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Smaller Jib for Beneteau 311 for Windy Days

Aug 20, 2013
Beneteau 311 Port Clinton, OH (Lake Erie)
I have a Beneteau 311 with the standard 116% jib. I have been thinking of getting a smaller jib for winds in the 20-35 knot range. I sail on Lake Erie, and it can get pretty breezy in the September and October, when I tend to do about half my sailing. I also plan to expand my trips and races to Lake Huron and possibly Lake Superior, and winds of 20-30 knots or higher for the better part of a day or more is not uncommon after a cold front any time of the summer. I usually sail the longer trips single or doublehanded, including races. On this boat that standard jib and main are of similar sizes (255 and 277 sq. ft., respectively).

I find going upwind I need to reef at 12-14 kn true, otherwise the heeling and leeway become too great and VMG suffers. Flattening the sail reduces heeling, but only up to a point, especially without an adjustable backstay. In some local races, crewed or singlehanded, I find I start making a huge amount of leeway if my boat heels more than 15 degrees, especially in waves. Going upwind or close reaching with wind in the upper 20's or low 30's, I really can't reduce sail enough even with a double-reefed main and the jib rolled in about 30-40% (any more than that and I can't move the jib lead forward enough). I can sail in winds in this range with a the jib alone, but it's a tricky thing because if the boat gets headed or pinches a little, the sail immediately loses all power and I have to head down to get moving again.

What does the forum think about getting a less than 100% jib, what size should it be, and does anyone have experience with one? I do have a storm jib (Gale Sail) that is equivalent to a 41% jib.
May 9, 2020
Hunter Legend 37 Harrison Twp, MI
Can’t speak to the specifics of a 311, but you have two options to reduce area. Going <100% implies you’re looking only at LP, but don’t discount going to a shorter hoist with pendant at the head. Sort of half way between a #3 and a full-on orange storm jib.

If you’re double reefing the main, then getting the coe of the jib lower makes sense.

A traditional #4 jib would be around 90% LP and a short luff. Talk to a sailmaker, but maybe a 1-1.5m pendant on the head, ideally with the luff tape extending the full length of the pendant. You don’t need that sail area up high in those conditions.

I’d go with a little higher clew as well, better visibility, help the sheeting angle if you jib tracks are a little short, and better visibility.
Jul 23, 2009
Beneteau 31 Oceanis Grand Lake, Oklahoma
When I bought my 31 the head sail was damage. I found an almost new jib from a totaled Hunter 31 with very similar jib dimensions to my Beneteau. It's about 2 square meters smaller than my factory sail. The clew is high and provides good viability forward. I got so cheap ($240 shipped) that I couldn't pass it up. When the wind I light I would like a bigger sail, I will eventually buy one.


Jul 24, 2005
Beneteau 323 Manistee, MI
Capitalist Sailor, you don’t mention anything about dropping the traveller to get the boat to heel less. Do you do that at all?
Another question is how old is your mainsail? It could be slightly blown out, or possibly the original cut of the sail was relatively full, and you might want a flatter cut sail for the conditions you usually sail in.
Nov 8, 2010
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on your situation and needs. The 311 is a lighter displacement boat that overpowers rather quickly. As you note, the small keel loses bite fast when heeled and slips sideways.

I agree that a slightly smaller headsail will work wonders. Watch your track positions, but having it cut with a slightly higher clew will make it much better for reaching, and also allow you to control twist better going upwind in heavy air. The downside will be sailing off the wind in light air; the boat is a dog in these conditions anyway without an asym, and the reduction of sail area will only make that worse.
Aug 20, 2013
Beneteau 311 Port Clinton, OH (Lake Erie)
DougM, yes I let traveler down when I start heeling too much, especially in gusts, but if I'm consistently doing that then it's time to reef (or change direction). I also tighten up on the outhaul and halyard upwind and in heavier winds. I put lower stretch halyards on my boat a couple years ago to help with that. I do not have an adjustable backstay. My mainsail is still in good shape. It is a triradial, 3-layer laminate, with a clear membrane in the center (polyester film instead of Mylar, I think), and thin layers of Dacron on the outsides. My 116% jib has more draft and further back than I would like, and a backstay tensioner would help with that, but the extra draft is nice on light air days. Sometime I can roll it in to reduce the draft, and sometimes the draft gets worse. If I roll the sail all the way in and then let it out to a reefed position I can often flatten the sail some.

Jackdaw and everyone, I should mention that in considering a smaller jib, it would be a second jib to use on windy days, not a full time replacement for the normal 116% jib.

Everyone, a higher clew and pendant at the head for a smaller jib are good ideas.

Jackdaw, yes, the keel is surprisingly small on the B311. It has almost enough weight in the bulb, but the area is about the same as a J-24 keel. My club has a J-24 fleet, and it's embarrassing to see the kids on J-24's go zipping by me upwind at the start.
Nov 8, 2010
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Good Stuff Capitalist!

Couple of notes:

Mylar IS PET (polyester), in film form. Spun into threads and its dacron.

Re the keel, the real trick is not area, but leading edge length. For any given area, the keel with the longest leading edge will point way better. Watch a J70 simply crush a J24 going upwind in 8 knots. The keel of a 70 looks like a U2 wing. The keel of the J24 was designed when Jimmy Carter was President.