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26th February 2021« All News Items

Stress Free Sailing

Over the past 12 months it’s fair to say we have had to adapt, whether at work or what we do in our leisure time. In sailing terms, 2020 was the year that short-handed and double handed racing really took off with owners adapting their boats and sail handling systems, often copying the methods cruising sailors have been using for years.


Over several years, we have noticed our customers are sailing with smaller crew numbers, some purposefully choosing the double-handed route, others taking out less experienced family and friends, or particularly during the last 12 months, sailing in accordance with social distancing guidelines.


When sailing with fewer or less experienced crew on board adaptions can be made to make life easier and less stressful. After all, sailing should be an enjoyable experience.


Here at Ultimate Sails, we have been looking at how we can use techniques from our racing sails and make them beneficial for our cruising sails or you could argue that cruising techniques are being adapted by racing sailors!




Mainsails take up an exceptionally large area when not hoisted. Therefore, the easier we can make the hoists, drops and storage the better. Ways we can do this:


  • Replacing the bolt rope with luff slides or cars. This technology has improved, and it means you need less hands and the whole process is significantly easier.
  • Fit lazy jacks and use a stack pack cover. The mainsail will drop easily into the system saving time and prolonging its life through less handling and therefore reduced general wear and tear.
  • Look at batten options. Traditionally fully battened mainsails were used to add durability and better shape to a sail along with easier handling. Improvements in material mean they’re not required from a sail shape point of view and higher quality luff slides reduce their need for easy handling. Non fully battened mainsails are lighter, easier to handle, cost less, wear less and in general improve performance. ¾ length battens give the best of both worlds with the sail neatly dropping into the stack pack and lighter weight / reduced luff friction making it easier to hoist.




Jib or genoa? A jib is a non-overlapping headsail, it provides greater visibility and is easier to handle. A Genoa is an overlapping headsail, whilst it can restrict visibility it does offer opportunities and a larger sail area especially if you are not using a spinnaker when sailing downwind.


There are options with these headsails to ultimately reduce sail area through the ability to furl or reef. Here are some examples of jibs.


Option 1

  • Jib for ease of handling / visibility
  • Soft hanks – rope
  • Reef set with raised clew
  • Reef sheet lead through clew ring
  • Tack reef adjustable from cockpit


Option 2

  • Leech reef with spectra loop to enable easy attachment of reef sheet
  • Reef set with raised clew
  • Reef sheet lead through clew ring
  • Tack reef adjustable from cockpit


Option 3

  • Furling Jib for ease of handling / visibility
  • Vertical battens
  • UV guard
  • More efficient when reefed than a Genoa
  • Less efficient when reefed than Jib with hanks


Downwind sails:


There are two main options for downwind sails, this is primarily dictated by the type of boat you sail and whether it’s set up for a symmetric or asymmetric sail. Hoisting the sail is considered the more straightforward part, it’s usually the drop whether things don’t always go to plan. Here are a couple of sail handling systems that help to make life on board less stressful.


The snuffer works with both an asymmetric and a symmetric sail. It is a sock which encapsulates the sail for storage, hoists and drops. The sail is hoisted, and then when ready you pull a string and the suffer goes to the top of the sail, trim on the sail and you are off. On the drop you reverse the process. This takes the stress out of the manoeuvre and gets you quicker downwind and to your destination.


Furling sails. Asymmetric sails can be furled. This is an option for flatter downwind sails where the tack is secured to the bow. Again, they make handling easier and the whole process less stressful.


Our top tips for sail design thoughts for cruising

  • Remember sailing is supposed to be enjoyable for skipper and crew, adapt your sails and techniques to find a balance between performance and ease of handling.
  • Technology has evolved and sailors are using it to their advantage to make life on board stress free.


Talk with Ultimate Sails to help adapt your sails to make the most of 2021 on the water.

Unit 20 Hamble Yacht Services
Port Hamble
Southampton, SO31 4NN
+44 (0)2380 456205