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Mainsail only sailing

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Looking for others thoughts on this. A few times now when I have gone out sailing I have used the mainsail only. This was not because the wind was high or conditions were extreme, it just made it real easy. Once I was out with my wife and kids for a simple afternoon sail. We put the mainsail up and left the jib furled. The boat stayed nearly level and tacking was a breeze. No big flapping jib to get hauled over. Made for a nice day. This past weekend I did it again. Breeze was a nice 10-15 knots right on the beam. Boat could have easily handled the jib up but just did the main. Even with just the main up we did 4-5 knots the whole way. I could have put the jib up but the speed was good, the boat stayed level and I could see everything in front of me. My jib is a big 130% deck sweeper so when it is up I can't see anything to leeward. Does anyone else use just the main in the same way I do?


Nope ...

It is more likely that we would sail with just the jib instead. Is yours a factional rig? We have a masthead rig on our Starwind 27. When we raise the main in a nice wind, it feels like we are just limping along until the jib or genoa is up. I agree with you that the big 150 deck sweeping genny that we have is difficult to see around. I can't stand the lack of speed that we have with just a main up, so my choice, if we were to sail with just one sail, would be with the jib or genny alone. We get much better performance. And if it's ease and comfort we're after, I'd rather do that on a reach instead of close hauled so the headsail doesn't cause an inconvenience.


depends on the boat rig

which sail is the driver. If it's a fractional rig with a small jib, the main is the driver and will sail fairly close to the wind with just the main. The jib does little except point and blow air through the slot. On some older designs and cruisers, the main roach isn't large enough to drive the boat well without a larger headsail.So, the answer to your q is - it depends Don


My boat

I have a 1971 Ericson 29 with a masthead rig. I was quite surprised how well the main drove the boat and I can point reasonably high. Not as high as with the jib but for just puttering around more than adequate.



Sure, I've done just what you describe for the reasons you describe. It took me a lot of sailing to learn an important lesson: do what works best. If you want an easily handled boat for a balmy afternoon and you get that with the main-only, then why not. I've also gone main-only when singled handed, for obvious reasons. As long as I'm not trying to point real high, if the wind is up, it's easier to single-hand the main-only than to fly the jib and reefed main, and the results are roughly the same. Main-only works especially well on a big-mained boat like the H356. But the other writer is correct, too, when he says that boats with smaller mains and large overlapping jibs might prefer jib-only. And I've done jib-only on the 356, too, on heavy winded days when the course is more or less a beam reach or lower. So, do whatever works, and don't be embarrassed about trying new things or taking it easy if that's what you feel like doing.


Yep, we call it lazy sailing.

And I probably enjoy it the best. With moderate wind at the stern I will tie up a preventer and will effortlesly move at 2.5 knots. Listen to music, B-B-Q have a couple of beers and then turn around. I have outgrown the destination syndrome. It is a challenge enough to sail with the least amount of effort if you ain't going anywhere to start with. No abuse on the equipment nor the body. Just does'nt get any better.
May 27, 2004
Caliber 40 Long Range Cruiser Portland, Maine
Jib only

Were you out on Sunday Tim? I saw another Ericson sailing pulling a dinghy. I was out in our E35(red topsides). We sailed under full main and 100% headsail up through diamond roads. At Cow island we dropped the main and furled the jib to 75% and sailed inside back to Portland. With main only this boat feels slugish but with the headsail I can usually always make hull speed. The wind was 15-20 with gusts over 25. We saw a larger boat(about 42-45) with full sails and he just kept getting knocked down and rouding up. He obviously did not know anything about sail trim. He was putting such a strain on his rig. We passed him with ease. Must have been new to sailing. Tim R.
Sep 19, 2006
Catalina 36 Mid Chesapeake
Above 20 kts wind

The C 250 we used to sail nice, flat and easy with a double reefed main and no jib in gusty winds over 20 kts.



Tim R, I was out on Saturday. Sailed from Handy Boat in Falmouth up past Cousins Island to Yankee Marina. Saturday was the day to bring the boat up for winter storage. A sad day but I could not have asked for a better day to end the season on. Gorgeous conditions, a perfect sail and seal and bald eagle sightings. Fair Winds all Tim M
Jun 12, 2004
Allied Mistress 39 Ketch Kemah,Tx.
All boats are deigned differently.

Seems like more of the older designs had a larger and thus more powerful main. Since the advent of roller furling, the trend seems to have gone to larger jibs/jenny's, which all seems to make sense. My Catalina 25 and my Catalina 30 didnt have any power to speak of with just the main. If I rolled out the jib just a tad, i could feel the boat come alive. My Cat 30 would barely go 4 knots in 18-22K winds with just full main alone. If I put 1 reef in the main and rolled out the jib/jenny to 75-100% i would go between 6.5 to 7.2K and stand up pretty straight for a comfortable ride. So, it all depends, speaking of which...................
Jan 11, 2007
Columbia 28 Sarasota
this is what we did...

We sailed this whole weekend, sailing from Apollo Beach to Bradenton Beach for an overnighter...About 30 miles and had great winds all the way down. We sailed with the 150 Genoa only all the way down. Made 5 knots and the boat never once got squirrelly (sp). We had been hesitant to use the Genoa because of it's size, and we are relatively new at sailing. But after this weekend and how well the boat handled it, we will use the genny a lot more now. The only problem we had was the main was snuffing the genny. Took the main down and bam there we went. Loved it. The dolpins loved it too. My 12 year was hooting and screaming as a pod of dolphin played in our wake for about 20 minutes. What a weekend. Can't wait to do it again. Ross 1979 Oday 25 Lola Tampa FL


You will not point as well with just the main

You should look into instalkling self tacking hardware if you don't like working the jib sheets. I like the boat opened up wide out. I sail with a 180 jib with winds over 15 MPHs. Life is short sail hard and fast!
Jul 20, 2005
Whitby 55 Kemah, Tx
I do

until death do me in :) This past weekend I started out sailing with just the main with 10 knots true on close hauled and did about 5 knots. I later unfurled the jib and of course jumped up to 6+ knots. Wind piped up to 13 knots true an hour later so I furled the jib and putted along at 6.2 knots with just the main on a close haul (18 apparent wind). My question is, why is it that one can't point as well with the main only as apposed to the jib only? Is it because of the wind disturbance the mast creates? Oh yeah...H376 fractional with nice size main.



not sure why you can't point as close but you can't. I used to sail my Hunter 28 with the mainsail only and closed hauled, she wouldn't point very well. I got a Catalina 36 becuase I didn't want the B&R rig. The jib is my main work horse on this boat. This boat is great in light air; Tall Masthead Rig with a 180 Jib. She gets up and moves. We plan to sail the inter-coastal waterway when we retire so we needed a smaller stick. Mast height on this boat is only 54'. Did you see the new Hunter 49! That is a hot boat. I really like the NAV station!

oldiesrocker 2001

The easy way

Although it seems that only larger(by comparison to mine, an old V21) boats are replying, I'll still put my 2C in. I will from time to time sail with only main up. The boat points well enough into the wind to get where I'm going-maybe not as well as it could, but if i was in a hurry, I'd unfurl the jib. While my rig is a masthead setup, the jib is smallish and really belongs on a smaller boat. I tried on a 15mph+ day to sail with the jib only and couldn't point at all.. Had I put the main up only, I would have had a lot of weather helm, but preferable to being able to sail Only on a reach... Like Paul says - Do what feels right for your boat.
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