My ideal cruising boat 4 – Cutter?

I’m mulling over the sail plan and particularly the headsail set up on my ideal cruising boat. I’ve sailed cutters but never owned one so my experience is limited. It’s difficult to get a handle on what the sailing benefits might be in ‘normal’ conditions – clearly it’s important to get the two headsails working harmoniously and that requires a different set up for each point of sail.

Probably easiest on a reach, but all boats sail well on a reach. On the wind I think you need to have a high cut yankee ahead of the staysail, or the staysail won’t contribute very much. Off the wind I see the opportunity, perhaps, of wing and wing headsails, or a staysail sheeted flat to combat rolling.

I’m not too concerned about the problem of tacking the genoa through the slot between the two stays but I’m not too happy about the need for running backstays and the tending thereof.

I do like the fact that with a cutter, as the wind pipes up you can reduce sail area progressively and the centre of effort moves inboard but, could it be that the cutter rig with running backstays infringes my “keep it simple” mantra? Is there another way?

What I’m beginning to favour in my mind is a simple single headsail set up with a removable inner forestay specifically for heavier weather – and rigged from close to the masthead to avoid the need for runners, often called a Solent stay. Setting up an inner forestay and hanking on the storm jib is a bit of a pain in heavy weather, too, but I don’t mind foredeck work.

I don’t want big overlapping headsails so if I stick to a 100% headsail on a furler and then have a smallish staysail and a storm jib that hank on the removable inner forestay I’ve got a handy and workable arrangement for all but very light conditions.

I think that might be the way to go. Next, I need to consider how to handle the relatively large mainsail – I’ll let you know what I conclude.