Messing About With Jibs
Recently, Patti and I have been developing and refining an accessory headsail for the Kayaksailor.
For those new to sailing terminology, a headsail on a boat is commonly referred to as a jib or a genoa (named for the city in Italy). The main difference between a jib and a genoa or “jenny”, is the overall sail size and it’s position in relation to the main sail. A genoa is larger than a jib and overlaps the mast with it’s leech when close hauled. Genoas are typically used to maximize overall sail area and are commonly seen in use on sailboats in light winds. They often make boats faster and more powerful not only because of the increased overall sail area but because of the synergistic relationship between the two sails. When pointing close to the wind a properly designed and trimmed head sail allows the main sail to work at a higher angle to the wind without stalling, making reaches to windward more effective. Another nice feature of head sails, especially genoas, is their low aspect ratio shape. The center of effort is low making them powerful with minimal heeling making it easy to control from the cockpit.
Our headsail project is something that has been in the works for a while now. With the Columbia Gorge springtime winds kicking in, research and development is in full swing.
The Columbia River Gorge is North America’s natural wind tunnel and dishes out some truly amazing winds. We get everything from two to thirty plus knots (and often higher!) on a regular basis, daily depending on the location, making this an ideal location for extreme sailing and putting prototypes through their paces.
This little headsail has us pretty excited! We’ve made several prototypes to determine an effective size and shape and are currently working on refining the foil profiles for maximum efficiency.
The original plan was for a small self-tacking jib that could be controlled by the main sheet but we soon found that a larger genoa was simpler and way more fun to sail with, even with the main reefed. Our current prototype has three millimeter genoa sheets that lead through micro blocks on the cross tube and run back to a pair of small jam cleats located within easy reach of the sailor. The rig still folds and unfolds normally but the wind moves the little jenny around a bit on the foredeck when the rig is folded. I would really like to build a micro or nano furller that would allow the sail to roll around itself. I have some basic drawings for a system but it is going to take some time to develop. A furller would be a nice addition, but for all practical purposes, my sails are up most of the time. Generally the only time we fold the rig is for capsize recovery, launching and landing and when the wind dies completely. I think I can live with a somewhat loose headsail on the foredeck at these times, at least until I start playing with a roller. 🙂
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