Boats & Gear

MODERN CRUISING SAILS: Sail Construction and Materials

Under sail

To function as a proper airfoil a modern Marconi sail must present a curved surface to the wind. To the casual eye a sail may look like a flat two-dimensional piece of cloth, but in fact it has a very specific curved shape built into it. This shape is carefully engineered, depending on what sort of sail it is and how it will be used.

To turn a piece of flat fabric into a curved foil, the fabric must be cut into panels and stitched back together again. By cutting a convex curve along one edge of a panel and stitching it to a straight edge on an adjacent panel, a process is called broadseaming, a unitary curved surface is created once all the panels are joined together. Where the edge of a sail will be attached to a straight spar, as with a mainsail bent onto a mast and boom, shape can also be created by cutting a convex curve along that edge. This is called edge-shaping and is not commonly used these days.

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SEASCAPE 18: Evangelist Test Sail With Andraž Mihelin

Andraz astern

How’s this for convenience? I get the word from SAIL HQ that I should look into test-sailing the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently revealed on these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home. Even better, on arriving at the anointed moment last Friday at Pepperell Cove, where said rep, Toralf Strand, a tall gangly Norwegian fellow, has assembled both a Seascape 27 and 18 for test-sailing by prospective buyers and this one journalist, it turns out I’ll be sailing with Andraž Mihelin (see photo up top), one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.

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OPEN 60 DELIVERY: From Portland to Marblehead with Rich Wilson

On deck GA4

I narrowly missed my last chance to sail on an Open 60, way back in 2001 at the Heineken Regatta, when Josh Hall and Gartmore turned up a last-minute no-show due to family issues, so I was pretty psyched about getting aboard Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud) with her skipper Rich Wilson late last week. This was his first outing on the boat this summer, a delivery jaunt from Maine Yacht Center in Portland to her home mooring in Marblehead, a distance of about 100 miles. Also onboard was Jonathan Green, a local Massachusetts racing sailor (on the left in the image up top) who is assisting Rich in tuning up the boat for next year’s Vendeé Globe start in France.

Unless something pretty dramatic happens, Rich, who last ran (and finished!) the Vendeé Globe in 2008-09, will (again) be the only American sailing in the race. At age 65, he will also be the oldest competitor in the race’s history, a fact he doesn’t necessarily like to dwell upon.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Converting a Sloop to a Slutter

Sophie as cutter

I mentioned the concept of a "slutter," a sloop that is converted to a cutter by adding a removable inner forestay, in my last post on this subject and thought I should expound a bit on the process of the conversion. It is a popular upgrade, particularly on bluewater boats, and of course being able to hoist a staysail can also be handy on a coastal boat. My old Golden Hind 31 Sophie was a sloop when I bought her, and I converted her to a cutter rig with a removable inner forestay, although she became a true cutter, as I also increased the height of the mast and added a bowsprit to enlarge the foretriangle. In the photo up top you see Sophie post conversion, during her very first test sail, flying both a large genoa and her staysail, which in fact was something I rarely did, as it was difficult to tack the genoa around the staysail.

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GREEN 37: New Centerboard Yawl Design by Jay Paris

Profile and sailplane

Just heard recently from Jay Paris, N.A., who has been SAIL magazine's technical advisor since before time began. He sent drawings and details of an intriguing upscaled version of the 32-foot centerboard yawl he designed and built for himself. (For details on that boat be sure to check this post here.) He calls this new design the Green 37, as he claims it "reduc[es] the environmental impact of construction and operation in terms of accommodation, payload and performance." I'm scratching my head over that a bit, but in all other respects I find this a fascinating concept and would love to see one of these built someday. Knowing Jay, there are all sorts of clever details in here that won't be readily apparent until they are fully realized in three dimensions.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Sloops, Cutters, and Solent Rigs

Big sloop

In our previous episode in this series we discussed what I like to call split rigs--ketches, yawls, and schooners--where a sailplan is divided among two or more masts. Cruising sailors once upon a time preferred such rigs, at least on larger cruising boats, because each separate sail requiring handling was smaller and thus more manageable. These days, however, by far the most popular rig for both racing and cruising sailboats is the simple sloop rig. This has a single mast supporting a single Marconi mainsail with a single headsail supported by a single headstay flying forward of it.

Its advantages are manifest: there are only two sails for the crew to handle, each of which can be hoisted with a single halyard and trimmed with a single sheet. While sailing, there are normally only two lines--the jib sheet and mainsheet--that need to be controlled at any given moment. And because there is but one headsail flying forward of the main, tacking a sloop is easy, since the headsail, even if it is a large overlapping genoa, can pass easily through the open foretriangle.

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NEEL 65: A Whole Lotta Trimaran Going On

Neel 65 forward

We all knew this day was coming. With the recent launch and test-sailing of the new Neel 65 the concept of "cruising trimaran" has officially metastasized into the upper stratosphere. I was impressed with its smaller sibling, the Neel 45, when I got a chance to sail one in France a few years ago, and I'm wondering if this new beast has achieved what must be considered the Holy Grail in multihull design: over-the-top accommodation space combined with decent sailing performance.

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CRUISER-RACER CONFUSION: Scow Bow Revolution 29 and Gunboat G4 Capsize

Revolution 29

This is something I ask myself quite often: can a modern truly cutting-edge high-performance racing sailboat also be a cruising boat? In certain ways, of course, the old ideal of the true cruiser-racer, per the glory days of the Cruising Club of America rating rule and boats such as Carleton Mitchell's famous yawl Finisterre, evaporated many decades ago. Yet still it is an ideal that both boatbuilders and boat owners incessantly aspire to somehow realize in a modern context, and it is fascinating to watch how these aspirations manifest themselves. Take, for example, the Revolution 29 (see image up top), a new cruising design developed in France that is directly based on David Raison's radical scow-bowed Mini 6.5 in which he won the Mini Transat in 2011.

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GUNBOAT G4: A Cruising Cat That Flies (Literally)

G4 foiling

For those of you who don't happen to follow Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone on Facebook, here's a hot piece of late-breaking news: the world's first foiling racer-cruiser catamaran has just gone airborne (see photo up top). That would be hull no. 1 of Gunboat's new 40-foot G4, which was recently launched in St. Martin and is now being worked up to compete at Les Voiles de St. Barth (April 13-18) and Antigua Sailing Week (April 25-May 1).

I am sure Nat Herreshoff is dancing a jig in his grave. This is exactly the sort of cutting-edge boat (see, e.g., the catamaran Amaryllis, circa 1876) that he loved to create.

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