My ideal cruising boat 5 – mainsail handling

In this occasional, whimsical, series I’ve so far decided that my ideal cruising boat will be a 40’ moderate displacement sloop with a long fin keel and full skeg to support the rudder. She’ll be no deeper than 5’ and up to 13’ on the beam. She’ll have a deck saloon or pilot house. I’ve mulled over a variety of options to arrive at this basic concept.

Now I’m going to consider her systems. Sail handling will be important because, although I almost always sail with another crew member, I need to be able to sail single-handed should the need arise.

The working headsail is going to be relatively small, no overlap, so the main will be quite large. What I find appealing about smaller headsails is that they can be carried for longer as the wind pipes up and even when they’re partly furled they still have a high degree of efficiency. A large headsail, radically furled, is an awful thing.

On Adriana I had a soft Dacron mainsail with no headboard, no roach and, therefore, no battens. It was joy to handle. I had one reef point in it, halving the sail area in one fell swoop. I could put that reef in, by myself, in a minute or two. But she was a 32’ boat; my ideal boat is 40’ and much more powerful – a different approach is needed.

If I stick with conventional hoisting and slab reefing I’ll need a lazy jack/stowage bag system. Even so it’ll be a challenge to reef and stow single-handed. So, I’m considering an in-mast or in-boom reefing system. This would seem to go against my ‘keep it simple’ mantra but I’m no Luddite and using technology to keep it simple is fine with me.

I’ve sailed an Amel Maramu with in-mast furling and I liked it very much. I think that’s the way I’ll go. The choice of system and the cut of the sail will need thorough research but I’m going to have in-mast reefing. I think.