Sailing upwind is the least appreciated point of sail by sailors. We find ourselves heeled and slamming on the waves. When a storm rages we just wish it would end soon. Those who suffer from seasickness are often with a bucket within reach.
But let’s look at what happens with respect to the configuration of our sails on board as the wind increases. We will review the various sail configurations and sails changes as the wind increases.
Sailing upwind / Beating
In very light winds we have to do our best to get the boat moving and generate some apparent wind. On IRC / ORC boats a true Code Zero would count as a headsail and not as a spinnaker, penalizing the rating.
For this reason the Code Zero itself is typical of oceanic classes such as the Mini 650s, Class40s and Imocas where the restriction is on the number and material of the sails but not on their shape.
The videos are taken onboard an Akilaria RC1 Class40.
Code Zero and full mainsails – 3 knots true wind speed (TWS)
Code Zero and full mainsail – 5 knots true wind speed (TWS)
Code Zero and full mainsail – 5-7 knots of wind – Doldrums
Sailing upwind / beating with a Solent (genoa)
A Code zero may be carried up to about 8 knots of true wind speed. It can be a very light and delicate sail and upwind the apparent wind increases rapidly. To roll it, I recommend a very bear away to reduce the apparent wind. You can then furl up the sail quickly and safely and then you can get back on course with the solent (genoa).
Solent and full mainsail -13-15 knots of true wind speed
Solent and mainsail with one reef – 15-17 knots of true wind speed
Sailing upwind / beating with the staysail
If the Code Zero covers the wind range between 0 and 8 knots, the Solent covers the range 8-16 when upwind. As you may have already imagined, frequent sail changes and progressive canvas reductions are required.
In this first video we see an alternative to sailing with the solent and one reef in the mainsails. We can alternatively change down to the staysail wilst delaying the moment we take the first reef. This usually depends on the size of your first reef and the difference in sail area between solent and staysail.
The staysail is hanked on an inner stay, on many cruising boats this is not present, but if you want to deal with long-range navigation you will have to have it installed. It can be made in textile, dyneema with a a dyneema cover, so that at rest it is not a steel cable that keeps hitting your mast.
Staysail and full mainsail – 16-18 knots of true wind speed (TWS)
Staysail and main with one reef – 15-17 knots of true wind speed (TWS)
Staysail and main with two reefs- 25-28 knots of true wind speed (TWS)
Staysail and mainsail with two reefs – 24-26 knots of true wind speed (TWS)
Staysail and main with three reefs – 35-40 knots of true wind speed (TWS) – Cook strait
Sailing upwind / beating with the storm jib
The staysail is able to withstand very strong winds and I have kept it upwind even in 40 and more knots, but when the wind increases the change of sail from the staysail to the storm jib becomes a very uncomfortable affair.
In this sequence of videos, in the first one we see how the sail change was anticipated on a forecast of increasing winds. The boat slams underpowered, but this avoided a very uncomfortable sail change which would have been due anyway shortly after.
The storm jib is used on a boat like the one in the videos (a Class40) from 40 knots (TWS) upwards and we have also been hit by over 60 TWS. Sailing upwind in the Indian Ocean in 60 knots of sustained wind is something you tend to remember all you life!
Storm jib and mainsail with three reefs – 35 knots of true wind speed and underpowered
Storm jib and mainsail with three reefs – 45 knots of true wind speed (TWS)
Staysail and mainsail with three reefs – 50 knots of true wind speed (TWS)