PHRF Sailing Inventories

by Norm Davant, Sobstad Sails

Because there are so many Express 27s sailing around the country in handicap racing I thought it would be good to address sail inventory needs from a PHRF viewpoint.

The class rules fix the weight of the mainsail at no less than 16lbs. With the sail fabric available today, sailmakers have to build mainsails extra heavy to get them to conform to the class rules. Any good sailmaker today can manufacture a very strong efficient mainsail utilizing substantially lighter fabric for the sail. If you are sailing handicap only and are contemplating a new mainsail, opt for a lighter one in the 12 to 14 lb. range. They will fly much more efficiently in light air both up and down wind. If you sail in predominatly light air keep the number of reef points down in the sail as all they do is add weight. If you are wondering how many reefs you need ask yourself how mnay times you have used reefs in the last two years of sailing, and base your decision on actual historical data. We sail in an area when at times it gets up into the 30 knot wind range, and we have yet to reef while racing (but we do also sail with a #4 jib at times).

For handicap racing genoa inventories and types vary with your location. A complete racing inventory would consist of an all purpose #1, a large (138%) #2, a 95% blade, and an 85% #4 jib. There will always be debate as to whether a #2 genoa is worth having in the inventory. For class racing the #1 genoa design for the boat is a little on the flat side because you need to be able to carry the sail in a lot of breeze. If I know a boat is racing handicap and the owner is going to use a #2 Genoa we cut the #1 Genoa fuller for more bottom end range. This makes the #1 a better light air sail because you have a #2 to use in the 16 to 18 knot apparent wind speed range. If you are only using a #1 and a blade as your headsail inventory we build the genoa to fit your sailing conditions so you can push the sail when it is not quite windy enough to put up the blade.

Look at your past sailing experiences to determine if a #2 is right for you. If you find yourself always asking the question before the start, "should we put up the #1 or the blade?", chances are a #2 genoa is a sail you should add to your inventory.

My optimum spinnaker inventory is an all purpose .5 oz. spinnaker and an all purpose .75 oz. spinnaker. If you are sailing in an area where you use your #1 genoa most of the time you will find that a .5 oz. spinnaker will be the workhorse sail. The sail can easily be used in 15 knots of wind downwind and 10 to 12 knots of wind tight reaching. A lot of people have asked whether a .75 oz. spinnaker (coupled with a .5 oz. spinnaker) should be smaller and flatter for reaching conditions. My answer is no, an Express 27 will carry a full sized spinnaker with good control until it gets so windy that everyone starts to get pretty nervous about going to fast. People also sometimes ask whether a masthead .5 oz. spinnaker can add more speed than the 6 sec./mile PHRF penalty that is usually assessed. My answer here is sometimes. If you usually race in very light air, this is certainly an inexpensive modification that can add downwind speed.

If I were building two new spinnakers today I would recommend building the .75 oz. sail from polyester spinnaker fabric. This fabric is better both reaching and running in heavy air and since you have a .5 oz. sail for the light, going to polyester would be a good match.

Small spinnaker staysails are specialty sails. These sails really do enhance the boat's performance reaching and running, but you need to have at least 12 to 14 knots of wind before these sails become effective. This sail can also double as a windseeker in the dreaded slatting conditions we all have had to endure at some point while racing. The #4 jib is strictly an insurance policy racing sail. Most people will never need one or use one, but if you are going ocean racing, a lot of races require one in the inventory. They are also great for daysailing!