Used correctly, storm sails can help keep you sailing in the right direction and keep your boat under control. It’s a bit like fitting snow chains in winter - when the going gets tough storm sails give you the right kind of power where you need it most.
In our view storm sails are merely extensions of your working sails, which is why you need to rig them in good time. Given that today’s lighter and sportier hull forms prefer to keep sailing longer, the more you practise with them the more familiar they will become.
So why do we need them? When the wind strengthens there comes a time when your working sails become next to useless. For a start headsail reefing gear is fine, but only up to a point. The more you wind in, the less efficient it becomes, until you end up with a tiny, baggy fore-triangle high up the forestay. Apart from the fact that it won’t have been designed to withstand such rough treatment, it will never trim flat meaning your boat won’t point very well. Instead, the bows will be blown off, restricting your room to manoeuvre or your ability to work the waves. The same goes for the mainsail - however good your reefing system, there’s no substitute for a sturdy trysail, which, like the storm jib, can be trimmed flat, with the centre of effort in the right place.
A proper storm rig will make your boat easier to handle and give you a far more comfortable ride. So, when should you think about hoisting it? Not surprisingly, most people leave it too late and make the transition from deep-reefed main and fully furled staysail to bare poles with nothing in between. That’s partly because they suddenly realise it’s simply too dangerous to go forward and change sails – particularly if you’re sailing shorthanded. Another contributory factor may be a swift deterioration in the weather. When the two things happen together, it’s easy to get caught out.
John Ridgway faced exactly this situation when he was racing around the world on a 58-footer with five crew. It took four tough guys half an hour to hoist the trysail in gusts of more than 60kn, but by then it was too dangerous to go forward and get the yankee down. What happened next was predictable: he broached. One huge wave burst on the foredeck, then the second struck on the port quarter, piling grey water on top of the already overflowing main cockpit.
But when should storm sails be set? As we’ve seen, it’s better too early than too late. It also depends on the size and type of boat and the prevailing conditions, but as for your ‘average’ 30-35 footer we suggest about 40-45kn of wind.
It’s best to start with the storm jib, partly because working up at the bows is more dangerous. If your sail has hanks, you should have coated them with Vaseline and sealed them in a plastic bag to prevent seizing, because with sails that are stowed away for months at a time, there’s a real risk of corrosion.
Alternatively, the sail may have a wrap-around luff, which makes it easy to fit over a furled genoa. On some boats there’s a separate, inner stay, which makes the operation even easier. If you decide to use a luff foil, it’s worth making sure that there’s an alternative method of attaching it – perhaps with back-up eyelets.
You should also make sure there’s a decent strop on the tack to keep the sail in clearer air - Hyde storm sails have strops fitted as standard. Similarly, the clew should have sheets already attached, so it’s ready for action when you need it.
In more general terms, make sure the sail is tough and well finished. It should also be bright orange to make the boat more visible. For the trysail, it’s worth considering fitting a separate track. Otherwise it means taking the mainsail sliders out first. As before, keep a sheets attached to the clew and, when ordering, make sure the construction is man enough for the job.
Finally, please make friends with your storm sails. Take them out on a regular basis and get used to setting them. You never know when you might need them.
Hyde’s experience in delivering high volume yacht sails for the charter market, as well as top-end race boats, meant the company was ideally placed to fulfil the demanding needs of the brand new matched fleet of 12, 70ft ocean racers competing in the Clipper 13-14 Race and securing the contract for the 15-16 Race...Read More
Used correctly and in good time, storm sails can keep you sailing safely when conditions take a turn for the worse.
Like many boat owners, you probably have a storm jib tucked away; you might even have a trysail. But the chances are you’ve never experimented with either of them. But the harsh truth is that unless you understand how they work, they’re about as much use as a rabbit’s foot.
Hyde moved its maufacturing to the philippines and completed its first sails in october 2003. At that time there were 16 employees. By the end of 2009
this had increased to 250. The loft is managed by two hyde sailmakers with over twenty years experience of working with the company.