Downwind Sail Plan Challenges

Our Atlantic crossing exposed some significant weaknesses in our downwind sail plan which we are now working to resolve.   Our principal trade wind sail is our blue water runner, which is flown without the mainsail and is fast and very forgiving in a wide range of wind angles.  We use our spinnaker pole with it to provide additional stability through the waves.  But there were times when we were unable to use this sail and during those times we found that we didn’t have another workable headsail solution.  As a result, we were forced to sail either with only our mainsail or using our main and genoa but at a closer angle to the wind than ideal (sailing more distance).  Typically we would have deployed our genoa held outboard by our spinnaker pole, but our spinnaker pole at 7.7 meters long (sized for the blue water runner) is 1.7 meters longer than the foot of our genoa.  We have experimented with various ways to make this work but we haven't yet found a good solution.   We’re now considering adding a second whisker pole with its own dedicated fitting on the mast to support the genoa during these conditions.  

There were two periods during the crossing where the inability to pole out our genoa really hurt us.  A few days in, we discovered that the solution provided to us by HR to secure the blue water runner’s tack pin was inadequate and the tack pin kept working its way out of the furler tang.  We were hesitant to use this sail until we could ensure that the tack pin wasn’t going to fall out completely and it took us a few days to develop and test an alternate tack pin solution.  Later in the passage, for the last week or so of the trip, the breeze was up into the mid-20’s (knots) with a significant cross-sea.  The autopilot struggled in these conditions, occasionally allowing us to spin way off course, so we decided to sail conservatively at night and we sailed under main alone.  Without the boat spinning out of control we had a better night’s rest but at the cost of 3 knots or more of boatspeed.   

Hopefully we'll be able to figure this one out soon!