For many years when the multihull sailor needed a downwind sail the immediate thought was to have a Symmetrical Spinnaker made to suit. It was often a time-consuming, expensive process, necessitating lots of additional gear including sheets, braces, tweakers and so on. Further, it was complex to use for the majority of cruising sailors, in most cases flying the tack off the windward bow or even with a spinnaker pole. And its use was generally restricted to wind angles of around 130-180°.
Over time Asymmetrical Spinnakers became more popular. They could be tacked off a hard point on the centreline of the bow and only needed a halyard and a couple of sheets. Further, depending on sail cut, they could run as high as 80°and down to 165°. Of course, the big advantage is that they can easily be launched and retrieved by a short-handed crew, especially when combined with a spinnaker sock, as they don’t require more complex rigging.
Times have changed and sail options have increased. Today there are several off-the-shelf options available for the multihull sailor which cover the full wind range and are easy to use. In addition to loose-luff symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers, over recent times we have seen the emergence of easy-to-use fixed luff sails commonly known as Code 0 and Code C, which use an inbuilt anti-torsion cable installed in the luff, and which are furled in and out using an endless line furler located at the tack.
Code 0 sails, commonly referred to as screechers, once considered the province of the racing sailor, are gaining increasing popularity among cruising sailors. Today they are designed as a versatile reaching sail, best suited to true wind ranges of around 65-130° and they are increasingly forming a standard component in a cruising sailor’s sail wardrobe.
Code C (Cruising) sails are the latest innovation and are considered the most versatile off-the-wind cruising sail available today. A mix of a Code 0 and an Asymmetrical Spinnaker, they can be set in wind-angles from 70-155° and even down to 180° if using a spinnaker pole. This means a big range, from a close reach to running straight downwind. The inbuilt furling cable used in the Code C allows for fast and reliable furling which is a must for the cruising sailor.
While fast turn-around time from order to delivery is a key feature of these off-the-shelf sails, the major benefit is that there is a significant cost saving to the multihull owner as primarily being ‘stock sails’ with standard dimensions and finish, they only have to be designed once, materials can be pre-ordered in large volume and they can be made at a time when the sail lofts are under low demand.
Opposite is a simple table illustrating the range of downwind sails available for the multihull owner today, their key features and ideal wind angles. And most can literally be purchased ‘off-the-shelf’ through such sailmakers as Rolly Tasker Sails Australia, according to the rig dimensions of your boat. For more comprehensive information about off-the-shelf downwind sails explore