Revisited The solent Rig

Dick Beaumont takes a look back at our Solent Rig article from March 2020 to respond to a readers comments.

We recently received the following comment regarding our Solent Rig article from March 2020 so we threw it over to the articles writer, Dick Beaumont, for his response…

The Solent RIG

  1. The principal difference between a cutter staysail and a Solent jib is that, unless a hurricane is blowing, the staysail is not big enough to power a yacht upwind alone, but a Solent jib is a full size working jib. The sail area of the Kraken 50 Solent jib is 52.6 m2. If we cutter-rigged the K50, the staysail would be 25.5 m2. The Solent rig jib of a K50 will take her hard upwind at 7kts of  6kts true wind ! (12 knots of apparent wind. So you’ll be using the jib not the genoa when you’re tacking upwind and of course, although it can be furled, it doesn’t need to be to tack.

Light Blue Area + Orange Area = The Solent Jib
Orange Area Only = Cutter Staysail

2. The Solent rig Jib’s cars and tracks are inside the shrouds, so the sail can be hardened like a blade of steel without fouling the spreaders or the shrouds, so she’ll go 10degs, or more, closer upwind than you can get using a genoa. Of course, you could say “ok I’ll have a cutter rig with a 95% genoa and bring its clew inside the shrouds”, but now you’ll have lost all the sail area of a 140% genoa, so now you’ll be flopping around without enough drive on a reach in light winds.

3. The Solent rig jib’s foot is cut very low to the deck so even when it’s reefed the centre of effort remains, much lower than a reefed genoa, so the sail works more efficiently and you won’t be over on your side trying to bash upwind. Look at photo on the front cover of this edition of Ocean Sailors. She’s going hard up wind with a reefed Solent jib in 55-60 knots of wind.

Now look at Fig 1 same wind, same day, We lost 2 knots of speed and 10deg of wind angle.

4. Where the Solent rig clocks up a serious advantage over a cutter rig is when you’re running. Because the jib is before the genoa in terms of the wind direction, the jib uses the wind and also deflects it into the genoa. The two sails together set beautifully and lock in the wind, so filling and spilling is greatly reduced. In big seas the two sails can be set on poles to further reduce filling and spilling. 
Also, the centre of effort is right forward, unlike running goose winged with the mail and genoa where the COE in the mainsail is more or less amidships. In a big sea, as the yacht rides the waves the COE in the main tends to induce a  corkscrew track, whereas with the butterfly rigged genoa and jib the yacht is dragged along by the COE at the bow. You get a much more comfortable ride.

5. As Alex has said, because the inner forestay goes almost to the top of the mast, running backstays are not needed to pull the mast back straight when the staysail is set. This is a big benefit especially when you’re short-handed. 

6. You can only reef a self-tacking foresail properly if its foot and leech are the same length, otherwise, since you can’t move the car forward on a track to adjust the line of effort on the clew, the foot will tighten as the leech goes loose when it’s rolled. Since the jib on the Solent rig is the heavy weather foresail, the last thing you want is for the leech to go slack and start flapping when you reef it in 50kts of wind.

The problem with having a high cut yankee shaped sail, like the one you refer to on the Neel 45 trimaran, is the sail area is then reduced to 50% of that of a comparable blade shape jib, so now you don’t have enough drive again, that small jib might be enough for a very light trimaran, but it won’t be enough for a heavy displacement blue water monohull and it will also be near useless for running butterfly rig with dual headsails.

The Solent rig has benefits, in one way or another, over all other rigs for cruising. If you want to know more about the Solent rig here’s the link to the article in OS March 2020.

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