Mainsail Choices

What sort of mainsail setup is best for long-distance sailing?

On our first cruising sailboat - the 37 foot Two-Step - we had full battens and a rudimentary single-line reefing system. You can see the deep first reef in the picture below. By pulling the single line in the cockpit you would bring both reef points down to the boom using a pulley system hidden in the boom.
Unfortunately the sail-slides were just plastic and regularly broke. Also the single line system tended to get tangled inside the boom since the pulley system would spin around and add friction. Regularly we had to try to untangle the lines.

Both these shortcomings were eliminated by the clever setup in the Selden masts we had on our 2007 Southerly 42 Distant Shores. The sail slides are replaced by Selden's excellent roller car system … check out the link here
We also have this on the Southerly 49 and this system works VERY well. The cars slide easily, never bind and are quite strong. We carry a couple of spares, but in nearly 50,000 miles with this system we have only broken one car.
Reefing is similar to our original "single-line" system but with an important difference. The Selden system involves a car in the boom that cannot become tangled as it could on our older system on Two-Step. Basically the car moves back and forth inside the boom such that it can't rotate and twist. Clever solution to the problem. Here's link to Selden's website describing the system.
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This system allows you to have 2 reef points, each reefed with a single line from the cockpit. We also have a third reef, but this can't be done the same way. We have that as a traditional jiffy-reef.

In-Mast Furling

We have never sailed offshore using an In-Mast or In-Boom furling solution, but I confess I have often wondered if its time to give them a try. In-Mast systems seem the most time-tested, and many boats have circumnavigated with this. On our last crossing there were numerous boats on the ARC with in-mast furling and I envied how easy it would be to reef in our out so easily. Here is a big Hallberg-Rassy 54 with a Selden inmast furling system and a full batten mainsail.
Our crew Anthony, an experienced offshore racer, has the Selden "In-Mast" system on his Bavaria 50 and has done a number of offshore races with it and thousands of miles. he got me thinking more seriously about giving it a try…

Disadvantages include added weight aloft and the potential for a jam if something goes wrong.

Advantages are ease of operation when sailing short-handed, your spend less time furling and covering the sail, and you're more likely get the sail out and set up on a light air day. We SO OFTEN see cruising sailors just motoring with the mainsail cover on when they might be able to sail. We might have been guilty of that ourselves on occasion…

If anyone has experience with this please chime in! Comments Please :-)

Pogo 50 - Lifting Keel - Full-On Performance

If you want to cruise, but cruise FAST... read on!
I got a chance to sail on a Pogo 50 last week in the Anguilla Regatta. For the first day of the regatta there was lots of wind, and we photographed the race from the press boat. On the second day I went out aboard the Pogo 50 for the race. Thanks very much for having me aboard guys!!

In case you haven't heard of Pogo, they are a French Boat builder (not a child's toy :-) specializing in very high performance monohulls. For years they have built Mini-Transat boats, 6.5 meters long (20 feet) and then grown to 30 and 40 footers. Always high-performance! But now they have branched a little more toward cruising with the new Pogo 50.
A Pogo 50 is still very much the high performance craft, but set up for cruising. Appropriately Pogo 50 Maremosso (which we met in Anguilla) was on an Atlantic cruise, and just entered the regatta for fun with their 4 crew.


Did I mention the Pogo 50 is a swing-keel boat like ours (well… somewhat like ours)
Comparing our Southerly 49 to the Pogo 50 they are surprisingly similar in a number of respects…
Both the Pogo and Southerly can raise their keels for shallow water. The Pogo's draft with the keel down is just a foot more than ours at 11'5. Raising the keel for shallow water our Southerly draws just 3 feet, the Pogo less than 5. The difference here is she keeps much of her ballast in the bottom of the swinging 3 ton keel. We have a 3 ton plate in the hull which we can sit on when we have swung up our 2-ton keel and are beached. The Pogo must not be grounded like this I think or would risk damage as the keel is external even when swung up. (Image from YBW.COM) Both the Pogo and Southerly also have twin rudders.
Pogo mast is 6 feet taller than our Southerly. She has quite a bit more sail area in the main however, with the high performance "fat head" sail configuration.
Even the interior layout is similar with the main cabin forward and two aft cabins. The biggest difference is the displacement. The Southerly 49 is nearly twice as heavy!

Inside they have simplified to keep it light, but do have a workable cruising interior. Here in the well-organized nav station, co-owner Guido describes their successful Atlantic ARC crossing (finished 17th).
The interior (shot here from the Designer Finot-Conq website) is quite light and airy, and light-weight as well.
It was unfortunate that we had very light winds the second day of the regatta when I was racing aboard Maremosso. I had watched her roaring around the course the previous day, only to find light flukey winds for my day on board. Nevertheless it was obvious that this is a VERY fast, fun and responsive boat to sail. When even the slightest puff stirred the water we zipped along, but the crew was frustrated they couldn't really show her stuff!

Stay tuned as I will do a further review, and a short video feature showing the Pogo 50. If you are interested in real racing performance, in a cruising monohull, you should look at Pogo.

Catamaran Thoughts…

Down here in the British Virgin Islands we see a LOT of catamarans cruising around. Many of them look specifically designed for the charter trade with MANY cabins and heads and opening patio doors. But some are much more purposeful and look like they might make a good "Around the World" cruiser. One that has caught my eye recently is Outremer. Might this boat be good for our round-the-world journey?

Popular Caribbean Charter Cats - Lagoon, Leopard, Fontaine Pajot
Fast Cats - Outremer, Catana
Cruising Cats - Antares, Privilege
Are there more?


Comparing catamarans to monohulls is difficult. Catamarans cost more to build for the same length. Two-hulls, two engines, more accommodation, etc. so it is usually better to compare, say, a 46 foot monohull to a 40 foot catamaran, since pricing will be more similar.


Comparing boats on a price basis (rather than boat for boat same length) most monohulls will have a longer waterline length and might be better upwind. Cats might well be faster off the wind and make downwind passages faster. This is not a given though. A former charter-cat, set up for the windy Caribbean, then laden down with all the toys for cruising might be slower than the average monohull…


Monohulls heel over when sailing upwind. Although cats do not heel over they do bounce around in a seaway. Motion is different, and for some people, mono-motion is preferred. And some people prefer the motion of a cat. Of course within monohulls the motion of different boats is quite different. Although there are other factors, a longer waterline generally means a smoother motion. In my experience cats tend to have a slightly more complicated motion as you have two hulls each in different waves.


Catamarans definitely have more interior space. So if you like big spaces, the cat will be great. But be aware you shouldn't necessarily fill up all that storage space. Any boat will suffer from overloading and may even get dangerous. No boat likes to be overloaded but catamarans suffer perhaps more. Moving onboard with "all the stuff" lowers speed and performance on both mono's and cats.

Are you a Cat Person?

In some cases it comes down to what you feel is right. Do you like catamarans? I have even heard people say a catamaran is "just not a proper boat". And of course catamaran people refer disparagingly to monohulls as "half-a-cat". I have always like monohulls, but was quite happy on our week in the BVI chartering a Lagoon 380 (which we filmed in Season 5 here).

Sailing Cats

Catamarans do not heel over when sailing. Of course as the wind increases there is a point when they will lift a hull. For a racing boat this means an increase in speed, but for a cruising boat this is not recommended. Best to reef before the wind reaches the force where the boat is overpowered and "lifts a hull". For those of us used to sailing mono's there is an adjustment to sailing style. You need to be sure not to overpower the boat. Charter cats sometimes are built with shorter masts to make them safer to sail. Owner-Versions might have a higher performance rig. In either case you may need to get used to "sailing by the numbers". So if its up over 20 knots its time to put a reef in even if you're sailing quickly, since its hard to tell how close you are to the edge. In the mono, your rail would be in the water and you know its time to reef :-) Sailing by the numbers may not be for everyone.

Could Distant Shores III be a Cat?

From our quick look around the Outremer 45, I was impressed. Racy and seaworthy looking, she apparently racks up some impressive runs offshore. Who knows??

What do you think? Would a catamaran suit your cruising style?