Note: This article assumes a good understanding of downwind and low wind speed sails. If you are relatively new, follow this link to our article on downwind sails first.
We finally decided on a sail plan for our circumnavigation! We worked with the UK Sails loft in NYC for a while, and we recently landed on a final plan. This article explains the factors we considered during the process and why this plan was ideal for us.
We should start by saying that, like boats, sail inventories are compromises. Like boats, the ideal sail plan for one person can be a horrible idea for a different one. The sail inventory below is our ideal sail plan based on our priorities, sailing style, and goals. Our inventory is likely the wrong sail plan for many. In fact, this is not what I would recommend when I help new Lagoon 42 owners decide on their sail inventory. So yes, there are many alternatives to this inventory that will work for most cruisers and catamaran owners. The goal here is not to convenience anyone that this is the way to go but to highlight the issues that sailors should consider when deciding on their sail inventory.
Our sail inventory reflects a preference for speed over comfort and a willingness to make frequent sail changes to optimize performance. Given these preferences, our inventory is larger and more specialized than the inventory of a cruising couple that prioritizes comfort and the simplicity of all-around sails.
We prioritize a large inventory to optimize speed for four main reasons. First, I am (Nestor) an avid racer and thus tend to enjoy getting the boat to sail as efficiently as possible. I know I will be frustrated during passages knowing the boat could be sailing at 1-2 knots faster if I had the right headsail for the conditions. Second, we like our long passages to be as short as possible. The right specialized sails can save us 2-3 days on an Atlantic or Pacific crossing compared to all-around sails. Those are 2-3 extra days that we will be able to enjoy safely and comfortably at anchor. Third, the right sails will allow us to sail in a much wider range of wind speeds and angles, drastically cutting down on motoring and diesel costs. So over time, this sail inventory will pay for itself (at least that’s what I tell myself!). And finally, having a large sail inventory can make us safer. The safety benefits are numerous, including redundancy on sails in case of sail damage, the ability to sail to safety upwind in conditions where otherwise you would have to depend on functioning engines, and the ability to get to anchor in the daytime while slower boats may get caught out in the dark.
Our original wish list
In considering our sail inventory, we wanted enough headsails to cover most wind angles and wind speeds at optimal performance. Here is the initial wish list we discussed with the sailmakers:
- A jib with clew board.
- A square-top main.
- A true flat code zero. Most “code zeros” or screechers marketed for catamarans are all-around upwind and mid wind sails covering 60-110AWA. These are great sails when you have a limited inventory, but they are not ideal because you sacrifice upwind performance to broaden the mid wind range. Instead, we wanted to true flat code zero with a mid-girth of 55 to 60% that can perform well in 50-90 AWA.
- A large true A2. We did not want a cruising spinnaker with a wide AWA range (e.g., 90-160) and speeds (up to 20 knots). These sails are great, but they sacrifice downwind and low wind performance to fly in mid-AWAs. They are also smaller than traditional A2s. So we wanted a more specialized large A2 for sailing 130-160AWA at low wind speeds.
- A small S4 or S5. In most conditions, when sailing to a dead-down-wind destination, the Lagoon 42 will sail fastest when jibing at 160AWA as opposed to sailing directly to the destination. However, when the apparent wind speeds are above 20, the benefit of jibing disappears and sailing dead-down-wind is the faster point of sail. However, you can’t sail dead-down-wind in 20knots with the A2 (or a cruising spinnaker). For that you need a small and strong symmetrical spinnaker that you can fly square from both bows. Enter the S4-S5.
- Extra A3. We did not originally consider an A3, but the team at UK sails highlighted a gap we had between the code zero and the A2. Because we specialized the code zero for close reaching and the A2 for deep-running, we ended up with a gap for sailing mid angles 80-130 in light to moderate winds. So we are considering adding an A3.
Our final inventory
AWS: 0-40. AWA 45-160. Material: Hydranet. Size: 59sm.
Our main sail will be a 59sqm square top hydranet sail. This is pretty similar to the standard square top that many owners have, with the difference being hydranet. This is an expensive but bulletproof material that has some significant benefits over dacron, including its ability to hold its shape for many more years, its lower weight, and its greater durability.
AWS: 18-40. AWA: 45-160. Material: NautoSphere Voyager. Size: 36sm.
Our new jib will be different from the standard Lagoon 42 jib in that it will include a clew board which will allow us to adjust the leech tension much better. A clew board is a must-have for a self-tacking jib if one wants to adjust the sail twist in varying conditions. It is surprising that the standard sail did not come with one. We went with Nautosphere Voyager instead of Hydranet for the jib to save costs. Voyager is also a Dyneema-reinforced sail that is significantly stronger than dracon but more economical than hydranet. You will notice that our jib will be built to fly primarily 18-40AWS. This means it can be stronger than the standard jib as it will not be expected to fly in low winds. The rest of the sail inventory will cover the lower wind speeds.
Asymmetrical 2 (A2)
AWS: 3-18. AWA: 130-160. Material: Superkote 90. 1.10oz. Size: 160sm.
The A2 is a downwind asymmetric spinnaker designed for winds under 18knots. It is quite large at 160sqmt and relatively light at 1.10oz but it is heavier than racing A2s of the same size to increase durability. This will be our most commonly used downwind sail.
Symmetrical 5 (S5)
AWS 18-35. AWA 130-180. Material: Superkote 150/200. 2.2oz. Size: 108sm.
The S5 is a downwind symmetrical spinnaker designed for heavy weather. You may ask why a symmetrical spinnaker for our heavy weather downwind sail? Why not just an asymmetrical A4? The reason is that the S5, unlike the A4, can fly dead-down-wind by rigging both guides through the bow padeyes. The asymmetrical can’t do this. So we will use this sail when sailing dead-down-wind in winds over 20knots. This is a much easier (and faster) configuration than trying to rig a wind-on-wind setup with an asymmetrical spinnaker and the jib or main.
AWS: 3-18. AWA: 45-90. Material: CZ30 Radial Laminate 55% Mid Girth. Size: 80sm.
Our new code zero is a very flat sail designed to fly in as low as 3knots. This sail is not an all-around gennaker or screecher as it is too flat to go fly any deeper than 90 degrees. However, it will fly upwind much better than a traditional cruising screecher or code-D/G type of sails.
Optional Asymmetric 3 (A3)
AWS: 10-25. AWA: 75-125. Material: Superkote 130. 1.35oz. Size: 130sm
The A3 is an upwind asymmetrical spinnaker heavy enough to fly in as high as 25knots. We have not decided yet whether to get this sail. If we do, this will be our go-to sail for beam reaching in winds 15-25 when we would otherwise have to use the Jib. So the performance increase over the jib is significant given that the A3 is significantly larger than the jib and the code zero. Nonetheless, this is the sail that we may skip depending on how well or poorly we are managing the refit budget.
Feel free to comment below if you have questions.