We read about half of the chapter "Getting More Out of Your Cruising Staysail" from The Capable Cruiser last night.  Holy smokes!  That is a very technical chapter coming out of the blue in a book that, prior to this, has focused on things like putting two drops of alcohol in your kids' ears to prevent infection.  I about drove April up the wall trying to explain it all to her as we read, and, frankly, as a sloop sailor, barely tracking what they were saying myself.  But I'm actually thrilled to be getting into the meat of the matter.  I 'd never really been clear why one might want a cutter rig, as opposed to a sloop with a big jib and a spinnaker for running downwind.  And I'd always wondered how you were supposed to get your jib around the inner forestay.  So this chapter touched on a lot of that though I'm still largely unclear on much of it.

What I could understand:

  • Better performance to windward than a 2-masted rig (why?)
  • 3 smaller sails easier to handle and reef than the 2 larger sails on a sloop (really?  how so?)
  • Staysail is the most versatile sail on a cruising boat
  • On watch alone, simply drop the staysail on deck or hoist it to accomodate changing wind strength
  • Staysail plus a reefed main balances better than reefed main and reefed jib both of which move the center of effort forward, causing a lee helm.  The forward shift in center of effort due to the reefed main is counteracted by the shift aft in the center of effort due to the staysail as the jib is dropped. 
What I didn't understand:
  • What is releasing the staysail stay?  Where does it go?  Why is that convenient to do with a loose-footed staysail and inconvenient with a boom or club?  And what's a club?
  • Why is a staysail with a boom "self-tending" as opposed to a loose-footed staysail?
  • What is a release lever?
  • What's a tang?  
  • Why would the addition of a staysail to a sloop require the addition of "two intermediate supporting shrouds led to chainplates aft of the mast?'  What does adding a stay have to do with adding shrouds?
  • What's a running backstay and why would the addition of a staysail require the addition of one, but only on boats larger than 35 ft?
  • What causes the mast to bend?