Jib boom or no jib boom… that is the question. First we need to figure out why it’s there to begin with. The jib boom really only has its advantages when sailing “off the wind”. It allows the sail to maintain a fast sail shape that is well projected, as the sheet is eased. In the case of the staysail, it is a relatively small sail compared to the rest of the boat’s sail plan. Therefore having optimum sail shape when “off the wind” has small impact on the boat’s overall performance. The downside to the jib boom is that it does make the foredeck a cluttered and very unsafe place to be, even without the sail being deployed. The slight advantage gained in performance is also lost after having to turn the bow so far down wind that the mainsail shadows the small staysail or jib, rendering it virtually useless.
The jib boom does have its place however and that is in the case of a dedicated day sailor with no headsail options, where you are pretty much guaranteed to be in the cockpit and off of the bow, like on the Alerion Express for example (pictured right).
Back to the cutter scenario, the staysail would only be unfurled (or set) in beam reach situations (or somewhere there-about), in conjunction with the other head sails, to gain boat speed in moderate conditions. Another configuration would be to use the staysail to control the boat in heavy weather conditions where a small headsail is required to work upwind. Only the first scenario would benefit from the jib boom in that it may slightly optimize sail performance in the beam reach, but this is nothing that a Barber Hauler can’t resolve . Beyond that, as the boat begins to turn downwind, from the beam reach to a broad reach, the staysail (if being used) is furled in (or doused) and the asymmetrical cruising spinnaker is hoisted; either by way of top down furler, snuffer, or a more traditional deployment method.
These modern day cruising spinnakers allow the cruiser to move the boat downwind with exceptional performance, minimal rigging, and minimal crew work. They also allow the boat to be driven downwind on a broad spectrum of sail points, from just above ‘dead down’ to just below the ‘close reach’, depending on how the sail is cut. Now the staysail could again be deployed in conjunction with the spinnaker to increase the boats performance (see pic. below) on or about the beam reach.
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