Offshore Sails

Sailing offshore in your own boat is often a theme running in the background of the minds of many sailors. The detailing and construction of sails for boats destined for offshore is a critical component for your safety and it is a discussion that your HOOD Sail Experts are extremely qualified to have.

The following is a review of the kinds of questions that come up in discussions with customers and addresses the detailing we can do for offshore sails. The pricing for each option is a function of the square foot size of a particular sail. On the other hand, at 0230, on a dark and stormy night, with big wind and seas, when you are cold, wet, tired, hungry and perhaps more anxious than you would like, the money you will spend on this type of detailing, drawn from years of practice across a vast swath of boats in all oceans and conditions is a low cost insurance policy and will look like a great idea.

Reefs: a third reef, or NOT:

The presence or absence of a third reef is a topic of discussion all across the cruising spectrum: Whether or not to have a third reef OR a trysail. There are arguments for and against, but, with all HOOD custom sails the answer depends on variables both mechanical and philosophical.

The questions below are the principal ones that need to be addressed. One of the most important elements of providing VALUE in a sail is knowing what questions to ask, not necessarily simply rattling off a string of “you need X” in a one sided monologue.

It’s going to be YOUR sail, so how are YOU going to want to use it?

  • Dutchman or lazy jacks-both make setting a trysail a little more challenging that you would like. Not impossible, just another few steps in the sequence of getting the trysail set.
  • Will the trysail set on a dedicated track or in the “normal” mainsail track?
  • How will it get into this track, especially if there is a third party dedicated track?
  • If there is a low friction car system for a full batten system does it have a tunnel into which a trysail can be introduced?
  • Do you want to carry the weight of the third reef around for 95+ percent of the time with the expectation of using it only 5 percent of the time?

This picture below of a three reef main ion a Saga 40 shows the typical placement of the reefs including the third one. The bottom two reefs are above and below the bottom batten. The third reef is level with the top spreaders. Generally speaking for cruising the fully reefed (mainsail)area needs to be less than 50% of the full hoist sail. Trysails are measured at about 35% of full sized mainsail based in racing rules which obviously do not apply if you are cruising but are a good guideline.

Much of the discussion on three reefs or a Trysail revolves around the style of boat too. With modern fast cruising boats, getting them to go fast is not the issue, rather slowing them down in hard weather to the point where the auto pilots can steer and the crew rest is a consideration too.

Trysails are today almost universally orange. For Trysails made after 2014 to be used in any of the major ocean races the complete sail is required to be orange, ThTrysail on the Little Harbor 41 pictured below was being prepared for the Newport to Bermuda Race, some years ago when that rule was not in force.

Vektron cloth mainsail for a saga 40.

The owner of Saga 40 preparing to go offshore elected to go with the three reef version on his Vektron mainsail.

Using a trysail involves not just the sail but the rigging and handling techniques for dealing with sometimes a big sail in a lot of wind. This trysail is installed on a dedicated track, eliminating the requirement to remove the mainsail from the primary luff track on the mast. 

















Overhead leech line:

As the name suggests, the leech line is led up the leech, across at the head of the sail and down the luff. It is exposed at each luff reef and the tack. The idea is you can adjust the leech line without hanging off the side of the boat. This can be done with the mainsail and headsails. Particularly higher clewed reaching headsails where one cannot physically reach the clew, we lead it around the clew to the tack area where it can be adjusted as circumstances dictate, even with the genoa partially rolled up.

A mainsail overhead leech line is seen in this first picture, below. The leech line is secured at the clew and travels up the leech,(as seen in this picture below),  passes through a tackle protected by the cover (seen here) and descends down the luff in the covered ‘tunnel’ (seen in the next picture), then disappearing out to the bottom right of the picture.

In this image with the head to the left, the tackle is protected by a cover sewn down on one side and Velcro on the leech side. This protects the tackle and also allows access to it for inspection and adjustment of the line's length as necessary-Refer to next image for details of the tackle.

In the above image with the head to the left, the tackle is protected by a cover sewn down on one side and Velcro on the leech side. This protects the tackle and also allows access to it for inspection and adjustment of the line’s length as necessary-Refer to image below for details of the tackle.

This image shows the leech line exiting the leech tape and securing to a thimble, bottom right. A purchase is dead-ended on the webbing loop to the top right. This line passes thru a thimble on the actual leech line, goes up thru the block (secured at the top and bottom) and then down the luff. Both the thimble art the top of the leech line and the dead end of the tackle are adjustable to accommodate stretch over time.















Chafe protection:

Chafe has been called the scourge of the offshore sailor. In light of this, we offer a number of detailing options to defend against chafe. There are two principal “standard” options we offer: Traditional triple stitching and a coating we call Duroseam. We can also custom design and install on the sail sacrificial chafe protection for areas that will be subject to additional chafe: Spreaders and spreaders ends, across the (full-length) battens where they lay on the leeward rigging, and so on…

Triple stitching:

For offshore sails, the seams are 1.5” to accommodate the extra row of stitching. Rather than actually defending against chafe, the triple stitching is an insurance policy. With the third row, there is now 50% more stitching to resist failure. On boats where the spreaders are swept aft, in particular designed after the 2000s, the lee side of the sail bears on the rigging and spreaders quite aggressively when running down wind and can saw thru stitching at a terrible clip.

 The difference between three rows of zig-zag stitching and five-step stitching is about 20% more rivets per inch.

The difference between three rows of zig-zag stitching and five-step stitching is about 20% more rivets per inch.

Three rows of 5 step stitching on one and half inch wide seams. It is difficult to see the left end of the seam because the edge of the next panel is under neath the one you see.

Three rows of 5 step stitching on one and half inch wide seams. It is difficult to see the left end of the seam because the edge of the next panel is under neath the one you see.













Duroseam is prevention rather than insurance. It is a liquid coating applied to all stitching when the sail is complete. When it cures, it is an abrasion proof coating with a very slight rubbery feel to it. It actively resists chafe in a remarkable fashion. It is clear on the sail, although it does develop a slight grayness after perhaps 10 years where it has been applied.


Luff slide reinforcement:

The luff slides on a mainsail (or hanks on a Jib) are not intended to take sever point loading rather they are intended to hold the luff of the sail to the mast (or forestay). But accidents happen, and occasionally there will be point loading at the slider’s attachment to the sail. In expectation of this, we add an additional layer of material, a hemisphere, of suitably weight fabric to the sail where the slides or hanks will be attached. In the normal course of construction, the luff slide grommets penetrate the “bumper rope”* and thru the sail’s skin for a total of three layers of material. The half moons add a fourth layer and their shape helps distribute the loads into the body of the sail, in a fashion similar to the corner reinforcing patches.


Full length Battens:

There are several components to the question of having full-length battens, or not, and it is a hot topic today. It is an option that needs a detailed and thoughtful discussion in order for the customer to appreciate the implications, cost and how closely they will match the customer’s expectations, especially when going offshore. You can read more about full-length battens in one of my prior columns HERE.

In this version, the batten is inserted under the piece of webbing installed at right angles to the batten at the aft end of the pocket. This is sewn so as to be just wide enough to allow the batten to enter and to accommodate the batten end, seen here in black. The longer piece of webbing also passes thru the security webbing and is used to tension the batten. When done the flap is velcro’d down to the sail making the aft end smooth and freer of obstructions for the topping lift or wayward halyards to foul.

Express 57 tryradial carbon fiber day race mainsail.

Express 37 tri-radial carbon fiber day race mainsail. This sail has four full-length battens set on a Tides track and is used exclusively for day racing as evidenced by the lack of reefs.

HEADSAIL Rugg Storm Try















Batten hardware:

The hardware that full-length battens require both are on the sail so they can connect the sail to the luff fitting as a subset of full-length battens. For the customer to get value from FLB, and in particular with the “sail handling” part of the expectation curve; the luff slides need to be pretty slippery. If they are not, then full-length battens with “normal” nylon slides are worse than short battens.

In order for your Sail Expert to give you the best counsel on new sails, it is preferable to have a comprehensive discussion with you on how you sail, with whom, where, what your five year plan is, and what your expectations are.

We at HOOD Sailmakers are perfectly aware of the prices of the “things” we need for sailing and just how expensive our hobby is. The above is intended to give our potential customers a better idea of where your money is going to when you buy a HOOD Sail. We know the value of high-quality sails and we understand the difficulty that many consumers have getting to the bottom of “salesmen speak”. Our goal here is to pass this information to you so you can understand how we view our responsibility to you.

Finally, because we manufacture exclusively in the United States, we are always happy to give you a coffee & the dollar tour of the loft. We are in Middletown Rhode Island, at 23 Johnny Cake Hill and would be happy to show you around.