Flying sails: The wings of cruising nirvana

There are many and various choices of downwind or beam-reaching sails but I wanted a specific flying sail for the fleet of Kraken Yachts and managed to develop the right profile thanks to our recent partnering with Quantum Sails in Turkey writes Dick Beaumont.

I had gone to meet Kann Is, the affable and very knowledgeable owner of Quantum Turkey at his huge loft in Tuzla, just two km from our yard, to lay out my plan for the flying sail that would complement the perfect sail inventory of the Kraken Solent rig.

I had a clear idea of the sail’s requirements:

  1. To be hoisted and left hoisted during an entire voyage
  2. To have the ability to be set and furled away by one crew
  3. To furl completely without any sail cloth left proud
  4. To have a function which is primarily a running sail, that will be set paired with the reaching genoa in butterfly mode 
  5. To be able to be carried in anything from six to 20kts of wind
  6. To be UV resistant
  7. To also be used as a reaching sail when set on its own

I asked Kaan if this could be described as a Code 2 or maybe a Gennaker? He said: ‘We can call it what you like,’ – as I say Kaan, like most Turks on this coast is an affable fellow! – ‘but actually there isn’t any sail that fits this brief, but it’s a great idea and we can build it for you.’

The Code-K was born!

Kaan’s reaction made me realise that the names given to contemporary flying sails seem to be made up as the stitching goes along! There is a multiplicity of types, but an even greater number of categories and so I tried to identify the main catagories and I decided I would try to define the main ones of interest to cruising sailors.

It wasn’t easy to come up with a definitive guide and there will be those who may not agree with my summary below, I have focused only on those sails suitable for short handed cruising.

Cruising Chute or Asymmetric Spinnaker

A cruising chute is an asymmetric spinnaker. Racing purists have nuanced differences for many different cuts of an asymmetric spinnaker, but for cruising purposes they are one and the same thing. It is a light wind running sail made mostly from nylon, with a fixed tack, is ideally set on a sprit to keep it away from the genoa. It can be set and furled with a snuffer or a top down furling system. It has a single sheet attached to the clew and no UV protection.

Code-0 or Gennaker

Code Sails are flatter than asymmetric spinnakers or symmetric spinnakers.They are either set or furled, they cannot be partially furled.  This is a free flying sail that is half way between a genoa and a cruising chute, both in shape and weight. It is an all purpose sail used for running reaching and going upwind in light airs, has a fixed tack ideally attached to a sprit to give it clean wind and has a single sheet attached to the clew.

Code-1 or A1

Light wind downwind or reaching sail generally heavier than a cruising chute but lighter than a genoa. It can only be fully set or fully furled.


Light wind downwind running sail heavier than a cruising chute lighter than a genoa. Can only be fully set or fully furled. 


Medium-heavy wind downwind or reaching sail. It is lighter than genoa cloth but generally of higher strength than regular dacron cloths. Can only be fully set or fully furled.


Medium-heavy wind downwind running sail. Same as Code 3 in cloth specification. Can only be fully set or fully furled.

The Code-K

Uses a very high strength cloth, is between a Code 3 and Code 4 in shape and therefore sets well on a reach on its own with 90-140 deg of apparent wind and also works well paired with a genoa for a dead downwind run, as is often the case when sailing in the trade winds. It furls away completely as well as being UV proof and therefore can be left hoisted and furled. It can be set in anything from six to 20 kts of apparent wind.

The origin of the flying sails were the studding sails of old

Pronounced by the old shellbacks who set them as stuns’ls – carried on the square-riggers of yesteryear as extra canvas in favourable downwind conditions to get the freights of tea back to the auction houses of Europe in hoped for record passages. They evolved, on naval ships, as great jibs known as fly-by-nights: the head set from the topmast and the clew and tack set from the upper yardarm.

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