I needed a new Genoa head sail….last year!

I purchased Skiron in December 2018. At the time of purchase the Genoa, the larger of the two headsails, had some green mold growing on the exposed furled part of the sail. I was able to hose off most of the algae and mold. It seemed to disappear with sunlight exposure as the days lengthened.

The furled Genoa. Wear and tear is evident. The stitching is quite fragile. There are multiple areas of frayed canvas all across the sail.

My vessel has two head sails. The large Genoa, designed for lighter winds, and the smaller self-tacking jib on an inner stay that is more appropriate in winds of greater strength. The rig is a solent, rather than as a cutter, as the two sail stays are close together.

The Genoa poled out to the side opposite the main and the self-tacking jib sheeted tightly in the center. Perfect downwind sailing by Annika Koch and Bjorn Christensson.

I used the Genoa on a few occasions in 2019. The first occasion was out in the ocean. The sail filled in 10 kn of wind and the vessel accelerated as if magical forces took hold. The Genoa seemed to work fine though it had the appearance or an older sail. I had only a few occasions to pull out the sail. Frankly, the vessel is so very well balanced with the self-tacking jib, and the winds in the bay often exceed 20 kn during our sailing season so the Genoa was oft deemed unnecessary.

I had the leisure of sailing in the SF Bay with my two friends, Paul McGraw and Dan Siciliano, on 05/10/2020. We enjoyed eight or so hours of cruising in and crisscrossing the Bay in winds from the west at 15 to 20 kn in the midst of a 3 kn flood tide current.

Paul and Dan preparing to cast off at the bow.
San Francisco through the shrouds.
Green waters…..

I suppose we were bored so we decided, in 15 kn of wind, to pull out the Genoa. We were sailing a close haul on a starboard tack. The power of the sail was obvious. A large cargo ship that we had been watching declared they wished to have the channel on the city side of the bay and we decided to tack to change direction and to stay clear of the commercial vessel. The sail was fueled in the usual way, but, it didn’t furl completely. We determine the sail had fueled tightly and we were out of line, so to speak. There was a sufficient amount of sail still unfurled and it needed to me managed. This, we turned head to wind and began to unfurl the sail. That’s when all hell broke loose!

The sail flogged violently, as they will often do, when turned into the wind. I think we unfurled it too rapidly when the wind exceeded 15 kn. I now know not to even bother with the Genoa under those conditions. When we turned off to port the sail did not come across the foredeck. It seemed to me the clew was hung on the most forward shroud. Even though I was able to pull the clew around the shroud the sail failed to fill and move to port. My companions noted the sail had started to rip along the leach and had become caught on one of the mast steps. The sail continued to flog and another rip developed. We were fortunate the the sail came loose from the mast. We were then able to furl the sail and resume under the self-tacking jib.

I have since discussed the matter with a rigger. He and I both agreed the sail was old, ripped where they often will, and that it should have been replaced last year. Lesson learned!

One of the rope clutches holding the Genoa sail furling line fractured under line tension. The device is 25 years of age. They are usually warranted for 5 years. Thus, I intend to replace both of the furling line clutches.

The fractured clutch for the Genoa furling line.
The two new clutches placed on deck alongside the older clutches.

I have learned a lot about sails and sail design through my research over the past two days. I am beginning to understand Genoa sails, their proportions, and design specifications. I will be pulling the sail off of Skiron and obtaining replacement quote in the near future. I plan to replace the jib and main sails this season, too. I will plan to write a great deal about the experiences of replacing these sails.

A couple of days later……

Dan and I went to Skiron this morning. We hauled down the Genoa. It clearly was in a state of having sailed better days. I noted green and red algae and other discolored stuff indicating the sail had not fared well. I think one important lesson is that these sails must be used. We should take the opportunity to sail in light winds.

I suspect those of us who sail regularly on the SF bay are spoiled by the great winds of our summer sailing season. Though we wish to sail somedays we probably tend to stay home when the winds are light. We are accustomed to winds of 20-28 kn with gusts as high as 35-37 kn. Twelve kn winds pale in comparison. Paul once told a story where he heard a sailor off the coast of Maine bragging that sometimes the wind “gets to blowing” all the way up to 15 kn. Yes. I’ll say it again. We are spoiled!

Much to our surprise, the sail actually had two rips. It was almost as if the wind had knifed the sails causing the tears. Surgical precision cuts! One shorter tear was 1/4 to 1/3 away from the leach of the sail. The other was probably 7 feet long and was clearly associated with the leach.

The shorter tear. Note that it stopped at the reinforcement stitching. Perhaps this could have been repaired.

Dan and I carted the sail to a local rigger for measurements. We also obtained some measures from the boat. The Genoa was a 132 % sail meaning that the LP was 32% greater than the distance from the stem of the sails stay to the front of the mast. Genoa sails are the large headsails that overlap the mast. The sail we removed would seem a bit large for the vessel to me given the ratio of the foredeck to the mast foot. I’ll do some research on the matter but I suspect a 120% Genoa might be more appropriate. At any rate, my specs will be submitted to about six different sail makers for options and quotes.

Dan illustrates that, when it comes to all aspects of sails and sailboats, proper balance is essential to getting safely from one place to the next.
A highly reinforced clew.

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