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A guide to downwind and light wind headsails for the Lagoon 42 catamaran.

Code zero vs. Screecher? We tackle common questions on light wind sails and suggest the best headsail inventory for the Lagoon 42 catamaran

A common conversation in the Lagoon 42 Facebook group involves the question of what is the perfect sail inventory for this boat. These conversations often reflect some confusion about the various “types” of downwind and light wind sails that sail manufacturers offer. Part of the confusion is that not all manufacturers use the same terminology to refer to the same sail types. For that reason, understanding the specific use case for each sail is important.  

In this article, I hope to clarify some of this confusion and suggest the best sail inventory for the Lagoon 42. Specifically, I want to talk about the different low wind headsails that can be used in the Lagoon 42 both for light upwind and downwind conditions. 

Upwind Sails – Code Zero and other “Code” sails

In general, a code zero is a type of “A” sail, which are types of racing asymmetric spinnakers. The original A sails went from A1 to A6. In general, odd numbers (A1, A3, A5) are primarily mid-angle to upwind reaching sails (70-150 wind angle) while even numbers (A2, A6, A6) are downwind sails (120-150). Higher numbers are used for stronger winds. For example, A1 is a light wind reaching sail while A4 is a strong wind running (downwind) sail. 

The code zero term was originally used by the Volvo ocean race to describe a versatile reaching sail that was primarily used for upwind sailing but was built like a spinnaker and thus met the definition of a spinnaker for racing rules purposes. Their goal was to have a mid-angle to upwind sail for light winds that was categorized as a spinnaker and thus complied with racing requirements regarding their headsail inventory.

However, different manufacturers use the term code zero to refer to slightly different sails that serve slightly different functions. Nonetheless, all code zeros are generally reaching upwind sails that are a bit more versatile than just an A1. 

North Sails use the term code zero to refer to a mid-angle sail (85-140).  This is a good all-around sail that does a bit of upwind and a bit of downwind but is most ideal for mid angles. This sail is not as flat as the code zero of other manufactures and is similar to a gennaker, which is another type of all-around light wind sail. In contrast, North Sails uses the terms Code 55 and Code 65 to refer to flatter types of code zero that are primarily upwind sails. For example, the Code 55 has angles of 40 to 120. 

North Sails Code Sails. Note how much flatter the Code 55 is compared to their “Code Zero”.

UK Sailmakers use the term code zero to refer to two different types of sails. They have a code zero for boats that do not have overlapping genoas (like the L42). This version is a very flat upwind sail that most resembles North Sails Code 55/65. They also have a code zero version for boats with an overlapping genoa that is rounder and is a bit more all-around with the ability to go downwind a bit more. This sail resembles the North Sail code zero or a gennaker. 

Quantum Sails offers three types of code zero that range in angles from a purely upwind reaching sail (AW40 with angles of 40 to 100) to a mid-angle sail (AW80 with angles of 80 to 130).  So the AW40 is more in line with North Sails Code 55 while their AW80 is more like a North Sails Code zero.

From Quantum Code Sails

Incidence Sails, the manufacturer used by Lagoon for the factory code zero, uses the term to refer to a flat upwind large genoa, similar to North Sails Code 65/55 or Quantum AW40. They also have a Code 3 and Code 5 that sail deeper than their Code zero. Note here the confusion with the Code 55/65 of North Sails. Incidence uses the Code 3 and Code 5 terminology to describe sails that are rounder than the code zero allowing them to sail more downwind. In this case, their code zero is the most upwind sail. In contrast, North Sails uses the Code 55/65 terminology to describe sails that are flatter than their code zero and are used for pointing upwind more. In that case, their code zero is the least upwind sail.

Most upwindMid Range Least Upwind
North SailsCode 55Code 65Code Zero
UK SailmakersCode zero for non-overlappingN/ACode Zero for overlapping genoas
IncidenceCode ZeroCode 3Code 5

Code zero vs. Screecher.  Another common confusion is the difference between a code zero and a screecher. While code zero sails were developed and used originally in monohulls, the screecher is a multihull sail term. It refers to a very flat and large sail used primarily for upwind performance in light winds in multihulls. Thus, some types of code zeros, like North Sails code 55 essentially function like a screecher. Interestingly, the history of the term screecher is similar to the history of the code zero. It was developed as an upwind sail that could meet the definition of a downwind sail for racing rules. Like the code zero, it is just an upwind sail masquerading as a spinnaker. Thus, a screecher is essentially a very flat code zero used in multihulls for going upwind.

All Around Sails – Gennakers

Gennakers are all-around sails that sit in between genoas and downwind spinnakers. They are not as good as Code zeros for going upwind and not as good as asymmetric spinnakers for going downwind. Yet, they are excellent all-around sails that provide a wide range of wind angles to sailers that like the simplicity of having a single slow wind sail. However, Gennakers also come in different flavors. For example, North Sails offers three types, from a GZero, which can do some upwind sailing (albeit not near as high as their Code 55/65) and a G3, which is primarily a downwind sail (albeit not near as low as a true asymmetric spinnaker).  Incidence also has two types of Gennakers: a downwind Gennaker or an all-around Genneker that is flatter and is closer to a code zero or screeched.

Downwind Sails – Asymmetric Spinnakers

Asymmetric spinnakers are the most common choice for multihull downwind sails. Most often sailors think of spinnakers as light wind sails. However, they can be made for a variety of conditions, from very light winds (like an A2) to very strong winds (like the A4-6). The reason cruising sailors equate asymmetrical spinnakers with light wind sails is that most cruising sailors never feel the need to sail a spinnaker in strong winds. Cruising boats may also not be rigged to withstand the forces of flying an A6 in 30+ knots. So, most cruising multihull sailors will be flying a light wind A2-type asymmetric spinnaker that can sail in up to 20 knots at 160-120 degrees. If the winds get stronger than that, we most often just put the Jib out. 

From UK Sailmakers. Note how the higher even numbers are running sails for stronger winds. These are made smaller than lower numbers and use stronger (and heavier) cloth.

Note that asymmetric spinnakers are downwind sails but never can go as deep as 180 degrees. So asymmetric spinnakers are never used to go dead down wind. 

What sails do you use to go dead down wind? None. Don’t do it. Head up to 160 and get to the destination faster. I’m only half-joking.  The issue is that dead down wind is almost never the fastest point of sai or fastest VMG (Velocity Made Good to the destination) and thus I never go dead down wind because I’m always in race mode. But I understand that not everyone wants to get there faster and there is comfort in setting up a dead down wind configuration and enjoying the morning coffee while slowly drifting to the destination. This issue is complex enough to be worth having its own article. I’ll post the link here when I write it. For now, below is what to do if you want to go dead down wind.

If you like the relaxation of dead down wind saiing, then you have two general options. The first option is to use a code zero and the original jib in a butterfly configuration (wing on wing). This is a very comfortable and safe setup but is a bit slow. Most skippers set up this configuration without a mainsail. However, keep in mind that Lagoon does not recommend sailing without a main sail as this increases the risk for mast inversion and thus demasting. The only time I would be comfortable sailing without a main is if the topping lift was dyneema and is kept a bit tight, which will act as a back stay. However, this only works in very low winds. The dyneema and mainsheet are strong enough to act as a back stay but the sheave at top of the mast is not designed or strong enough for the loads when the wind increases.

The second option is to buy a symmetrical spinnaker or a parasailer/wingaker which can be sailed in very deep angles. It’s common for a parasailer/wingaker to be flown at 180 degrees. Most cruising multihull sailors do not have these sails but those who do are usually very happy as it allows them to go dead down wind quite fast (although they will still see me sail by flying my spinnaker at 160 degrees).

The right sail plan for the Lagoon 42

Given the options above, what is the best sail plan for a Lagoon 42? Well, it depends on your sailing preference and budget. Here I describe three general categories of potential owners and the right sail plan that would be ideal for them. 

The racer with a large budget. If speed is what you crave in all points of sail, and you don’t mind paying for four headsails, then I would recommend the following:

  • Upwind #1: Flat code zero capable of sailing in as low as 5-12 TWS. This would be something like the Northsail Code 55, or Quantum AW60 but sized as an A1 in terms of size and cloth weight. 
  • Upwind #2: Flat code zero capable of sailing in 12-20 TWS. This would be something like the Northsail Code 55, or Quantum AW60 but sized as an A3 in terms of size and cloth weight. 
  • Downwind #1: Large Asymmetric A2 for low winds under 20 TWS capable of deep 160 sailing (.75oz cloth)
  • Downwind #2: Small Asymmetric A4 for winds between 20-30 TWS (1.5-2oz cloth)

The Racer with a small budget. If you want speed but can afford only 2 extra sails, this is what I would do. In fact, this is our sail plan. 

  • Upwind #1: Flat code zero capable of sailing in up to 20 TWS. This would be something like the Northsail Code 55, or Quantum AW60. 
  • Downwind #1: Large Asymmetric A2 for low winds under 20 TWS capable of deep 160 sailing (.75oz cloth)
  • Downwind #2: Small USED Asymmetric A4 for winds between 20-30 TWS (1.5-2oz cloth). We bought this sail from MastHead sails for under 2k. It is perfect for strong winds because it if gets destroyed, I won’t cry. 

The set-it-and-forget-it or simplicity craver. For those of you who want simplicity and/or want only one extra sail to use for light winds, the answer is simple.

  • All-around Gennaker or deep Code Zero like North Sails Code Zero, North Sails GZero, Quantum AW80, or Incidence Code 5.  This will allow you to do some upwind and downwind sailing in conditions under 20 knots. If you have the budget, you could also get a code zero AND a furlling Gennaker as I describe in our ideal sail plan article.

What about just the factory code zero and nothing else? That definitely works. Many owners are happy with this configuration. However,  if I were to have only one extra sail, that is not the sail I would choose because it has limited versatility compared to a Gennaker.  With only a flat code zero you will have limited downwind performance compared to a Gennaker or a proper asymmetrical spinnaker. 

What about just a Parasailer/Wingaker and nothing else? This has the same issue of having just a flat code zero but instead of having a primarily upwind sail you end up having a primarily downwind sail.  It can do some upwind work, but it will not perform as well as a proper code zero or A1. 

In sum, if you want only one extra sail, get a gennaker. If you can afford two extra sails, get a flat code zero and an A2 asymmetrical spinnaker or a gennaker. Most owners begin with just the factory code zero. Their options would greatly increase if they added an A2 asymmetric spinnaker for downwind days. 

Leave a comment below or stop by the Lagoon 42 Facebook group if you have questions.

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