How many sails do I need?

Let's count the ways...hmmm!!! We started out with an almost full compliment of sails, except for my racing main. By the time we had arrived in Cabo San Lucas we were ready to send a few home. We were lucky enough to find a boat heading back to San Diego for the summer.  They took our light (Kevlar) 155% and our oversized spinnaker back. By the time we got to Tahiti we were ready to send even more home. Unfortunately shipping is very expensive from Tahiti to the USA. We shipped Jerry's Laptop (weighed in at a whopping 7 pounds) via FedEx to Texas for repair. It cost US$153.00 one way! Needless to say we were not about to ship sails back at those prices, and nobody sails East from Tahiti! Then came the stroke of genius (mine of course). Since the Windless motor died in the Tuamotus and needed repair, and we wanted to add another Solar panel to boost our recovery efforts, and there were a new set of wind generator blades waiting to be shipped to ???, and the 8mm VCR had taken a dump, why didn't Jerry take a vacation, back in the US of A for a couple of weeks, while I take Mouse Pad up to Raiatea for the scheduled haul out (see Jerry's Journal). She could take at least one spinnaker back with her and the VCR etc.. Then when she is ready she could come back to Mouse Pad and skipper, bring all the repaired equipment, and new stuff with her. Wow! What a brain storm! For Jerry's perspective on this, read her journal.


In reality now we only need a few sails to get where we want to go, and as fast as we want to go. The list below shows the current inventory of sails carried on board:

  • Main (full baton) - 12 oz dacron
  • Heavy 150% Jib - 6 oz dacron
  • Jib Top 155% Jib - 2.5 oz dacron
  • 115% Jib - 8.3 oz dacron
  • 90% Jib - 7 oz dacron
  • Storm Jib - 10 oz dacron
  • 180% Cruising Spinnaker - 1.5 oz (in a sock)
  • 180% Spinnaker - 3/4 oz

Left behind, or shipped back were:

  • Oversized spinnaker 200% - 3/4 oz
  • Spinnaker 180% - 1/2 oz
  • Main (fractional baton) - Mylar/Kevlar
  • Light 155% Jib - Kevlar
  • 100% Jib - 8.5 oz dacron

In talking to other skippers out here this seems to be about the average sail compliment. The only difference is the extra 3/4 oz spinnaker that Mouse Pad carries.


In the Northern latitudes, Baja etc., we were running downwind most of the time. The spinnaker or "wing on wing" was our most popular sail configuration. The Jib Top was a great sail for that area too. It is a high cut light weight 155% jib. Perfect for those light North-Easterly Trades at night. Just let it hang out, and find it's own wind. In 5 kts. to 10 kts. of wind it was perfect.


South of the equator the South East Trades picked up and we have been running with the wind on the beam (port) almost all the time.   Our favored sail configuration has been the 115% jib and a single reef in the main. We have yet to put the spinnaker up for more than a few fleeting minutes at a time. We have used the 150% quite a bit too. Bummer dudes and dudettes! So you can see the need for more sails has been few and far between. The average wind and sea conditions in the south has been 15-20 kts. of wind, and 8 - 10 foot seas. The wind has been on the beam and the seas are either on the stern quarter or on the beam. Not the best of fun, but just to keep us awake we get the odd wave over the bow.


Since leaving the Marquises and the frustration of the "new" 115% that would never trim right for any point of sail, we put it at the bottom of the pile and have been using the old 90% with great success.   This leads me to a comment. If you are having sails made before you leave, please make sure you allow enough time to test the sails under different conditions to see if they are cut correctly.  I made the mistake of trusting my sail maker and not setting enough sea trial time aside with the new sail before we left, to correct the problems.  Now we are stuck with a sail that is just about useless to us in any wind point or strength.


The end of our first cruising season is upon us and it is time to reflect on Mouse Pad's sail configuration.  After looking at the overall sailing conditions and sail points I have come to the conclusion that there were several boats that had far more efficient sail configurations than Mouse Pad has.  With the general desire NOT to go on the foredeck during adverse conditions we will be putting a new roller reefing system on (possibly a Pro-Furl).  The present one is too old, one of the bearings is going and it is unreefable.  The boats we noted (Scoots, Wind Raven, etc.) had a good roller reefing jib with a staysail.  We will make the staysail roller reefing also.  This in essence will give us four sails on deck without having to change a thing.  Let me expand on the concept.  The jib will be a 145% with a foam luff.  This will allow for a clean furl of about 10% - 15% down to about a 100% - 110% without affecting performance.   The foam luff affords the clean furl and use of the sail without it sagging in the middle of the sail and prematurely blowing it out of shape.  As for the staysail, the same concept is in effect.  From full extension, which is great for reaching, it will furl up to create the storm jib.  By having it on the staysail it moves the center of effort aft, therefore stabilizing the boat and making it more comfortable when things are bad.

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Created by the Skipper of Mouse Pad.
Copyright © 1995-2005  All rights reserved.
Revised: 19 September, 2005 .