Here are two photos from the start of the 2019 Patos Island Classic race in Sydney, BC, on the east side of Vancouver Island. The winds were in the high-teens.
On the left is a C&C 35 with her overlapping genoa sheeted in tight; her mainsail luffing and the boat heeled way over. This is not a fast set up. Heeling so much doesn’t allow the keel to produce enough lift and the boat goes sideways. While the shape of the genoa is flat and smooth, the boat is out of balance because the mainsail is luffing so much. This makes steering a straight course difficult. Trying to get away with a sail that’s too big for the conditions is not fast!
On the right is Stuart Dahlgren’s Santa Cruz 70 WESTERLY—on the breeze with a Uni-Titanium® No. 3 Genoa and the world’s largest X-Drive® mainsail. Both sails are from UK Sailmakers (Stuart runs the UK Sailmakers Northwest after all). He’s got the bodies on the rail, a down-sized headsail reflecting the wind conditions, and the boat is pretty much on her feet roaring upwind.
Maybe this was a situation where this is the only good headsail aboard...or they didn’t have time to change it. A better alternative to luffing the main would have been to quickly throw a reef into the main to reduce sail plan power. Had they reefed, they could have trimmed the main to a point where the leech was flying, providing the “point” that only the back end of the main provides.
Next time you’re warming up pre-start, don’t only look at the line and which side of the course is favored; look at your sail plan vs. the wind predictions and be ready (not afraid) to make a last-minute change. Oh, yeah, if you race and you don’t have good heavy wind sails, talk to your local UK Sailmaker. Having the right sail for heavy air will help extend the life of your light wind sails along with getting you to the finish line faster.
Andrew Madding photos