.

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When the spinnaker is handled with a snuffer , a single hander can easily deal  with a large sail. 

The issue with most boats is that the deck layout is concieved for multiple crew.

this presents problems for a single hander

 

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This goes to a long term argument I've had with a friend.  Doesn't the total amount of work to be done to trim a sail remain the same irrespective of the available mechanical advantage (discounting drag in the winch, which might mean that the total work to be done increases, not decreases, with a bigger winch)?  Trimming the big sail once with big winches may be doable, but spreading the work out over more time, but trimming it repeatedly should run you into a limit eventually, I think.  He disagrees.  What say you?

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Sail trim ? Never thought about it . 

to sheet in a big genoa I simply  turn the steering wheel into the wind..soften the sail  up,  twist the winch handle a few times...then get back to my cup of coffee.

 

 

trimming sails in never an issue...handling sails  and maneuvering are 

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16 minutes ago, sshow bob said:

This goes to a long term argument I've had with a friend.  Doesn't the total amount of work to be done to trim a sail remain the same irrespective of the available mechanical advantage (discounting drag in the winch, which might mean that the total work to be done increases, not decreases, with a bigger winch)?  Trimming the big sail once with big winches may be doable, but spreading the work out over more time, but trimming it repeatedly should run you into a limit eventually, I think.  He disagrees.  What say you?

Well in theory - a lot of work over a short time vs.a little work over a long time = the same energy spent. In practice on any big boat it is hard work with the reduction gear or simply impossible at 1:1.

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I sailed once with Evans Starzinger, on his 47' Samoa.  No electric winches. He and his wife circumnavigated that boat and saw big weather.

I trimmed the main, and it was work. Nice, large winch to reduce the load but the "work" is still required, you just crank a lower load for longer.  Evans is short of stature, but he's made of spring steel and raw hide. He climbed the boom to attach the main halyard, and other things with no problem.

"How much is too much" is a personal formula determined by calculating your boat's sail plan, sail handling equipment and the individual's level of personal fitness.  I don't think it's a number that someone on the outside, can set for you.

My personal limit is 500-ish sq. ft. on a fractionally rigged boat with unpowered, non-self-tailing, Harken 42 primaries.  The frac. rig makes the jib small enough for me to trim in easily enough and the main has barely adequate tackle for me. I'm considering beefing it up to a Garhauer, two-speed tackle...which would require me to purchase a longer line.  The spinnaker is also at the fraction which makes it do-able for me.  My boat's cockpit layout allows me to douse while standing in the cockpit which is safer than being on deck. I do not use a snuffer and the spinnaker is symmetric, with a pole.  I'm toying with the idea of an asymm.

I do not consider myself to be in exceptional physical shape, something I'd like to work on. Better fitness would certainly help.

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11 hours ago, SoFastSoSlow said:

How big, from either experience or arm-chair trimming, is a sail just too big to handle single/short handed?

Because a main has a boom, it handles differently than the front sail, and then we have the monster kites... so perhaps we could separate all three?

 

random examples...

The M32 cat has a 560sq/ft main...

A Beneteau Figaro II has 320sq/ft of front sail (jib)...

A J/105 has 950sq/ft of spinnaker... 

 

Maybe a good place to start is to study an Open 60 Vendee boat. Not just for the size but for the sail handling systems...and work backwards in size from there. I look at these boats essentially as cutter rigs which allow for more variety than a sloop, especially when you look at code zeros, socks/snuffers, high performance furling on 2/3 different foresails, and for the main, the very efficient stackpack with lazy jacks on what Kent mentioned above as a super slippery outboard track(Harken etc.). The weight of the sails(mainsail) also matters. Cruising dacron will be way heavier than other composites. As Slug mentioned, boom height matters. 

An Open 60 might not be for the everyday singlehander, but the way these boats are set up for the singlehander is a good guide to what is possible on smaller boats (think mini transat, or a more cruiser based saga 43)  given modern handling systems and I think a better example than a big old IOR sloop that was never designed to singlehand in the first place.

The proviso is, how fit and ready are you to handle a fuck up. This changes the nature of the answer considerably. Fixing a jammed furling sail on one of these big sails will be extremely difficult. Are you able to reach/hoist to clew height? Are you ready to solo hoist yourself up the mast etc. If the answer is no, then the split rig or a smaller cutter starts to look like more realistic option for maxing out sail area yet still keeping it manageable. 

Then again, there's a very knowledgable poster here with a 900ft plus mainsail that I'm pretty sure he singlehands, so I guess it depends what you want to do, how far you want to go, and what weather you're prepared to deal with.

And a quick question. What size furling genoa do you guys think one person can remove and stow if one wants to go with just a staysail in the event of an oncoming storm, or does one just assume they will never personally remove a large genoa while at sea? I think even on crewed boats, past a certain size, the big furled heavy genoa is unlikely to be removed at sea.

 

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12 minutes ago, Ajax said:

I sailed once with Evans Starzinger, on his 47' Samoa.  No electric winches. He and his wife circumnavigated that boat and saw big weather.

I trimmed the main, and it was work. Nice, large winch to reduce the load but the "work" is still required, you just crank a lower load for longer.  Evans is short of stature, but he's made of spring steel and raw hide. He climbed the boom to attach the main halyard, and other things with no problem.

"How much is too much" is a personal formula determined by calculating your boat's sail plan, sail handling equipment and the individual's level of personal fitness.  I don't think it's a number that someone on the outside, can set for you.

My personal limit is 500-ish sq. ft. on a fractionally rigged boat with unpowered, non-self-tailing, Harken 42 primaries.  The frac. rig makes the jib small enough for me to trim in easily enough and the main has barely adequate tackle for me. I'm considering beefing it up to a Garhauer, two-speed tackle...which would require me to purchase a longer line.  The spinnaker is also at the fraction which makes it do-able for me.  My boat's cockpit layout allows me to douse while standing in the cockpit which is safer than being on deck. I do not use a snuffer and the spinnaker is symmetric, with a pole.  I'm toying with the idea of an asymm.

I do not consider myself to be in exceptional physical shape, something I'd like to work on. Better fitness would certainly help.

Get a good snuffer and learn how to use it.

one beauty of a snuffer is that it allows you to hoist the sail to the masthead....but not set the sail..this means you can take you time..double check, fool with the auto....then when ready ...set.  

The same when you strike the sail...leave it hoisted...make sure everything is clear..then drop on deck.

the snuffer. Also allows you to drop  the snuffed sail on  deck and leave it on deck without worry of tearing the sail or  of washover. 

foredeck lifeline nets are mandatory if you sail shorthanded.

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14 minutes ago, fufkin said:

Maybe a good place to start is to study an Open 60 Vendee boat. Not just for the size but for the sail handling systems...and work backwards in size from there. I look at these boats essentially as cutter rigs which allow for more variety than a sloop, especially when you look at code zeros, socks/snuffers, high performance furling on 2/3 different foresails, and for the main, the very efficient stackpack with lazy jacks on what Kent mentioned above as a super slippery outboard track(Harken etc.). The weight of the sails(mainsail) also matters. Cruising dacron will be way heavier than other composites. As Slug mentioned, boom height matters. 

An Open 60 might not be for the everyday singlehander, but the way these boats are set up for the singlehander is a good guide to what is possible on smaller boats (think mini transat, or a more cruiser based saga 43)  given modern handling systems and I think a better example than a big old IOR sloop that was never designed to singlehand in the first place.

The proviso is, how fit and ready are you to handle a fuck up. This changes the nature of the answer considerably. Fixing a jammed furling sail on one of these big sails will be extremely difficult. Are you able to reach/hoist to clew height? Are you ready to solo hoist yourself up the mast etc. If the answer is no, then the split rig or a smaller cutter starts to look like more realistic option for maxing out sail area yet still keeping it manageable. 

Then again, there's a very knowledgable poster here with a 900ft plus mainsail that I'm pretty sure he singlehands, so I guess it depends what you want to do, how far you want to go, and what weather you're prepared to deal with.

And a quick question. What size furling genoa do you guys think one person can remove and stow if one wants to go with just a staysail in the event of an oncoming storm, or does one just assume they will never personally remove a large genoa while at sea? I think even on crewed boats, past a certain size, the big furled heavy genoa is unlikely to be removed at sea.

 

Once you get serious about sailing shorthanded you sail a cutter.  

Even on a small boats a luff tape headsail is very troublsome for a singlehander...perhaps impossible 

if you cant go  roller furl cutter...sail with piston hanks 

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38 minutes ago, fufkin said:

And a quick question. What size furling genoa do you guys think one person can remove and stow if one wants to go with just a staysail in the event of an oncoming storm, or does one just assume they will never personally remove a large genoa while at sea? I think even on crewed boats, past a certain size, the big furled heavy genoa is unlikely to be removed at sea.

 

I  am pretty sure I could lower a furling genoa on a 100 foot boat. It would take awhile to get it flaked and tied up on deck and no way could I move it below.

On a calm day

Once the storm is underway, even a 30 foot boat presents some real dangers. You need the whole entire sail unrolled and flogging before lowering it. IIRC,  modern offshore singlehanders rely on furling and unfurling in any kind of weather. You also can buy a "gale sail" that goes over the furled genoa. If neither one of those options looks good, old fashioned hank-on sails with a downhaul are likely the best you can do. This is why cutters, ketches, schooners, and yawls were popular back in the day. Many small sails that were either up or down vs. dealing with two big sails ;)

My idea of an easy to handle boat:

6306224_20170724075117056_1_LARGE.jpg

 

My idea of a pretty hard boat to singlehand as rigged from the factory:

nautor-s-swan-swan-47-ext-2.jpg

I think almost no one is singlehanding this thing absent a furling genoa!

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2 hours ago, slug zitski said:

When the spinnaker is handled with a snuffer , a single hander can easily deal  with a large sail. 

Until it twists or jams

The issue with most boats is that the deck layout is concieved for multiple crew.

this presents problems for a single hander

 

The deck layout and gear is important and makes a big difference; starting with a good configuration is best. That's why skilled singlehanders can sail startlingly large boats/sails.

For example, a Cape Cod Catboat will have a boom that sticks several feet past the transom. There is no way to reeve new reefing lines, or unstick a jammed one, short of backing up to a dock on a calm day or lowering the main and unshipping the boom. Shit goes wrong, it's just plain 'game over.'

 

3 hours ago, kent_island_sailor said:

You also need to define "handle". Handle as in get from A to B without dying or keep up in a race. The J-105 chute is maybe as big as mine, maybe smaller, and it is no issue to handle a chute that size for what a cruiser uses it for - getting downwind in light air where the white sails are too slow. For pushing it racing - an entirely different story.

* I once was singlehanded headed to Baltimore under chute and the wind kept building up until I was flying into the harbor at 8+ knots hand steering because otto was hopeless and looking at a shit-ton of traffic ahead of me. I really felt like I had a tiger by the tail :o I gave up on looking dignified and just blew the tack attachment and wrestled the chute down. I had it rigged that day to be able to release the tack from the cockpit and had the halyard run back to the cockpit.

Yep   :D

Thinking ahead definitely gets you a good bit further up the power curve. But I include that in the equation.... "How a big a sail can an unskilled sailor handle" well let's start out with about 70sq ft or less, until he learns a few things..........

FB- Doug

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Somebody mentioned sail handling.  

There's a huge difference between bringing a dacron sail up from below and doing that with a string/laminate one.  Or hoisting same. 

This is one area where 'racing equipment' is easier to handle than 'cruising equipment'

 

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As others have said, "it depends...." Up to about 300 sq ft an able bodied man can manhandle the sail, though if it is windy it is a challenge. Above that you are depending on equipment of some type to add mechanical advantage which means slower, and the possibility of malfunction. On my boat the mainsail is 960 sq ft, the mizzen is 230 sq ft, and the asym is 1050 sq ft. It is set up for single handing and I single hand it routinely. But I am highly dependent on the power winches to do this. If the power fails, it starts to be a LOT of work. If the winches fail completely, you are in for hours of improvisation and (if the weather is nasty and something goes wrong) the possibility of just needing to cut the whole mess away. Summarizing, when things are well designed and working as designed, big sails can be easy, but when stuff goes wrong, you can be in a serious pickle. 

Not said yet, but the problem of maintenance: My main is a string sail of the type sold for "performance" cruising. It weighs 165 lbs in the bag, near 200 with battens etc ready to hoist. Getting it on or off the boat has to be done in calm conditions, at the dock. It takes me around 1/2 a day by myself using halyards, winches, and tricks I have learned. If it tears at sea, no way you are going to get it off, take it below, and stick it through a small sewing machine. Even carefully bricked in the bag it will not fit down the companionway. The 230 sq ft mizzen is easy to do anything to. My last boat had a 600 sq ft main, only weighed about 100 lbs, no full battens, and only took maybe an hour to get off the boat. I could even pick it up in the sail bag.

 

MainsailScale.thumb.jpg.2f3f5ab6f10c84bb01b278ed4a4731de.jpg

 

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19 minutes ago, DDW said:

As others have said, "it depends...." Up to about 300 sq ft an able bodied man can manhandle the sail, though if it is windy it is a challenge. Above that you are depending on equipment of some type to add mechanical advantage which means slower, and the possibility of malfunction. On my boat the mainsail is 960 sq ft, the mizzen is 230 sq ft, and the asym is 1050 sq ft. It is set up for single handing and I single hand it routinely. But I am highly dependent on the power winches to do this. If the power fails, it starts to be a LOT of work. If the winches fail completely, you are in for hours of improvisation and (if the weather is nasty and something goes wrong) the possibility of just needing to cut the whole mess away. Summarizing, when things are well designed and working as designed, big sails can be easy, but when stuff goes wrong, you can be in a serious pickle. 

Not said yet, but the problem of maintenance: My main is a string sail of the type sold for "performance" cruising. It weighs 165 lbs in the bag, near 200 with battens etc ready to hoist. Getting it on or off the boat has to be done in calm conditions, at the dock. It takes me around 1/2 a day by myself using halyards, winches, and tricks I have learned. If it tears at sea, no way you are going to get it off, take it below, and stick it through a small sewing machine. Even carefully bricked in the bag it will not fit down the companionway. The 230 sq ft mizzen is easy to do anything to. My last boat had a 600 sq ft main, only weighed about 100 lbs, no full battens, and only took maybe an hour to get off the boat. I could even pick it up in the sail bag.

 

MainsailScale.thumb.jpg.2f3f5ab6f10c84bb01b278ed4a4731de.jpg

 

That boom vang looks pretty crazy 

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1 hour ago, Steam Flyer said:

The deck layout and gear is important and makes a big difference; starting with a good configuration is best. That's why skilled singlehanders can sail startlingly large boats/sails.

For example, a Cape Cod Catboat will have a boom that sticks several feet past the transom. There is no way to reeve new reefing lines, or unstick a jammed one, short of backing up to a dock on a calm day or lowering the main and unshipping the boom. Shit goes wrong, it's just plain 'game over.'

 

Yep   :D

Thinking ahead definitely gets you a good bit further up the power curve. But I include that in the equation.... "How a big a sail can an unskilled sailor handle" well let's start out with about 70sq ft or less, until he learns a few things..........

FB- Doug

To avoid twisting the sock its best to sail deep...perhaps 140 awa...and hoist in the lee of the mainsail.

 

the same with the takedown...sail deep....keep the spin and sock in the lee of the mainsail.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

To avoid twisting the sock its best to sail deep...perhaps 140 awa...and hoist in the lee of the mainsail.

 

the same with the takedown...sail deep....keep the spin and sock in the lee of the mainsail.

 

Thanks for the advice, but it's far from bulletproof. I've known some very good sailors who had some big problems with spinnaker tubes/socks when shit was going wrong. FWIW I agree about pulling it into the lee of the mainsail -BUT- there is a lot of turbulence there which could easily flip-flop the thing. The best answer I can think of for a big spinnaker when things go truly pear-shaped is one of those infinite roller-furlers. It might take you a long time to get the sail un-knotted after it's down, but you'll be able to wind it up and drop it.

FB- Doug

 

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I'm a wimp - I'd say for hacked on staysail, 20 sq meter (bit over 210 sq ft) would be my limit.

If on a furler, I'd say a genoa or gennekar - depends on the conditions, but for a working genoa - maybe 40 sq meter will be the limit, and gennaker another 20-30 sq meter more than the genoa.

Mainsail handling is more a function of setup and less about size (tho size definitely stats impacting what viable setups are available to you). Since it is about maintaining balance - I'd say the mainsail max size for me would be about 40-50 sq meter to balance out my limit for a working genoa.

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4 minutes ago, Steam Flyer said:

Thanks for the advice, but it's far from bulletproof. I've known some very good sailors who had some big problems with spinnaker tubes/socks when shit was going wrong. FWIW I agree about pulling it into the lee of the mainsail -BUT- there is a lot of turbulence there which could easily flip-flop the thing. The best answer I can think of for a big spinnaker when things go truly pear-shaped is one of those infinite roller-furlers. It might take you a long time to get the sail un-knotted after it's down, but you'll be able to wind it up and drop it.

FB- Doug

 

The halyard can also transfer twist into the sock .  Be sure to keep the  halyard shackle swivel clean and lubricated.  I use two shackles.. halyard shackle to an extra shackle , extra shackle to spi ..  Seems to help. 

Always figure 8 a spi halyard tail to avoid inducing twists into the rope ....from time to time take the twists out of the halyard tail by throwing the  halyard tail overboard and dragging it when the spi is hoisted 

occasionaly i get a twist... more often I hoist with the  snuffer control lines on the wrong side of the bucket.

if you hoist with only the spi tack attached to the boat....no sheet attached to the spi ...its easier to remove a twist or get the control lines back on the correct side.  Once you approve of the set you can hook on the sheet .

that McLube dry spray on the sock bucket makes a big difference reducing bucket to sail friction 

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18 minutes ago, Miffy said:

I'm a wimp - I'd say for hacked on staysail, 20 sq meter (bit over 210 sq ft) would be my limit.

If on a furler, I'd say a genoa or gennekar - depends on the conditions, but for a working genoa - maybe 40 sq meter will be the limit, and gennaker another 20-30 sq meter more than the genoa.

Mainsail handling is more a function of setup and less about size (tho size definitely stats impacting what viable setups are available to you). Since it is about maintaining balance - I'd say the mainsail max size for me would be about 40-50 sq meter to balance out my limit for a working genoa.

Controling the mainsail in a jibe is a big issue.  A big main on a multi purchase mainsheet is a monster to centerline .

When the  mainsail gets big...you never jibe...only tack.  

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The answer to this question is that you must be able to manage your sails under the worst conditions that you might ever face.  You'd be surprised at how often these "worst conditions" will come up.

So, for example, anyone can douse a spinnaker with a sock in a 15 knot wind on a deep run.  But can you douse it with a sock in a 15 knot wind when you've cut inside an island and suddenly you're on a close reach and a lee shore?  Or even on a deep run, you've been having a thrilling surf watching the wind climb to 25; can you still go up on the fore deck and douse with the sock?  These are absolutely normal situations and you have to choose your boat and sails accordingly.  (As a hint, just 2 days before Christmas I was surfing in 25 knots and having a thrill.  Luckily I don't use a sock so I had no problem dousing the chute right down my main hatch.  (I also don't have an autopilot at the moment)  )

For you fore sail, sure anyone can roll up a furler when it all works.  But you just know that the moment the wind pipes up to 20 your furling line with break/tangle.  So then you have to crawl to the bow and manhandle the sail down by hand.  How big a sail can you manage?  And what if the whole thing dumps over the lifelines?  What will you do then.

And of course as a singlehander you must be prepared to do all of this without any autopilot, because you know that it will pack up at the most inconvenient moment.  So choose your boat and you sails wisely my friend. 

Someone should write a book about this. 

 

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6 hours ago, DDW said:

 On my boat the mainsail is 960 sq ft, the mizzen is 230 sq ft, and the asym is 1050 sq ft. It is set up for single handing and I single hand it routinely.

MainsailScale.thumb.jpg.2f3f5ab6f10c84bb01b278ed4a4731de.jpg

 

 

Holy cow... that is HUGE!

 

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5 hours ago, slug zitski said:

Controling the mainsail in a jibe is a big issue.  A big main on a multi purchase mainsheet is a monster to centerline .

When the  mainsail gets big...you never jibe...only tack.  

I routinely jibe my largish main. The design makes this possible, but it also takes powered sheet winches. Without those, it would still be possible but you are looking at maybe 20-30 minutes very hard labor. There is about 200' of sheet to recover and then run again. It only takes a minute or two pushing buttons.  It might be possible to do a Hudson River jibe but I've been afraid to try it. 

One thing that should be apparent from the discussion is that if the sails are large, then a lot of thought (and modification) will need to be put into the rig and deck gear. If the sails are small, then normal deck gear is workable. 

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My old boat had a 300sq/ft main and a 250sq/ft 105% jib.  Main had a bolt rope luff and jib was on a head foil.  It was set up for racing but I could single hand it pretty easily up to about 15kts and then it got to be a lot of work.  I was also a lot younger then too.  We had a cruising A-sail in a sock that made it super easy to handle as long as I kept my snuffer line from wrapping.  I usually tied the tail to the spin pole eye on the mast which did the trick.  Gybing the main was fairly controlled as I had quite a bit of purchase in the mainsheet and windward sheeting traveler car.  If I had the mainsail luff on a track and either a Stackpack, lazy jacks or Dutchman flaking I could have easily handled a much bigger main.  When sailing by myself I didn't fly a genny, but I was daysailing and not cruising.  Big difference between crossing bay and crossing the ocean.

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Main 700ft2. Hsail 480ft2.

That I can manage single handing in nearly all normal breezes. Easy to reef, and easy furling for hsail, just run deep. One negative is I need to go to the mast to reef, so I have a reliance on the autopilot for solo reefing. 

Gennaker 1080ft2. The gennaker's a cinch in light air, but any serious breeze would tax me. Post 20knots and furling gets hard enough to be a workout. This would be my limit, but not if it was blowing 20+. This is when you transition from light work but constant, to heavy work where you heart rate starts pounding.

A2 kite 2000ft2. The A2 I wouldn't even attempt yet, not even two handed. There's just way too much cloth in every direction. 

Edit: I should add I use an electric winch for hoisting the main solo, even though you can hoist it manually. 

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Let's see - symmetric tri-radial spinnaker on our cat, about 1200 sq. ft with an ATN snuffer. 

Hoist it without any sheets attached, then untwist (if any twists) before attaching the sheets. No issues with tangles that way.

Dousing at 3 am with a black squall, wind somewhere around 30 knots, boat speed in the mid teens - less fun. I tried to avoid that but it was possible with a bit of grunt to get the snuffer down over the sail. Did have to ease the guy a lot to find some lee in the mainsail (in retrospect we should have run deeper downwind but I think the autopilot may have tripped out at the same time)

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8 hours ago, Foolish said:

The answer to this question is that you must be able to manage your sails under the worst conditions that you might ever face.  You'd be surprised at how often these "worst conditions" will come up.

So, for example, anyone can douse a spinnaker with a sock in a 15 knot wind on a deep run.  But can you douse it with a sock in a 15 knot wind when you've cut inside an island and suddenly you're on a close reach and a lee shore?  Or even on a deep run, you've been having a thrilling surf watching the wind climb to 25; can you still go up on the fore deck and douse with the sock?  These are absolutely normal situations and you have to choose your boat and sails accordingly.  (As a hint, just 2 days before Christmas I was surfing in 25 knots and having a thrill.  Luckily I don't use a sock so I had no problem dousing the chute right down my main hatch.  (I also don't have an autopilot at the moment)  )

For you fore sail, sure anyone can roll up a furler when it all works.  But you just know that the moment the wind pipes up to 20 your furling line with break/tangle.  So then you have to crawl to the bow and manhandle the sail down by hand.  How big a sail can you manage?  And what if the whole thing dumps over the lifelines?  What will you do then.

And of course as a singlehander you must be prepared to do all of this without any autopilot, because you know that it will pack up at the most inconvenient moment.  So choose your boat and you sails wisely my friend. 

Someone should write a book about this. 

 

THIS. Spot on

 

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12 hours ago, Foolish said:

The answer to this question is that you must be able to manage your sails under the worst conditions that you might ever face.  You'd be surprised at how often these "worst conditions" will come up.

So, for example, anyone can douse a spinnaker with a sock in a 15 knot wind on a deep run.  But can you douse it with a sock in a 15 knot wind when you've cut inside an island and suddenly you're on a close reach and a lee shore?  Or even on a deep run, you've been having a thrilling surf watching the wind climb to 25; can you still go up on the fore deck and douse with the sock?  These are absolutely normal situations and you have to choose your boat and sails accordingly.  (As a hint, just 2 days before Christmas I was surfing in 25 knots and having a thrill.  Luckily I don't use a sock so I had no problem dousing the chute right down my main hatch.  (I also don't have an autopilot at the moment)  )

For you fore sail, sure anyone can roll up a furler when it all works.  But you just know that the moment the wind pipes up to 20 your furling line with break/tangle.  So then you have to crawl to the bow and manhandle the sail down by hand.  How big a sail can you manage?  And what if the whole thing dumps over the lifelines?  What will you do then.

And of course as a singlehander you must be prepared to do all of this without any autopilot, because you know that it will pack up at the most inconvenient moment.  So choose your boat and you sails wisely my friend. 

Someone should write a book about this. 

 

I agree with what you're saying, but it's difficult to calculate your limit in "worst conditions" and it's kind of difficult to define worst conditions in a generic sense.

Sure, people (you) deliberately set out in poor conditions to test themselves, but do you also intentionally break stuff in poor conditions, just to see if you can handle it? Do you go out in 45 kts and then go to the bow just to see if you can drag the jib down?  Not many people do.

Speaking only for myself, I did once have my furling line get away from me and fully deploy the jib shortly before my start sequence of a race. The wind was about 25kts, which isn't a big deal, but was a bit sporty. The furling line spooled out so quickly that the furler barfed a bite of line around a bow cleat, preventing me from furling the jib back in.  No auto pilot.  I did trim the sails against the rudder, lock the wheel and go all the way to the bow to un-fraculate this mess while the boat was galloping along, unattended at 8.5 kts.

My point being that I could have handled my boat as you described. I guess I chose correctly but it was more of an educated guess than a conscious decision.

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5 hours ago, Zonker said:

Let's see - symmetric tri-radial spinnaker on our cat, about 1200 sq. ft with an ATN snuffer. 

Hoist it without any sheets attached, then untwist (if any twists) before attaching the sheets. No issues with tangles that way.

Dousing at 3 am with a black squall, wind somewhere around 30 knots, boat speed in the mid teens - less fun. I tried to avoid that but it was possible with a bit of grunt to get the snuffer down over the sail. Did have to ease the guy a lot to find some lee in the mainsail (in retrospect we should have run deeper downwind but I think the autopilot may have tripped out at the same time)

I've always had a bit of a phobia about snuffers.  The bolded bit above is very smart, I hadn't thought of that. :)

Does anyone here have any experience with spinnaker "nets" rigged to the forestay?

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To answer the unasked question, "why *else* is over X-amount of sail area too much to singlehand, "because it will tend to be on a boat that's too heavy and large for you to dock/undock/anchor/heave anchor even if electric winches can arguably make sail setting, dousing, and trim doable"

Once you get past what, 12,000 pounds, it's too much to manhandle in a slip when you need to, especially sans bow thruster, or with a midship prop with twin rudders that aren't near said prop, so no "stern thruster-'kick'" capability.   There's a reason ships have shoreside linehandlers at most docks. 

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20 hours ago, Foolish said:

The answer to this question is that you must be able to manage your sails under the worst conditions that you might ever face.  You'd be surprised at how often these "worst conditions" will come up.

So, for example, anyone can douse a spinnaker with a sock in a 15 knot wind on a deep run.  But can you douse it with a sock in a 15 knot wind when you've cut inside an island and suddenly you're on a close reach and a lee shore?  Or even on a deep run, you've been having a thrilling surf watching the wind climb to 25; can you still go up on the fore deck and douse with the sock?  These are absolutely normal situations and you have to choose your boat and sails accordingly.  (As a hint, just 2 days before Christmas I was surfing in 25 knots and having a thrill.  Luckily I don't use a sock so I had no problem dousing the chute right down my main hatch.  (I also don't have an autopilot at the moment)  )

For you fore sail, sure anyone can roll up a furler when it all works.  But you just know that the moment the wind pipes up to 20 your furling line with break/tangle.  So then you have to crawl to the bow and manhandle the sail down by hand.  How big a sail can you manage?  And what if the whole thing dumps over the lifelines?  What will you do then.

And of course as a singlehander you must be prepared to do all of this without any autopilot, because you know that it will pack up at the most inconvenient moment.  So choose your boat and you sails wisely my friend. 

Someone should write a book about this. 

 

This.  100%

What you can reasonably unfuck single-handed is what really matters.  This summer I had a day in just average "sporty" coastal conditions that made me real glad I've only got a 36'er.  

12-15 building breeze, 2-4' swell, single-handing.  Just as I was going to take a few wraps with the furler to reef the genoa (140%, about 400ft2), the jib halyard pops open.  I don't even have an autopilot, so this was a good unplanned real-world opportunity to see what I can unfuck all by myself.  I was able to pull the genoa down to the deck and secure it and probably could have done so with a bigger boat & sail, but that would have been the end of my day and I'd have been motoring back to the mooring at that point. 

But I wanted to see if I could recover, so I set about to rehoist it on a spare jib halyard.   I could do it, but just barely.  Countless trips back and forth between the foredeck and cockpit to feed the luff tape, take a few turns on the winch, and keep the boat head to wind.  Back & forth & back & forth.  I really doubt I could have done it with a bigger boat/headsail, and maybe not even with this boat if the conditions had been worse.   

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2 hours ago, nolatom said:

To answer the unasked question, "why *else* is over X-amount of sail area too much to singlehand, "because it will tend to be on a boat that's too heavy and large for you to dock/undock/anchor/heave anchor even if electric winches can arguably make sail setting, dousing, and trim doable"

Once you get past what, 12,000 pounds, it's too much to manhandle in a slip when you need to, especially sans bow thruster, or with a midship prop with twin rudders that aren't near said prop, so no "stern thruster-'kick'" capability.   There's a reason ships have shoreside linehandlers at most docks. 

Good point. It ultimately comes down to 'load' and how to handle it with some kind of mechanical advantage, weather it's docking or sail handling. 

Every time you give one wrap around a winch, then another, or use a block to angle a line, you're gaining some kind of mechanical advantage against what otherwise would be a 1:1 purchase(aka muscle). 

The thing is, the shoreside line handler actually CAN muscle the bow of an ultralight 60ft against an offshore blow but would have no chance with a medium displacement boat of the same length where he'd have to go immediately to a half wrap around the dockside cleat for purchase.

Which brings me back to sail handling. Every single thing--sheet/shroud/mast/sail/displacement is lighter on a modern racer than a CCA cruiser. Are the 'loads' on the Pogo or Open 40/60 the same as equivalent sail area on a medium/heavy displacement boat? Obviously not. So putting a square/ft/metre on it is kind of a moving target.

Is it possible to compare Shaggy's sail area numbers with DDW's without a lot of qualifications?

One last thing. After reading a lot of great posts, fuck max sail area, what's the min sail area that can keep you moving the fastest possible in the desired direction. Trim fast and reef early. Happy holidays.

 

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1 hour ago, hdra said:

I would say it's more like 18,000-20,000 lbs that's the limit for being easily muscled around dockside.

I'm 68, and weigh 145.  12,000 for me  ;-)

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12,000 is pretty easy to muscle around the dock. 20,000 is possible. 30,000 is getting to be some work. 

But it isn't really displacement, it's the windage that is likely to come along with that displacement. A low windage 30,000 boat is easier to manage around the dock than a 12,000 high windage boat. Current affects it too, but windage usually more. No wind, I'll move a 40,000 lb boat all around the dock by myself with lines - just takes time and thought. 

With good equipment (that continues to work) you can sail a pretty big boat. Getting it in and out of harbor becomes the chore, and where you are more likely to break things. That's why you have famous French single handers setting records across oceans, but needing help to get in and out of the dock. 

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Maybe it's the interplay between windage, momentum and how much water the hull has to push out of its way in order to move either from a standstill or in an opposite direction(muscle).

A super light high windage boat is actually easier to 'muscle' through the wind than a low windage heavy displacement boat is to 'muscle' through the water.

(Disclaimer: used to coachboat one of these ULDB's (open 60) for training and in and out of the dock as coachboat/shore crew. The inability to dock singlehandedly was more of a function of size and twin rudders than pure windage. With coachboat acting as tug on the stern and depositing one coach crew on shore for bow no problem, but really not practical to dock for just the solo sailor. High windage on the bow was no problem, but I bet same windage on another heavier displacement bow would be.)

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1 hour ago, DDW said:

12,000 is pretty easy to muscle around the dock. 20,000 is possible. 30,000 is getting to be some work. 

But it isn't really displacement, it's the windage that is likely to come along with that displacement. A low windage 30,000 boat is easier to manage around the dock than a 12,000 high windage boat. Current affects it too, but windage usually more. No wind, I'll move a 40,000 lb boat all around the dock by myself with lines - just takes time and thought. 

With good equipment (that continues to work) you can sail a pretty big boat. Getting it in and out of harbor becomes the chore, and where you are more likely to break things. That's why you have famous French single handers setting records across oceans, but needing help to get in and out of the dock. 

I know a retired harbor pilot who lives aboard (and cruises) in an Army T-boat...... 65' -very- heavy displacement (>50 tons, not sure exactly how much) workboat, refitted with a fairly nice cabin. He handles around docks himself with no problem. But he does take great care with lines, thinks ahead on every move, and never lets the boat move an inch he doesn't intend for it to move.

Skill and proper gear make it look easy. As long as you're not in a hurry, at least   :rolleyes:

FB- Doug

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A couple of comments, I sail an 800 square foot SA Joe Adams 36’ cutter with my 100lb wife, she is great on a boat but I am virtually single handing.

traveller and winches back by the wheel are a big help.

reefing and halyards by the mast, using an autopilot is fine.

tacking is a pita with the inner forestay, removable helps, but if it is up I have a 3’ dyneema strop between the jib and sheets, can generally sail the jib around the forestay while tacking and sheet it one once it has blown onto the new tack.

masthead jib is around 100%, I have bigger ones but they are just too big, I like the 80/20 rule on my boat.

spinnaker sock, put a block on the bottom of the control line, clip it on to something on the foredeck once the twist is out. Much easier then to control the sock, dousing the spinnaker involves pulling the line up from the deck, not down, much more efficient.

and the sock is not trying to lift you off the deck if you are trying to douse the spinnaker in a blow. I have seen a sock lift someone light off the deck in this situation.

 

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1 hour ago, Steam Flyer said:

I know a retired harbor pilot who lives aboard (and cruises) in an Army T-boat...... 65' -very- heavy displacement (>50 tons, not sure exactly how much) workboat, refitted with a fairly nice cabin. He handles around docks himself with no problem. But he does take great care with lines, thinks ahead on every move, and never lets the boat move an inch he doesn't intend for it to move.

Skill and proper gear make it look easy. As long as you're not in a hurry, at least   :rolleyes:

FB- Doug

 

The worst is when an overeager dock person catches your bow, stern or spring line, and throws it onto a cleat or piling to stop you, when you were carefully about to do a perfect parallel park, landing.....

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10 hours ago, olaf hart said:

A couple of comments, I sail an 800 square foot SA Joe Adams 36’ cutter with my 100lb wife, she is great on a boat but I am virtually single handing.

traveller and winches back by the wheel are a big help.

reefing and halyards by the mast, using an autopilot is fine.

tacking is a pita with the inner forestay, removable helps, but if it is up I have a 3’ dyneema strop between the jib and sheets, can generally sail the jib around the forestay while tacking and sheet it one once it has blown onto the new tack.

masthead jib is around 100%, I have bigger ones but they are just too big, I like the 80/20 rule on my boat.

spinnaker sock, put a block on the bottom of the control line, clip it on to something on the foredeck once the twist is out. Much easier then to control the sock, dousing the spinnaker involves pulling the line up from the deck, not down, much more efficient.

and the sock is not trying to lift you off the deck if you are trying to douse the spinnaker in a blow. I have seen a sock lift someone light off the deck in this situation.

 

Yes...you are a smart guy.  You have obviously done it many times.

 Snatch block on the rail...control line thru snatch...allows you to grab onto the control line and WALK, RUN...very good mechanical advantage .

additionally..its best.To keep the snatch block as far forward as possible so that you are pulling  the snuffer down parallel  to the headstay ...parralel to the spin luff....Much less friction 

i prefer when this  snatch block is on the windward side and that as much snuffing action as possible takes place on the windward side

With a heavy air or  a close reach takedown this snatch block led control line in brought  aft to a winch and the sock is winched down 

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A moderate displacement 36 foot boat. No need for anything bigger IMO. I have a Viking 33 displacing 8800. Could use a bit more room at times, but we would just fill it with more beer. Short handed the mylar 150 head sail, and the spinnaker stay home. I take the sissy chute and a drifter ( same size as the 150 ) and use a 130 head sail on the roller furling. 3 reef points in the main. Two are laced in. If I get to the second reef, I lace in the third. If the head sail gets to be about half way furled, I hank on the stay sail / storm jib on the inner for stay, that used to be the baby stay and moved forward. With 2 spinnaker halyards, I hoist the sissy chute with one, and connect the head to the other. That is so the darn think does not end up in the drink. If the furler screws up, I just use the luff grooves. Next sail down is a 110. We do not need much power to move, and often have a reef in the main, when it is not really needed. Down wind we often run over 6 with just the head sail.

Unkle Krusty

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16 hours ago, billy backstay said:

 

The worst is when an overeager dock person catches your bow, stern or spring line, and throws it onto a cleat or piling to stop you, when you were carefully about to do a perfect parallel park, landing.....

Yes, I've had that happen a bunch of times. Well-meaning people on the dock are one of the hazards of cruising. The worst was when Mrs Steam and I were cruising in our trawler, we had a routine for docking and used 2-way headphones to stay in close communication, but if some man standing on the dock started yelling at her to throw a line or blah blah blah (some other stupid thing sure to result in a crash) she had a hard time ignoring him.

Dockmasters are often just as bad, demanding the you throw them a bow line when what you want is a midships line. I developed a very calm routine to tell them that I appreciated their help but we have everything under control and if they can't stand to watch then perhaps either they could go do something else, or we could go to a different marina. I still remember a couple of dockings that involved far too much drama from "helpers" and one or two that nearly involved fisticuffs.

FB- Doug

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I like the helpers who will catch the line, then think they are going to stand there and haul you in hand over hand. Our boat is about 30,000 lbs. I remind them they might want to get that around a cleat, if they don't want to get wet. These are the people used to the 12,000 boat. One of the reasons I hate bull rails - very difficult to get the line around the bull rail if the boat's still moving much. 

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1 hour ago, DDW said:

I like the helpers who will catch the line, then think they are going to stand there and haul you in hand over hand. Our boat is about 30,000 lbs. I remind them they might want to get that around a cleat, if they don't want to get wet. These are the people used to the 12,000 boat. One of the reasons I hate bull rails - very difficult to get the line around the bull rail if the boat's still moving much. 

Eggzackly 

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I read an interesting article once about a tug skipper who in his younger days towed ships out of the harbor singlehanded. He would have the ship crew lower a line from their bow and he would lay the tug alongside, go out on deck and tie it up, run back in the pilothouse and pull them out. All went well until one day he was towing a freighter out and their engine would not start (FYI ships with direct drive diesels start in gear, they aren't running in neutral at the dock). He then had to think fast about what to do with his 600 foot long tow he could not get rid of :o

* BTW, tugboat, sailboat, motor yacht, whatever, the key to shorthanded or solo docking is a short spring amidships. If you can lay alongside just long enough to get the spring on a cleat or piling, you then can hold yourself against the dock with the engine and tie up at your leisure B) Probably work on a freighter too except maybe the cleat would rip off the dock :rolleyes:

 

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On ‎12‎/‎29‎/‎2017 at 10:54 PM, LionessRacing said:

What may be of a size you can handle now, may be too much in a decade.  

I think much depends on that, as well as how large, strong and fit the individual is.  At 29 years old in '84 I weighed only 165 pounds, but I could pick up a 100 pound, bricked up mainsail off of the ground put on my shoulder and carry it down the dock.  At 62 now, and ten pounds heavier, doubtful I could do it today. And since one rotator cuff is totally gone now, no foredeck work or anything overhead, only trim low near the torso.

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Get a split rig... 

i have a 300’ sq main, two reefs with lazy jacks, a furling 300’sq Genoa and a 75’ sq mizzen with a reef point  

If the winds over 15, leave main down, rollout 1/4 of Genoa and single handling is easy. 

Full size 1 1/2 Oz chute in snuffer, 1/2 Oz mizzen staysail if I need more speed. 

 

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The whole idea that there's some limit to sail area when sailing solo is unfounded. Remember, Alain Colas soloed Club Mediterranée, a 236' four masted schooner with a sail area of 12,905 ft2.

I've raced solo on San Francisco Bay and cruised more than 20000nm with 420 ft2 main, 900 ft2 jib and 1200 ft2 symmetric kites with and without socks in a 36000 pound boat with no powered winches and rarely felt things were out of hand.

A reliable auto pilot is table stakes; I would not recommend anything other than a below deck electric or electric/hydraulic pilot that drives the quadrant directly. As things increase in size, there's much to be gained from optimizations in the areas of deck layout and sail handling gear but these are best evolved slowly over time and are best based on your approach to sailing your boat. What works well for one does not work at all for another.

All that said, the key to solo success is planning ahead. While a full crew might drop a kite and setup for a leeward rounding in 5-10 boat lengths, the solo equivalent is easily 3-5x that depending on conditions. Reaction time to crossing boats, commercial traffic, shoal water and numerous other things requires an entirely different approach to vigilance.

 

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No limit in concept, and no limit in a specific instance of boat and sailor, are two very different things. 

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On 12/31/2017 at 5:50 PM, kent_island_sailor said:

This was the old way - a ketch or yawl cutter rigged. Sail area was split up and you just dropped a sail to reduce ;)

 

Great setup for short handed!  Often the staysail and mizzen,  or jib and jigger, was a well handling and comfortable setup, when the breeze pipes up!

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Apparently, the owner of SY Sassy (see thread) thinks that 2,500 sq ft is about right...His main is 133sq meters on lazy jacks.

He's just started a solo non-stop circumnavigation in a 78 foot refurbished IOR era maxi.

 

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The A2 on a Class 40 is about 2000 square feet, and the main is maybe 800 square feet.  No powered winches, deck layout designed to optimize for solo and DH racing.  Everyone uses snuffers for the kites, and as mentioned in the thread, the class rules mean that the booms end well before you run out of deck so reefing is not a drama

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5 hours ago, Student_Driver said:

Apparently, the owner of SY Sassy (see thread) thinks that 2,500 sq ft is about right...His main is 133sq meters on lazy jacks.

He's just started a solo non-stop circumnavigation in a 78 foot refurbished IOR era maxi.

 

Originally a sloop now a cutter...no?

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1 hour ago, Rail Meat said:

The A2 on a Class 40 is about 2000 square feet, and the main is maybe 800 square feet.  No powered winches, deck layout designed to optimize for solo and DH racing.  Everyone uses snuffers for the kites, and as mentioned in the thread, the class rules mean that the booms end well before you run out of deck so reefing is not a drama

Powerful relationship between displacement and sail size.  

To be manageable everything must be lightweight 

those  singlehanded race boats are also super erganomic...everything is about the human sail interface

 

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