Setting up cruising boats for upwind performance

2airishuman

Anarchist
The majority of cruising boats out there have poor sailing performance on a beat.  While design and blown-out sails play a role, from what I see the culprit more often is windage and weight..

Most cruisers would rather have radar, beaucoup solar panels, a big dinghy on davits, outboard on the taffrail, a reel of line, jugs of diesel and gasoline on the lifelines, scuba cylinders, radar, SUP, etc etc.

Rarely, a cruiser (usually with a racing background) will outfit their boat so as to achieve good upwind performance.  The three examples I'm aware of are custom builds and achieve this in part through longer overall length to reduce the need for on-deck stowage.

My real question is whether the tradeoffs are worthwhile, in light of the discomfort and poor Vmg that can be achieved in practice.  I am also curious as to what those of you who have made upwind performance a first priority have done about safety-related items such as radar, a liferaft on deck, and throwable PFDs.

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
5,076
808
worldwide
Genoa sheeting angle 

windage 

underpowered

Poor underwater design , condition 

over weight 

weight in the ends 

the common moderate displacement racer cruiser works very well as a cruiser if you keep the weight off 

 
Last edited by a moderator:

fufkin

Super Anarchist
The condition of the bottom of the boat is often overlooked by a lot of cruisers and plays a big role.

Actively trimming and steering for comfort also plays a huge role, presuming you have made enough ‘trade offs’. 

Getting the right amount of power, or ‘finding the groove’ is the goal. Often heading off by 5-10 degrees can make a huge difference. Keeping an eye on halyard tension, outhaul tension, Cunningham, traveller location, vang tension, jib car locations are all tools to trim for comfort in concert with minor course changes...before the need to reef or make a major course change.

Having baggy or blown out sails robs you of a lot of these options. At the very least, get a re cut.

 I guess the weight and wind age trade offs are only worth it if you make enough of them...that and mainly starting with the right boat with enough draft (and other variables...) to make a reasonable amount of upwind comfort attainable.

 
If you have a heavy displacement boat, 1,000 pounds of gear is no big deal.  If you have a boat that weighs less but is the same length, it matters more.

Either way, carrying 250 feet of chain, 2-3 large anchors and a dinghy on davits is not an advantage.  the bigger problem is blown out sails and inattentive crew - after all its a cruise, what's the rush?

 

Panoramix

Super Anarchist
Most cruisers would rather have radar, beaucoup solar panels, a big dinghy on davits, outboard on the taffrail, a reel of line, jugs of diesel and gasoline on the lifelines, scuba cylinders, radar, SUP, etc etc.
If the boat is big enough, you can have a lot of this without too much compromise. A radar in front of the mast isn't a big drag, solar panels are OK as long as you integrate them properly, an inflatable dinghy is not that bad and can be stored low, if you want a hard dinghy store it on deck while sailing, keep the dinghy outboard small, get an inflatable SUP if you absolutely want one, store the SCUBA cylinders as low as possible, if it is a proper sailing boat you don't need jugs of diesel just find a decent weather window, be frugal and use solar/wind power. 

If the boat is not big enough, yes make some choices, it might entitle removing the diesel engine if you are about to sail round the world non stop on a Contessa 32, but most of the time it is removing clutter

It is all about getting a boat that was designed to sail, not overloading it, storing heavy stuff low, having decent sails, enough lines to control your sails etc... it will be enough and remember to fold down the dodger when you don't need it upwind.

IME, most people who use their boat to go somewhere actually do this.

 

Rain Man

Super Anarchist
7,015
1,938
Wet coast.
Lots of things work against good upwind performance in cruisers.  Wide shroud bases, insufficient forestay tension, poor sail shape, underpowered rig, lousy foils, high prismatic hull etc.  My cruiser is just ok upwind. Towing a dinghy is a speed killer, put it on deck for long passages.

This is why ex-racers usually own racer-cruisers or converted racers.  It is pretty hard to accept the shit upwind performance of many cruisers when you are used to race boat upwind numbers.

One exception is the Contessa 32.  They seem to go upwind quite well.  There are others. 

 
Last edited by a moderator:

SemiSalt

Super Anarchist
7,730
259
WLIS
There been several moments, when out daysailing and jogging along on a broad reach, near hull speed with minimum effort, that I've suddenly thought "how come this experience is so rare", and decided it's because of the bias to windward/leeward race courses. Cruisers can get away with boats that don't upwind well because they spend a higher percent of their time sailing free. It's not because they don't want to beat upwind, but because they don't  have to. Pretty much the same argument applies to sailing in very light winds. Only a racer sails in a 4 knot breeze.

 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,521
558
New Orleans
Good question:

"... whether the tradeoffs are worthwhile, in light of the discomfort and poor Vmg that can be achieved in practice".

I wonder if it is in part a sociology question?

If you and your "cruising" crew are racers (or similar personality types) who love the boathandling skill close-hauled (particularly in a chop) requires while working within that very narrow "sweet spot", then you might conclude that saving weight and keeping boat ends light requires, then yeah skip the radar and the rigid dinghy, and leave the dodger down.  And don't fill the water or fuel tanks too heavy, keep anchor down below not foredeck, and the other good suggestions above.  And find a cook who doesn't hate you when you are on a beat in a seaway.  And don't mind sleeping heeled.

If on the other hand your crew are "guests" and may want a more serene experience, then pick your battles carefully.  Wait a day for that windshift so you can reach or run, or change your itinerary toward that same end.

Most of my crusing was deliveries, so time was important, and we would use the engine to "help" if we needed more speed upwind (or down).  But a cruise isn't a delivery, so maybe slower and flatter is better?  But yeah a good challenging beat is an exhilarating experience.  That's why we race.

I once had owners come along as delivery "crew" from Mass Bay to Southwest Harbor on a Newell Cadet, 27', short waterline, slow and not a bear upwind, but we had Easterlies so it was mostly close-hauled with a good bit of sea and gray weather, in the Gulf of Maine.  I liked it.  But they were quite seasick on that longest leg.  So I put them on the tilller to try to minimize the queasiness, while I cooked and ate a nice eggs and ham meal below while trying unsuccessfully to keep it a secret.

I've taught sailing a good bit, and when there's "weather" and we have to decide go or no-go, I would ask these mostly newcomers what their outside jobs, hobbies, and interests are.  Mountain climbing instructor, motorcycle racer, aviator?  Okay, let's go sailing.  Knitting, reading, crossword puzzling?  Well, why don't we postpone, okay?

;-)

 

maxstaylock

Anarchist
684
392
All that cruising crap on deck won't make you safer or more comfortable if you can't beat off a lee shore, when your prop fouls.  Upwind performance is a safety feature in itself.  For me, cruising is getting away from it all, it defeats the purpose if you take it all with you, might as well just stay at home.  If you don't keep lots of junk in the cockpit lockers, you can keep your safety kit there.  If you don't load your boat down with power hungry electrics, you don't need acres of solar panels and a dozen jerrycans on deck.  People cruised for centuries without lugging about a 25hp rib on davits.  If you have the right clothes, you don't need a variety of tents for the deck.  If I had to choose, I would have AIS over heavy, power hungry, high windage radar.  Travel light, move fast.  

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
5,076
808
worldwide
All that cruising crap on deck won't make you safer or more comfortable if you can't beat off a lee shore, when your prop fouls.  Upwind performance is a safety feature in itself.  For me, cruising is getting away from it all, it defeats the purpose if you take it all with you, might as well just stay at home.  If you don't keep lots of junk in the cockpit lockers, you can keep your safety kit there.  If you don't load your boat down with power hungry electrics, you don't need acres of solar panels and a dozen jerrycans on deck.  People cruised for centuries without lugging about a 25hp rib on davits.  If you have the right clothes, you don't need a variety of tents for the deck.  If I had to choose, I would have AIS over heavy, power hungry, high windage radar.  Travel light, move fast.  
All that deck crap looks bad, adds weight and windage ,  makes sail handling hard and interfere with sheet Leeds 

 

Zonker

Super Anarchist
9,126
5,041
Canada
I've taught sailing a good bit, and when there's "weather" and we have to decide go or no-go, I would ask these mostly newcomers what their outside jobs, hobbies, and interests are.  Mountain climbing instructor, motorcycle racer, aviator?  Okay, let's go sailing.  Knitting, reading, crossword puzzling?  Well, why don't we postpone, okay?
Really good tip I'll have to remember. Finding out their comfort zone is important.
 

Windage is cumulative. On my catamaran I really decided to have the foredecks bare and concentrated on the aero of the cabin.  Well except for the dorade vents. Probably the only catamaran I've ever seen with dorades :)

image.png

The totally vertical windows of the Lagoon types make me shudder.

The angled wings on either side of cabins (Outremer) also bug me. Just trap air.

The solar panels/arch/dinghy were all in the lee of the bridgedeck cabin eddies when beating (and kept low enough that the non-turbulent air was above them)

image.png

The sides of the cabin were canted in a bit not straight fore/aft. This is the cabin at 30 degrees apparent wind angle (we really sailed max 32 apparent)

The bridgedeck cabin of cats is a huge windage thing. More work should be done by manufacturers.

image.png

I put the radar on the mast so the only extra weight/windage was the scanner and small platform. An extra pole or standoff on a stern arch is worse. 

No liferaft (it was a cat with 7 different w.t. compartments)

Solar panels were also relatively flat (only a few degrees of heel on the cat) so windage wasn't bad anyway. 

Bimini was very flat for the same reason. Lifesling on aft railing in lee of everything as well.

If you have a lot of junk in the trunk, it doesn't hurt to concentrate it/overlap it to minimize the damaging effects.

Absolute pet peeves for windage:

- jerry jugs on the decks of 50' boats
- kayaks or sailboards stowed vertically on stanchions
- lifeline netting. Unless you have a toddler aboard that is an immense amount of windage
- mast steps. You're allowed 1 pair at the masthead. Folding ones please. Otherwise just no.

 

bridhb

Super Anarchist
3,375
931
Jax, FL
Depends what you do with them. If the second furler carries a smaller headsail that stops you trying to reef the big one.. well you can see where I am going with this thought.
 My "ideal" cruising boat in my head would be a double headsail rig with a genoa and a staysail on furlers or possibly the staysail and stormsail on hanks with a removable inner forestay..  My fractional rigged boat is too small to have an inner forestay so it is multiple sails with hanks.  If I ever go cruising, I will have to settle for an inflatable SUP, one lashed to the stancions would be 1/3 the length of the boat!  Windward performance is important, but more importantly, is fun and still amazes me that it is even possible.

 
Top