Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What a difference a new headsail makes!

We were able to sneak some sailing in this weekend to test out the new genoa -- after the gale winds and before the torrential rains began.

Eventually gale winds shouldn't be a problem for an Andromeda like Phoenix -- especially with the mizzen and new staysail -- but when testing the initial performance of the new headsail, it seemed prudent to wait for more moderate air.

We had NW winds at 10-15 knots and we started things out sailing on a downwind run with a full main and genoa. The sail shape looked great and we were cruising along at or slightly faster than the apparent wind. The helm was easy (as you'd expect) going downwind.

On both a broad and beam reach, Phoenix picked up speed and we were comfortably doing high 5s to low 6s with very little effort. Admittedly we weren't breaking any records, but a respectable speed given the relatively light air.

We could never get this nice of a slot with the old headsail!

It was chilly out there!

Looking up from the foredeck

Genoa on a broad reach

Upwind sailing was going to be the true test, since our old, bagged out sail caused excessive weather helm when sailing close to the wind and we typically heeled at about 20-25 degrees. With the new sail, Phoenix heeled over quickly then stabilized at about 15 degrees, and we were really able to flatten the new headsail and maintained excellent helm control.

For kicks, we reefed the headsail a few turns (about 10%), and the rope luff did a great job keeping the luff tight and the sail flat. Bill let out the sheeting a hair and we were heeled at about 10 degrees and picked up a bit more speed.

With the new canvas, Phoenix's upwind performance is 1,000 times more enjoyable! After a bit more fine tuning of the rig and sheeting, we're sure that her performance will be even better!

Over the years we've seen too many people unwittingly wait way too long for new sails and wonder why their boat isn't performing as well as it should. As sailors we spend so much time and effort on other improvements and maintenance projects that sadly the sails are often the last thing to get replaced.

If we can offer any advice, pay attention to your sails and how they are wearing over time. I didn't realize that a bagged out sail could cause such a difference in sail performance, but I'm a true believer now!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Phoenix Has New Sails!

When we bought Phoenix, she came with a main, mizzen, 140% genoa, a storm staysail, and gennaker -- all of which were made by North Sails in their loft outside of Detroit.

Just before we began sailing, the Annapolis North Sails loft made us a new main and our Phoenix logo was added with the help of North Graphics. We went with a 9.9 ounce Dacron cross-cut main with 3/4 battens, two reef points, and with excellent controls so we can really flatten this sail when sailing upwind or in heavy air. Jonathan's team did a great job constructing the main and we've been very happy with it thus far.

Checking out the main while sailing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
After several sailing trips last year, we decided that it was time to replace our 140% genoa. The 6 ounce cloth was really a light air sail and the laminate material was past its prime, causing the sail to bag and move the draft too far aft. Moving the draft aft caused Phoenix to heel excessively when sailing upwind and was causing some weather helm.

Shopping for new sails can be a daunting task -- not only are they expensive but there is a ton of information and hype to wade through in terms of cuts, fabrics, and sizes. Shopping at the boat shows helps quite a bit because you typically have all the major sail lofts within walking distance so you can talk to each, compare prices (and boat show discounts), and ideally get them to sharpen their pencils and give you the best possible deal for your money.

Since our primary plan is to cruise, we knew we wanted durability in our new headsail, but we didn't want to sacrifice sail shape and performance. We often reef the headsail on the furler and didn't want to compromise sail shape, but we didn't want to completely break the bank either. This meant that the high tech laminate materials were out (based on price, even though it would make a lighter sail) and we didn't want to go with a cross-cut sail either -- you can never really get good sail shape with a reefed cross-cut headsail on a roller furler.

Tri-radial sails can give you much better sail shape when reefed and have a much flatter cut, which would help reduce heeling when sailing upwind. The downside is that they take more fabric and man-hours to make since there are more panels to sew together, making them slightly more expensive than cross-cut sails.

For bigger headsails, many sail lofts are moving away from foam luffs and switching to rope luffs. The foam can crush, mildew, and degrade from UV exposure over time. The rope luff reefing pad is made up of three staggered lengths of polypropylene line sewn into a sock at the luff of the sail. The rope luff won't crush, won't mildew, is more UV stable, and helps flatten the sail as you reef. Supposedly it's "easily" replaced if necessary, but that remains to be seen at this point.

After meeting with Doyle, North and Ullman at the boat show and comparing bids, we opted for a higher cut, tri-radial 130% genoa with a rope luff, and a sail area of 755 square feet.

Jerry from the Ullman loft in Deltaville, VA gave us a very competitive bid for the headsail using Dimension-Polyant's ProRadial woven polyester fabric. ProRadial has almost no crimp, and is woven on the same looms as Dimension-Polyant's HydraNet sailcloth. We opted for 9.9 ounce fabric for most of the sail with 8.9 ounce near the luff. Since we chose the heavier fabric, we went with a Sunbrella sacrificial cover rather than UV Dacron like we had on the old genoa.

New genoa on deck and ready for installation
Tri-radial cut with rope luff after initially hoisting the sail
Bill checking out the new headsail

Dock sailing at its finest!

We also had a new 230 square foot staysail made to round out our sail inventory. Since our staysail is a hank-on, we went with a cross-cut design using Challenge 9.62 High Aspect 104 sail cloth.
New cross-cut staysail
Jerry from Ullman Sails did a great job constructing the new sails and we are very pleased with how they turned out. Now all the sails are all on board, the water tanks are full and Phoenix is ready to head out. We can't wait to see what a difference the new sails make.

Stay tuned for next week when we share more pics and our findings!