What is Code Zero?
The Code Zero is a cross between a genoa and an asymmetrical
spinnaker that is used for sailing close to the wind in light air. These
sails are a must for distance races. Being nearly twice the size of a
light No. 1 Genoa and made of much lighter weight material, a Code Zero
will fill in the faintest of zephyrs. The greatest beneficiaries of
these sails are modern boats that do not have overlapping headsails
because Code Zeros have more than three times the sail area of a
The rulemakers know that a genoa is the most powerful sail for upwind
work; therefore, the greater the genoa area, the higher a boat’s rating
will be. Under the current design formulas, it pays to have large
fractional mainsails and non-overlapping headsails. The Achilles heel in
this trade off is the boat’s performance in light air upwind and when
Creative sailmakers got around this conundrum by coming up with the Code
Zero. The sail is designed for very close reaching, but it gets around
the rating penalties for big genoas by measuring in as a spinnaker. A
spinnaker is defined by the rules as having a mid girth measurement
that’s at least 75% of the foot length — any smaller and the rule would
call the sail a genoa. Because the sails have a wider mid girth and a
positive roach, they have nearly twice the area of a light No. 1 genoa
with an LP of 150% and they are nearly 300% bigger than a non
Code Zeros can be tacked to the bow, or flown off of the spinnaker pole.
They are sheeted with a spinnaker sheet and get fine tuned with a
How Code Zero Works
The design of the Code Zero has changed greatly since it was first
used on EF LANGUAGE in the Whitbread Round the World Race in the late
1990s. Gone are the days of bar tight halyard tension in an attempt to
get a straight luff. (Some sailors put so much tension on the halyard
that they broke their masts, which were not designed for the forward
loads.) Instead, Code Zero designs today have luff round that gives the
sail a wider wind range and makes them easier to trim. With luff round
(roach on the leading edge), the sail has a flatter entry when the
halyard is eased. When reaching you can tighten the halyard to make the
luff round curl into a knuckle in the front of the sail, which makes the
sail more powerful. The picture at the top right illustrates the Code
Zero in reaching mode with a knuckle toward the luff. Modern Code Zeros
can be used from 40°-120° apparent angle.
Having the ability to create a knuckle in the front of the sail is
critical to a well-designed sail. We have tested sails without a knuckle
and they proved to be starved for power and hard to trim.
Along with the addition of luff round, the sails are now designed fuller
than in the past; the amount of depth in the sail is critical to its
flying shape. Without enough depth, the leech of the sail will flap. The
camber on most designs is around 21.6 % - 25.2 %. The draft position is
normally around 38-41% aft of the luff.
The illustration on the right shows the sail shape and design, including
the projected luff on the bottom left hand corner - which is critical
to the overall flying shape. Without the looser luff, there would not be
enough load on the leach to hold up the roach.
Set up the Code Zero just like an asymmetrical spinnaker: The tack can
be made to the bow, or put out to the end of the spinnaker pole. When
hoisting the sail, always use double the amount of rubber bands or yarn
to secure the sail. Spinnakers don’t need to be banded as much because
the apparent wind decreases when you turn downwind to hoist them.
Adjusting the halyard to get the luff to project forward is the key to
but using the tack line is also useful in this case; the problem with
this is the tack tends to drift to leeward of the boat loosing control
of the sail and pointing; easing the halyard is a lot more effective at
getting the luff to project forward, the luff length is normally the
same as the forestay length, so easing it up on the tack line or down on
the halyard by one foot, will give you instant luff round.
The spinnaker sheet just needs to be worked as a normal spinnaker sheet,
but when trimming the sail less movement is better then excessive
trimming. This keeps the sail more stable and develops more power.
When in full upwind mode, the halyard needs to be taken back on, until
it’s tight. Normally setting the tweaker at half height to the clew of
the Code Zero, about a 45 degree sheet angle is needed for full upwind
mode, this angle helps pass the sheet load up the leech of the sail,
keeping it more stable. Most Code Zeros will start to curl in at this
point, the trick to this is easing the tweaker up until you have the
least amount of return in the sail, when sailing upwind.
Having the knuckle in the front of the sail makes it easier for the
driver to sail with the apparent wind angle with out crashing out with
the sail in light air. This apparent wind angle is both good and bad, it
is great for building speed and power, but it also decreases pointing
ability. To increase pointing ability you need to burn off this apparent
wind angle by luffing up more or slowing the boat down a little,
normally with the knuckle in the luff of the sail this is done
automatically for you, as the knuckle will roll back and then flip out
again. As the sail is trimmed in all the way, the driver can follow this
easily as the trimmer is doing nothing as it is just sheeted home all
the way. When the Code Zero is sheeted in tight, steer just as you would with a
genoa — sail to the the tell tales. When the boat slows, fall off
slightly until the boat speed builds to about one knot above the wind
speed. The highest these sails can be carried is 40 – 45 degrees
apparent wind angle, but the boat will be a lot faster at slightly wider
IMX 45 Code Zero
IMX 45 Code Zero
Upwind Settings (wind angle 40-45° apparent): Tack line tight,
tweaker on so that the angle of the spinnaker sheet off the deck is 45°.
Once the sail is drawing, ease the halyard down until the luff load
eases enough to project, or ease the cunningham on the tack, until the
luff starts to get wrinkles. Reaching Settings (wind angle 50-80° apparent): Halyard up all the way,
tack line eased, sheet angle about 30 degrees, cunningham on, luff
projecting forward, draft forward, some twist in the leech.
Blast Reaching Settings (wind angle 90-110° apparent): Tack eased, halyard tight, sheet eased, no tweaker.
If you have a furling Code Zero, remember to tighten the halyard when
furling the sail; the furling unit will not work properly without a lot
of load on the bearings on the furling unit.
To research the Code Zero sail we have to offer, please go to our Sail Selection Tool.