climenuts

Drifter - Free Flying vs. Fixed Luff

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I've looked through old threads on Drifters and didn't really find a consensus on preference for Drifters to be set flying or on a stay (fixed or temporary).

I reached out to my local North loft (Vancouver) for a drifter for both cruising and single/double handed racing my C&C 29mk2. My original thought was that this would be a flying Nylon (or other spinnaker material) sail that I could tack to my anchor roller and hoist on my Spin Halyard so I could quickly peel between it and my 135% Dacron Genoa shorthanded.

North came back saying they can make me a cross-cut ~1oz Single-sided Mylar w/Taffeta drifter in our local loft for $950 CAD and they've sold a few dozen locally. They told me they could put a spectra line in the luff to make it free flying but typically people are putting them on their forestays.

I see some pro's and con's of both options and I'm wondering what people's experiences are. Free-flying lets me peel effectively by furling/unfurling the genoa but would sacrifice upwind performance and the ability to tack. Hoisting on the forestay would allow me to tack and point more effectively but I would need to setup without furling and/or drop the genoa to raise this sail on the jib halyard; losing any momentum I may have. It would also allow me to hoist the kite with the drifter up. I haven't got a second jib halyard for peels but it's something I'm looking into.

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Reminds me of using a Daisy staysail as a drifter.  How about having 1 just 1 hank on the head of the sail to put on the forestay and keep the chute halyard free?

Sail safe!

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If you have hanks go free flying. If you have a foil, a luff tape is not bad.

Having something you can use as both a staysail and a drifter can be a good solution. At that point a low stretch luff rope (NOT Spectra) makes a lot of sense

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42 minutes ago, SailRacer said:

Reminds me of using a Daisy staysail as a drifter.  How about having 1 just 1 hank on the head of the sail to put on the forestay and keep the chute halyard free?

Sail safe!

Upwind a Windseeker or Dazy works better than a drifter in extreme light air.  Also use as a staysail - sometimes.  Dazy is a great sail to have when coming into the Clallum Bay turning mark of the Juan de Fuca race.

Edit: Just noticed a windseeker is now often referred to as a drifter - so probably the same the thing.  In the old days, what we called a drifter was a large LP nylon headsail.

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I would run it inside the forestay instead of outside so that you can still tack.  I've thought about doing the same thing since my boat has a furler on it now.  My drifter is slightly shorter luff than my other jibs (it was cut for a boat with a 2' shorter mast), so flying it inside the forestay would be pretty easy.

@12 metre I'm also saying drifter but I guess meaning windseeker by your definition.  It is a cross cut jib with a very light mylar and skrim fabric.  You can see it on the foredeck in this photo (I couldn't find one with it flying).  Ours goes up the foil right now, but as I said I might change this now that we have a furler (for cruising and short-handed racing).  

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, outdoor and water

 

 

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In true drifter conditions, you need to be able to tack almost effortlessly. Keep it inside or on the headstay. Quite often you are auto-tacking anyway.

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ex-Fortune 30 owner(bigger J dimension than a C&C 29).

We had a 1.5 oz nylon drifter made by Lee Sails. Freeflying on a spinnaker halyard. No luff line but nowadays yes, I'd put a piece of spectra on it. Couldn't point as high as a genoa but nice for real light wind days.

Also useful downwind when you're too lazy to put up a spinnaker.

I'd also get quotes from Leitch&McBride and UK. Not a tricky sail to make. Really good time to buy a sail right now.

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North Vancouver has been selling a lot of these in the last 2 years for very few $.  I think they got a deal on the cloth, and they are pretty simple to make.

The one we got for the F30 runs in the groove.  I think that putting it in the groove gives you a bit more point, which can be nice, but not critical.  We have used ours downwind too when there is just not enough breeze to get the kite to fill.

12M - yeah - old time drifters were the size of #1 genoa's, but light material.  These days, they tend more to be staysail size.  And we have used a small drifter as a staysail.

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A drifter and seeker are two different sails.  The drifter would work well with the 29.  In the PNW I would also look at Ballard Sails.  They have a great reputation and designer.

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3 hours ago, Mr Moab said:

If you have hanks go free flying. If you have a foil, a luff tape is not bad.

Having something you can use as both a staysail and a drifter can be a good solution. At that point a low stretch luff rope (NOT Spectra) makes a lot of sense

What’s lower stretch than Marlow D12 Max (aka pre-stretched and heat treated Spectra)?

Steel, maybe, but then it’s a pain to get the sail back in the bag and a good bit more flying weight.

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55 minutes ago, Zonker said:

ex-Fortune 30 owner(bigger J dimension than a C&C 29).

We had a 1.5 oz nylon drifter made by Lee Sails. Freeflying on a spinnaker halyard. No luff line but nowadays yes, I'd put a piece of spectra on it. Couldn't point as high as a genoa but nice for real light wind days.

Also useful downwind when you're too lazy to put up a spinnaker.

I'd also get quotes from Leitch&McBride and UK. Not a tricky sail to make. Really good time to buy a sail right now.

Where did you tack yours?

Seeing everyone's thoughts so far it might be handy to have it on the forestay to be used as a staysail. I don't have anywhere aft of the forestay and I can't imagine moving the tack from rail to rail would make any sense.

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Have had a lot of experience with this type of sail and there are two axioms [1] you will inevitably want to use it to close reach and then point higher and [2]  the sail  will get trashed and wind up as raw material for crew duffle bags. 

We always ran it up the headstay foil,  using either genoa or spinnaker halyard depending on circumstances. Running up the headstay provides greater stability. The key is maintaining flow across the sail and anything that maintains sail shape is a must. Even in the lightest chop the sail wants to collapse and it worthless unless it is flying.  The time will come during a race when you have the weather mark in sight, the  breeze slowly fills in and you decide to trim in, sail close hauled and switch headsails on the downwind leg. After doing this a couple of times the sail shape of your drifter, dazy, seeker etc. is trashed and good only for bags.

Size and material - bigger is not generally better. The sail only needs to get you moving and build up some apparent wind. Remember if you are going 1 knot (or less)  and the competition is doing zero,  you are sailing infinitely faster.

We found something around 130% was sufficient. Again, the sail just needs to get you going.   Don't be wed to materials in their traditional roles for this material. A 1 oz sail will be very bouncy and hard to fly. We have used 1.5 oz Kevlar and 1.5  oz Dacron. I would be wary of any Mylar substrate for this sail - you are buying an expensive ( and stretchy)  Hefty trash bag. 

 

 

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Just a few proven thoughts for the sail usable for boat speed in the < 4 knot range:

1. Deep entry, with luff only 90% of forestay length, no overlap and clew height above the lifelines

2. The sail is significantly more effective in the foil (unfortunately)

3. Just strong enough to handle 6 knots apparent, ideally light laminate

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Start the engine. :ph34r:

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 A "Windseeker" is for conditions of very little or no wind, and also when chop rocks the boat to the point where an overlapping headsail (of any weight) spends any time plastered on the lee shrouds. It hoists on the headstay (crucial to keep leading edge straight), full hoist and is high clewed & less than 100%. This is so that even if boat is rolling, the sail can be loosely sheeted on centerline, and it fills & pulls with every roll. Spent a lot of time with this sail up going to Mex or around the Channel Is. A real weapon when used correctly - would get you from zero speed up to 3 -4 knots easily. Often the crew would put the light #1 back up & watch the BS bleed back down to zero's n a few minutes. 

A 'Drifter" is quite a loose term - depends if you have a true light #1 or not. You need to define it's usage better.

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7 hours ago, climenuts said:

I've looked through old threads on Drifters and didn't really find a consensus on preference for Drifters to be set flying or on a stay (fixed or temporary).

I reached out to my local North loft (Vancouver) for a drifter for both cruising and single/double handed racing my C&C 29mk2. My original thought was that this would be a flying Nylon (or other spinnaker material) sail that I could tack to my anchor roller and hoist on my Spin Halyard so I could quickly peel between it and my 135% Dacron Genoa shorthanded.

North came back saying they can make me a cross-cut ~1oz Single-sided Mylar w/Taffeta drifter in our local loft for $950 CAD and they've sold a few dozen locally. They told me they could put a spectra line in the luff to make it free flying but typically people are putting them on their forestays.

I see some pro's and con's of both options and I'm wondering what people's experiences are. Free-flying lets me peel effectively by furling/unfurling the genoa but would sacrifice upwind performance and the ability to tack. Hoisting on the forestay would allow me to tack and point more effectively but I would need to setup without furling and/or drop the genoa to raise this sail on the jib halyard; losing any momentum I may have. It would also allow me to hoist the kite with the drifter up. I haven't got a second jib halyard for peels but it's something I'm looking into.

The drifter that Dennis at North made for my Ross 930 was an absolute weapon.  This isnt the sort of sail that you would set up for tacking.  It won't survive and I only had 1 really light sheet permanently tied on.  Mine went in the foil.

If your headsail is on a furler, get it free flying and use the toppinglift or add another halyard.  Then you can hoist and drop quickly along with deploying the genoa.  There will be lots of going back and forth depending on the conditions.

Was the cheapest and best value sail in my quiver when I had a Ross 930 .

 

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A Drifter is intended to be deployed in a steady frustratingly light wind direction for cruising sailboats. Most have not properly cleaned their bottoms (which actually helps create drag to help the sail fill), it can be a nice .6oz or even 1oz big round genoa shaped kite (ish) looking thing.

Free Flying Luff is preferred...

If your racing, a windseeker is just like a Spin Staysail....light and fast..if you are trying to point you then can put up your J1.....or super top secret J(.)

Your local loft can hook you up with whatever you want that is practical and functional for your application. Just ask yourself how often you will use it and if the condition of your bottom is perfect.

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I use a free flying Dazy staysail as my windseeker on my C&C 35.
It has a rope luff and light weight sheet attached.
The tack is a snap shackle on a short line so that I can attach it on the rail or on the bow cleat at centerline depending on the conditions.

It's bag is a spinnaker type bag, with the tack shackle through a grommet in the bag so the bag stays on deck with the sail.
Dousing on the deck is simply packing it back in the bag.
So it can stay on deck, rigged and ready if you decide to change up to the genoa in case you want to go back to the dazy.

 

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An alternative view:

Lioness has a drifter made in Nylon with a miter cut and a "light #1" in miter cut dacron from the 1960's. We set them similar to our 2018 Mizzen Staysail (Nylon) free flying. 

  • Forget pointing, you only care about keeping the boat moving towards more wind.
    • If you can get up apparent wind to tack through 120 degrees, you will have higher VMG that the guy trying to point and going half as fast with more leeway,  stopping on every wave (Sin 30 = .5, sin 45 = .707...) 
    • If the helm has enough boat speed to try to point, change to a genoa,
    • remember that puffs will be headers at low TWS and you should not steer quickly enough to chase them
  • We Tack the  light sail as far forward as you can get it (I use a spinnaker pole as a "Selden sprit and paid a 9 sec penalty for reaching on the Estuary) 
  • Heel the boat, so that the sail has gravity induced curvature and you are not requiring wind pressure to make it foil shaped. 
  • Smaller sails, set without overlap in ultra light fabric have narrow ranges of AWS, but if you use one to get out of a hole, that may be enough. 
  • Set the luff to be stable, whether on an integral wire/rope, top-down furler or foil does not matter to "stable" at low wind speeds. It matters to how quickly you can change back and forth, which will affect how often you use it, and how long it lasts. If your genoa can be hoist/furled without delay, you will use it as the wind comes up. 
  • Setting the windseeker as a staysail, that you can drop into a turtle allows that, whether in front of or behind the genoa luff 

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It is unrated area when flown as a spin sty'sl

We used to the Spin sty'sl / wind seeker all the time. A must on races like Ensenada, Mdr to SD and slower boats needed them in the SB to KH. 3am to sun rise with the wind filling in is a hateful time but big gains can be made by those who are prepared.

Back in the 70's and 80's we had lots of over night races. Now not so many but if your crew is good, they can pop it out as soon as the spin is up and in your Wednesday night races or just local RLC stuff, you got something no one else has. At least until they see it makes you more competitive.

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19 hours ago, Alex W said:

I would run it inside the forestay instead of outside so that you can still tack.  I've thought about doing the same thing since my boat has a furler on it now.  My drifter is slightly shorter luff than my other jibs (it was cut for a boat with a 2' shorter mast), so flying it inside the forestay would be pretty easy.

@12 metre I'm also saying drifter but I guess meaning windseeker by your definition.  It is a cross cut jib with a very light mylar and skrim fabric.  You can see it on the foredeck in this photo (I couldn't find one with it flying).  Ours goes up the foil right now, but as I said I might change this now that we have a furler (for cruising and short-handed racing).  

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, outdoor and water

 

 

That Xp44 in the background would be a whole lot faster if they took the 200# transom swim platform off....

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31 minutes ago, jackolantern said:

That Xp44 in the background would be a whole lot faster if they took the 200# transom swim platform off....

This was a beer can race (Duck Dodge Rum Run) with no handicapping or racing rules.  I think we got third in our class that day, and the boat that got second literally motored across the start line (which had zero wind, but there was a little wind about 10 boat lengths south which is why we started with a drifter).  It’s just an excuse to get out for a sail and have a few beers.  It did turn into a fun reach across the sound, the wind really picked up later.

They might take other events more seriously... 

 

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Drifters fill out and start drawing sooner if the clew is a little higher. 

Light winds are fickle and you sometimes need to tack, and the weight of a second sheet can be enough to take the life out of the sail.  On Night Runner the clew was unreachable once hoisted so we took to tying a big loop in the sheet so we could add or remove a second sheet if we needed to tack. 

I agree with Lioness that having a rope luff is an advantage in getting the #1 back up quickly once you gain speed.  Very typically in light air you are swapping back and forth multiple times before the wind fills in completely.

The other advantage of a rope luff is it gives a little more flexibility in sail shape.  You can ease off the tension in the really light stuff to get more luff round and power, and slowly crank it on a bit once you get going.  Ease a little if you are on more of a reachy course.

Night Runners drifter was light dacron - it didn't stretch as much as nylon.

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18 hours ago, Ultraman said:

The drifter that Dennis at North made for my Ross 930 was an absolute weapon.  This isnt the sort of sail that you would set up for tacking.  It won't survive and I only had 1 really light sheet permanently tied on.  Mine went in the foil.

If your headsail is on a furler, get it free flying and use the toppinglift or add another halyard.  Then you can hoist and drop quickly along with deploying the genoa.  There will be lots of going back and forth depending on the conditions.

Was the cheapest and best value sail in my quiver when I had a Ross 930 .

 

When Dennis comes to measure tomorrow I will talk to him about what you had on Ultraman II and likely copy it given your race record on the boat. I might make some minor cruiser-friendly adaptations.

I'm leaning towards having it in the foil. I think if I setup without furling for races I can peel to it using the spinnaker halyard and with furling I can just drop the genoa and hoist it on the furler. Unfortunately my topping lift is only a couple feet above the spreader and I won't be able to use it.

I wish I had a way to tack it 12-18" behind the forestay so it could second as a Spin Staysail. I might look at adding in a tack point on the aft end of the anchor locker in the future.

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You can have a bolt rope just behind the foil tape. Your sailmaker should know this

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Tacked behind the furled sail, to a fitting just aft of the forestay tang.

Yes, we abused it carrying it to about 10 knots apparent.

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On a c&c 29 mk1 we had a light air #1 that was like what you described that went up the forestay(dual tracks and dual genoa halyards(dual spin halyards too but we never did do a peel)

In air between 3-5 knots is wind it was awesome (also downwind in light air was good for certain angles. but in chop it would fill quick but also bounce. In air lighter than that I always thought it was to big.  Being size #2 or even a jib could help.

Dual track forestay meant we could swap sales in a couple of minutes. Very useful for when the wind picked up again in a drifter 

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Our drifter is #2 sized and really just for 1-3 knots.  At 5 knots it would probably blow up. 

It is a special purpose sail for what can be a normal condition around here. Amazing tool and cheap too. 

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Up wind in light air, I use a drifter on my Viking 33. Same size as the 150 mylar. It loses shape quickly as the breeze picks up. Downwind or reaching, on a previous boat I used the heavy spinnaker, and had the halyard a couple of feet, maybe 3 feet, down from the mast head, and flew it inside the forestay. Back to the Viking. I use an asymmetric chute flown outside the forestay when short handed. Admiral Shirley and me. A problem arises when the wind picks up. We had the wind shift from behind starboard, to behind port, and jibed. The wind kept going forward and increased in strength, until we hit about 8.5 knots and rounded up, boom in the water. With the chicken chute free flying and a bit much wind, it is difficult to get it back on board. We also bent the short sprit in this maneuver. New plan. Another spinnaker halyard. Attach the head to one spinnaker halyard, use the other to hoist. For cruising I use the roller furling and a 130. This eliminates using the forestay. 

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On 1/8/2021 at 7:47 AM, LionessRacing said:

remember that puffs will be headers at low TWS and you should not steer quickly enough to chase them

Can you share the polars on this?  working this out in my mind, seems like puffs should be lifts.

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I've ended up pulling the trigger on the ~1oz Mylar, ~130%LP, in the luff groove. Basically the same as what @Ultraman had on his Ross 930. Should  get me to that 3-4kt wind range where the genoa becomes effective again. I'll set up without furling so I can peel on the spin halyard when there's not much breeze. Hopefully I'll get a second jib halyard put in this year.

Also going with a new #3 and having the old one cut down to a #4 with luff lash points added to meet OSR Cat 3 requirements for distance races.

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4 hours ago, Delta Dog said:

Can you share the polars on this?  working this out in my mind, seems like puffs should be lifts.

Independent of the "twist" of a puff descending from aloft... I think from first look at vectors, that you are correct... My clear recollection is in sailing in light stuff with patches and holes, that a velocity increase required trimming in, (perhaps from stretch and sail sag) and that as boat accelerated we would come up in speed, which brought AWA tighter... 

 

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4 hours ago, climenuts said:

I've ended up pulling the trigger on the ~1oz Mylar, ~130%LP, in the luff groove. Basically the same as what @Ultraman had on his Ross 930. Should  get me to that 3-4kt wind range where the genoa becomes effective again. I'll set up without furling so I can peel on the spin halyard when there's not much breeze. Hopefully I'll get a second jib halyard put in this year.

Also going with a new #3 and having the old one cut down to a #4 with luff lash points added to meet OSR Cat 3 requirements for distance races.

I have a similar light #1 (~150%) on my old IOR warhorse. Switch back to the heavy #1 (also ~150%) when the apparent wind is consistently back above 5 knots. 

We have twin foils and halyards so never bald-headed - works well and keeps the foredeck union happy and in work!

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