Loads, Sail Selection & Recommendations

📸  Amory Ross 

Q: How do sails for cruising multihulls differ from that of a cruising monohull?

A: Because a multihull does not heel and release the wind load when the pressure hits, multihull sails must be able to handle higher wind loads than monohull sails. This means every aspect of multihull sails and rigging must be up-specked compared to a monohull. Mainsails generally have more roach, spinnakers are a little flatter in cut, and headsails tend to be smaller and more substantial, as it is the one sail used across the wind ranges.

Q: Why is sail selection important for a cruising multihull?

A: The wind load increases quickly on multihulls, and you need sails that are built to handle the load spike when the apparent wind moves forward. Know the limits of your sails and their intended wind range and angle of sailing. Every boat will be different, but understanding your sailing angles and crossovers are vital to getting the most out of your boat and also having a safe and more enjoyable sailing experience. 

Q: What are some of the go-to sails that you recommend for a performance cruising catamaran?

A: The G-zero is an excellent versatile downwind option. It has a massive range of use and can be sheeted in quite hard for lighter wind well forward of the beam and used right through the wind range up to say 25 knots true when eased out and tweaked forward. With such a wide range of use, the G-zero cruising gennaker makes it perfect for cruising multihulls. Plus, it is easy to furl away and small to stow.

The G2 cruising gennaker is a great running option with plenty of horsepower; if you want to cover miles, this is the best sail to get downwind. 

Square top mains with head release systems get you low down horsepower, great for coastal cruising and reaching and downwind. The automatic twist of the head can assist when going to windward in more extreme or gusty conditions.

📸  Amory Ross

Q: Can you have too many sails?

A: Yes, you can have too many sails. Ideally your sailmaker would design a wardrobe that gives you crossover points and sailing angles that cover the full sailing range. It would be best if you also had a plan for how to stow the sails onboard. Ideally, you will create your plan before getting your inventory so you can organize them below deck to protect them from the elements and access them with ease.

Q: What about storm sails for multihulls?

A: Even though they hardly ever get used, storm sails are important. Again, a plan is required so you can access this sail if you need to. For example, if you have three reefs in the main and can easily set up and deploy a storm jib, you will gain more balance and be able to control the boat in 40+ knots of wind. A storm jib can get you to a safe harbor to ride out bad weather if needed.

Q: How do you decide on sailcloth for various sails on a cruising catamaran?

A: The first thing to consider is the environment the sails are going to be subjected to in particular humidity. The strength of breeze for the region the boat is planning on sailing can have an impact also. For instance, global cruisers who want to cross oceans short-handed need super durable sails and engineered for the worst, but someone spending most of their time in the light winds of Asia would appreciate a lighter suit of sails.

Q: Some of our multihull owners have 3Di sails. What are 3Di sails and why are they a great product for my type of boat?

A: 3Di sails are very lightweight, easy to handle, have a long lifespan, and excellent shape retention. Best of both worlds! 3Di sails have a monolithic structure. They’re made over a 3D mold with special materials that don’t delaminate (ever) because of the unique fabrication process.

Q: What other sail technologies can I get for my performance cruising catamaran?

A: 3Di Downwind sails are evolving from racing technology and making a very light and durable downwind option, which is excellent in tropical conditions. Performance sails that are suitable for both extended cruising and racing in all climates is a considerable shift in the cruising multihull market. The traditional compromise to make a choice, either way, has almost gone with 3Di ENDURANCE and 3Di OCEAN products. 

Sail hardware continues to evolve, and there is a trickle-down from the French racing boats. Reef locks are a useful feature that is suitable for ocean passages when you need to relieve the load from the reef lines and prevent wear.

Q: What can multihull sailors do to make sailing easier for short-handed crews?

A: User-friendly furling systems and partial furling can be a great way to step down the horsepower. Correctly sized torque cables make a big difference to downwind furling sails and can be added to older sails. Reef-able headsail structures give you more options to balance the boat quickly and reduce power. Look for well-spaced reefs to help your team; smaller, incremental changes in reefing are not suitable for short-handed setups. 

Q: How about sail trim? What key tips can you offer to trim sails on a cruising catamaran to get optimal performance?

A: With the mainsail, there isn’t a vang, so it can over twist easily. Watch your leech telltales, and in a moderate breeze sheet in until they fly at least 50% of the time. A tweaker outboard on the boom can help control excessive leech twist and stop boom pump and accidental jibes. With the headsails, slide tracks forward when the sails are eased, or tweak the sail outboard and down to control the leech, just like the main. Stop pumping and over twisting to avoid the upper leech shaking and fatiguing.

Q: I need new sails for my boat. What are your recommendations on how to get a new suit of sails for my multihull?

A: Talk to your sailmaker. Discuss your needs and wants and how your current sails have performed and any aspects that you would like to improve. Tell them about your planned sailing and common conditions you experience. With that information, they will evaluate your entire sail wardrobe. Your sailmaker will look at what you have, assess what you need for what type of sailing you are doing, and plan when you will need to replace any sails in the future.From there, they’ll design your new multihull sails to best suit your ideal wind range and sailing angles. 

Every sail is custom designed and built, which gives your sailmaker the opportunity to truly optimize your inventory. Be open-minded to your sailmakers’ suggestions as everything keeps evolving and improving. There may be gains to be made that ultimately will result in a safer and more enjoyable cruising experience.

Interested in cruising sails for your multihull? Contact your nearest North Sails expert today!

Story Contributors

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Hugues Destremau

Sail Expert — Vannes, France

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Karl Kuspa

Sail Expert, Loft Manager — Detroit, Michigan

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Mike Toppa

Loft Manager — Newport Shipyard

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Patrick Murray

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Tom Dodson

Sail Expert — Auckland, New Zealand – Sales Office

Tom Dodson is a native Kiwi who first joined North Sails NZ as managing partner back in 1986. In 2019, he brought his wealth of experience (two Olympic Games, numerous America’s Cups, and many other achievements) back to the company,...

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Jack Christiansen

Loft Manager, Sail Expert — Seattle, Washington

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Paul Van Dyke

Sail Expert — Steelpointe Harbor, Connecticut

Paul “Whirly” vanDyke has been pursuing his need for speed and innovation in sailboat racing for decades and has sailed in all the worlds’ waters, with only the Arctic Ocean remaining.  Holder of several world records including the WSSRC Round...

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Vaughan Prentice

Loft Manager, One Design Expert, Public, Sail Expert — Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia Vaughan started his sailmaking apprenticeship in Auckland in 1986, where he was fortunate to learn the classic tricks of the trade for both Whitbread around the world teams, and America's cup teams of that era, learning modern and...

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Bob Meagher

Loft Manager, Sail Expert — Ft Lauderdale, Florida

Bob Meagher has built a career helping people enjoy their boats. Over two decades of sail consulting have led him to become one of America’s most experienced sail experts, especially in the growing market of cruising multihulls. He has led...

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Andrew Wills

Sales Manager — Auckland, New Zealand – Sail Loft Auckland, New Zealand – Sales Office

Andrew has worked in sailmaking since he left the University of Auckland, where he studied Marketing and International Business. He has won 2 World Maxi titles and 1 World Championship in the prestigious Etchells class, in which he has also...

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