Enggano – remote and spectacular + Do you know your spinnaker from your gennaker?

Battered by waves all year, the isolated island of Pulau Enggano is a dot in the Indian Ocean. Rain forest covers the high slopes of the interior, along with carefully-tended fruit and vegetable plantations. Every home has chickens and fishing is plentiful in this part of the Indian Ocean.  

In the video you’ll see the friendliest welcome we’ve ever had when we landed the dinghy.  The island is beautiful, abundant and self-sufficient. Tucked away on its own, unaffected by the rest of the world, Liz felt she could live here!

But we had to crack on before our visas expired, and managed some solid work from our Code 0, aka “The Kraken” when we began the 200 nautical mile sail to Java and Krakatoa. Apart from the electrical storms, inconsistent winds and losing our wind instrument after lightning hit the sea next to us, it was a good sail…

Click to watch the video:

City028 on Patreon asked,”What are the differences between light-wind sails. And if you do not have one, which is the best all-round sail to choose?”

“Code 0, code D, jib, Genoa, Gennaker, Spinnaker, Screecher, Parasailor, to a non-sailor like me it’s all jargon. I’ll ask 10 people and get 10 different answers!”

This is our attempt to give you the definitive answer to some of your questions.

We asked a number of people about their experiences of light-wind sails, including Phil Auger of Zoom Sails who supplied all our sails, including The Kraken. Fellow Oyster owners, via the Oyster Owners website, shared their experiences and we received some great feedback on Patreon and our Youtube Community Page too.

Light-wind sails is a massive subject, so we are going to forget all the different sails used in racing and concentrate on what cruisers can expect to be using in light winds. This makes things a lot easier to digest. So to answer YouTube viewer Play b4work and Patreon City028’s questions about all the different types, we turned to Phil Auger of Zoom Sails.

Phil used to do a lot of racing but he was also a liveaboard cruiser before setting up his sail loft so he understands why we should simplify things. He told us that most cruisers would only need to carry one or two downwind sails. Broadly speaking the three main categories break down into:

  1. Symetrical spinnaker or Para-sailor type sail
  2. Asymetrical spinnaker (furling or sock)
  3. Code zero/screecher (furling)

The term gennaker can cover several sail types including a screecher  (used on multihulls), code 0 and asymmetric spinnaker. Since it has a broad definition we’ve avoid using the term ‘gennaker’ and will stick with specifics.

Symmetrical spinnaker

This is the classic light-wind sail used in winds from a broad reach to running dead downwind. In terms of design it is symmetrical. That is, the left hand side of the sail is the same as the right hand side. It uses the spinnaker pole and a series of running rigging and halyards to control the sheets, sail and pole. The advantage of a symmetrical spinnaker is it’s ability to run dead down wind, which asymmetrics aren’t so efficient at. The disadvantage, however, is its complexity in setting up.

“We sail our Oyster, SY Mareka of Holland, two-handed: this in reality means single-handed… so our full spinnaker is nicely put away in the attic.”
Hans and Margareth Kampers (Patrons and Oyster 49 owners)

Steffanie Schaeffer on Patreon says, “The spinnaker would be great in light winds going downwind, a situation that I regularly find when headed back to my marina for the last four miles. But my fear of having something bad happen has kept me from trying it. I’ve considered getting a sock, which would lessen my fear.”

Kenny Stevens of Cactus Sailing on YouTube emailed us with some great video clips which you should check out. He says, “We use a spinnaker its our only downwind sail unless its blowing over 15kts then it gets a little hairy getting rid of it. Keeping it in a sock means no corkscrews, and keeping it a simple rig means we use it a lot, and that’s the key with down wind sails (imo), unless you’re on a long passage it almost seems pointless setting it up, which is why i love a cruising chute”.

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asymmetrical spinnakers

This covers a lot of different types of sail but one of the most popular for cruisers is the cruising chute. In terms of design it is not symmetrical and is generally used for reaching. It’s performance drops off when running down wind. Biggest advantages are that you can fly it without a pole, making it easier to gybe than a symmetrical spinnaker.

The most feedback and examples we received on this topic came from cruisers with asymmetrical spinnakers.

David Caukill, of Serendipity, an Oyster 575, says, “We have an asymmetric cruising chute as do most, it flies best at 120 degrees apparent. We can carry it at 100 but no closer except in very light airs. The tack line is adjustable under load – led back to the secondary winch so we can raise or lower the tack. If we give it air (raise the tack) when approaching dead down wind it will cant to windward and avoids being blanketed by the main.”

Asymmetrics can still be troublesome. We remember hot, windless days in Turkey setting up our cruising chute – it was hard work! Once set it was OK but I’d often end up cursing. It’s a sentiment shared by Boyd Goldie of SY Zebahdy, who says, “my wife Debbie calls our cruising chute ‘the divorce chute’. I never fly it with just two of us on board”!

We sympathise, Boyd. Maybe a Code 0 could be the answer?

“Code 0 all day everyday hands down”
Captain Mike Hawaii, Youtube Community Page

The Code Zero is a cross between a genoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker used for sailing close to the wind in light air. It has a much flatter, triangular shape compared to a spinnaker. They have become extremely popular among cruisers because they are simple to deploy.

In Episode 146 on YouTube we showed you how Jai (rigger) and Jamie set up The Kraken on SY Esper. You can see quite clearly how easy the sail is to deploy and put away, thanks to the furler mounted on the bow and the infinity furling line.

Even code 0’s come in different flavours. Some are designed for using with an overlapping genoa, or a non-overlapping genoa. Between these two types you can sail anything from 45 degrees to the wind, as we were in the last clip of the Kraken, to 140 degrees.

“I no longer fly our asymmetrical as I launched the boss off the deck with it one time. Seeing the guy who pays the bills 15 feet in the air is a bit exciting. Now we fly our code zero in all sorts.”
Lawrie Brice, skipper of Oyster 745 Satori 

Brief summary
  1. A symmetrical spinnaker is mostly used for downwind sailing and has to be poled out.
    Phil Auger of Zoom sails says, “Symmetrical with pole can sail 180 downwind, can beam reach at 90 with pole forward, and in light air can sail with apparent wind forward of the beam. But its a lot of work setup and trim with the pole etc.”
  2. An asymmetric is more for reaching and doesn’t need a pole.
    Phil says, “Asymmetrical can go from hind quarter to beam, to forward of the beam in light air. Without the mainsail it can also run at 180, but with the mainsail with collapse in the mainsails wind shadow at 180.” 
  3. A code 0 is like a large genoa for light winds, covering wind angles from 45 degrees to 140 degrees. With the top-down furler it is simple to deploy.
    Phil says “Code Zero/Screecher can do beam, forward of the beam and to hind quarter, once again will collapse behind the main at 180, but can also be poled out wing and wing opposite side to the main for 180 running”

A gennaker is a more general, catch-all term covering many different types of asymmetrics, and a screecher is a code 0 for multihulls.

We should also give a shout out to the mizzen staysail, one of our favourite sails. It hangs in front of the mizzen and the track is taken to the centre of the boat in front of the mast. It’s great for reaching, and is known as a “ballooner” in the US.

To be guaranteed an answer to any question, please become a Patron! Or subscribe to our YouTube channel and keep an eye on the Community Page where we often ask you to share stories or ask us questions on a specific topic.

One last question…

Dan on Patreon wants to know, “What is the max wind speed you would use The Kraken in?”

Not very much, so far, Dan! We asked Phil of Zoom Sails what how high we can go…

“Whatever you are comfortable with. There are no set rules. They generally don’t blow from too much wind. It’s when they flog out of control, or the fabric is old and loses strength, or catches on the spreaders.”

Lawrie Brice says, “I have had it up in 27 knots, TWA 150-160. We were doing 15.7 knots at the time so I was happy with the AWS and angle.” Twenty-seven knots? Blimey! Still, his boat is 75ft!

“I love sailing with my spinnaker. I set the wind alarm to 15kn true and grab a book. I look up every time I turn a page and check for other boats and get back into reading. Best sailing gets done under light winds. When the wind gets to 15kn I snuff it and roll out the Genoa. It’s not as nice an experience as the spinnaker though.”
Patreons Paul and Sheryl of SV Hawkeye

For more insights, please take a look at Phil Augur’s article about light-wind sails which he wrote specifically to accompany our video and blog post: Downwind cruising sails explained 

Next stop KRAKATOA!

What’s your experience of light-wind sailing? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below.

Peace and fair winds!

Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx


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