North Sails NEWS

May 14, 2020


Making Your Off-wind Sailing More Fun!

Fast and fun off-wind sailing is what multihulls are all about. High speed, high stability and close wind angles require unique sail choices. Cruising multihulls in particular benefit from specialized sails that are versatile and easy to use. Understanding downwind sail types and selecting the right sail will help you achieve top performance from your boat and enjoy your time on the water.

The fastest sail on the market won’t do any good if it’s going to spend all its time down below on the bunks because it’s too difficult to use.

Sails for multihulls are not one size fits all. Figuring out the performance gaps, what the boat is set up for, what you already have are all important in determining what sails are best for you. We have a ton of options and we can customize to meet your needs.

Which sails are the best for me? It all depends on what you want to do!

  1. What is your experience?
  2. What types of downwind sails and systems have you used in the past?
  3. What is your boat set up for?


Things to keep in mind when choosing the right sail:

Wind Angles

Knowing the optimal wind angle for your boat is the first step to choosing the right downwind sail type. Wind angle is the single most important factor in downwind sail design, but the terminology can be confusing. Many sailors think in terms of True Wind Speed (TWS) and True Wind Angle (TWA). True Wind combined with Boat Speed creates Apparent Wind, which is what really matters for downwind sail size and shape. You can find your boat’s predicted Apparent Wind Angle (AWA) and Apparent Wind Speed (AWS) in the boat manufacturer’s Polar Diagram, or ask your North Sails representative to calculate it for you. Most cruising multihulls like to sail around 90° AWA in a range of true wind conditions. Faster boats will sail closer AWA’s, while slower boats will sail wider AWA’s. Your own experience will also help figure out your boat’s optimal AWA; just look up at your wind indicator when sailing in the “groove.”


Multihulls offer unique opportunities for setting and sheeting downwind sails. The wide deck platform provides outboard sheeting points that makes downwind sails more efficient. Similarly, the windward hull provides a tack location when sailing deeper angles is desired. The wide shroud base also creates some downwind sail sizing and sheeting restrictions. A fundamental characteristic of multihulls is that downwind sails are sheeted either inside or outside the main shroud. ‘Inside’ sails are generally optimized for AWA closer than 90°. ‘Outside’ sails are generally optimized for AWA greater than 90°.

Code Sails are flat, furling headsails that provide maximum power for light air and close reaching. Code Sails sheet inside the main shroud and are used at near upwind sailing angles. Code Sails require tough, low stretch and lightweight material for durability, shape holding, and and ease of handling. If stored when furled, Code Sails may incorporate leech and foot covers. If your boat has a small upwind headsail and you need more power for upwind and very close reaching, a Code Sail could be a great addition. Code Sails can also be combined with ‘outside’ sails for a two-sail downwind inventory.

Sail Handling: Structural Furlers, Free Flying Furlers with Anti Torsion Luff Rope.

UV Material: UV paint for select styles, UV material for heavier weight sails.


G Zero Gennakers are the most popular cruising multihull downwind sail because they offer great versatility and cover a wide range of wind angles. G Zeros feature a deeper shape and wider girth compared to Code Sails, sheet outside of main shroud and excel at beam to close reaching. G Zeros are compatible with all furling systems or can be used with a snuffer. All cruising multihulls benefit from added downwind sail area and the G Zero is optimized to provide easy to use sail power.

The most convenient thing about a G Zero is sail handling. And most of the time, it’s on a furler with a suncover. A G Zero can be lightweight, and we can customize them for deeper sailing angles. You will be able to sail as high as 60 degrees, generating s a heavier load, which requires more stretch resistant materials and custom sail engineering. The G Zero is strong, and great for sailing fast in breeze.

What’s the design difference?

G Zeros have a higher clew. Figuring out the geometry based on measurements taken from your boat, as well as what type of furling gear you have, your sheeting angles, usage, and depth.

Main Points:

G Zeros are the most versatile downwind sail available in the widest range of fabrics. They highly customizable to meet clients needs with many cloth options and various design avenues.

Sail Handling: Free Flying Furlers with Anti Torsion Luff Rope, Top Down Furlers, Snuffers.

UV Material: UV paint for select styles, UV material for heavier sails. UV covers are not available for nylon or polyester spinnakers.


For cruisers looking to optimize for more specific wind angles or intending to carry more than one downwind sail, North Sails offers a variety of other asymmetric spinnaker sail types in a range of sail shapes and sizes. For example, the A4 spinnaker provides broad shoulders and maximum sail area, while an A1.5 is designed to generate optimal downwind VMG. A G2 Gennaker is the go-to option for deep running and lighter wind sailing, made simple.

Sail Handling: Top Down Furlers, Snuffers.

A tried and true method for dead downwind sailing offshore in tradewinds, is to use a symmetric spinnaker. sheeted to the bows. A symmetric spinnaker used in this way provides a stable and extremely safe form of downwind sail power. Sailing dead downwind in the tradewinds offers self correcting directional course stability and better alignment with offshore swells.

Sail Handling: Snuffers.

Why would someone have two downwind sails on a cruising multihull?

By filling a specific gap in the wind range and sailing angle, you’re going to get the most efficient sail that is fit for purpose. Having only one downwind sail will compromise either end of the range, so it’s best to cover your downwind sailing with two sail options.

Want to learn more on off-wind multihull sailing? Contact your North Sails experts today and get the most out of your experience. For our clients in the Southern Hemisphere, contact Ben Kelly, North Sails Brisbane Australia. For our clients in France, please contact Hugues Destremau based in Vannes. And for clients in the Western Hemisphere, contact Bob Meagher and Peter Grimm, based out of North Sails in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.

Missed the North Sails Multihull Webinar? Press Play!