Catalac Windward Performance Tips

Century Business Horizons Inc.
19 Rensselaer Drive, Spring Valley, New York 10977

Albert J Shapiro

June 4, 1996

Mary Lack
Flagstaff House 

Dear Mary and John,

I would like to seek your advice, related to Catalac sailing..

Before I do, let me take a moment and tell you how much we enjoy our 9m. We enjoy the layout, the solidness of the construction and the maneuverability with the twin diesels. As we have finally found the time to do more cruising and even some fun racing we have found a number of situations in which we could use some guidance and advise. We are sailing with the original set of sails. We have the reefing genoa and the mail sail on at present and are finding the following-

When sailing to windward we can not point well at all. We are swinging through 140 degrees in coming through the wind. That is from one point of decent drive to the same point on the opposite tack. With leeway added to the 140 degrees we are achieving very poor, if any, windward performance. We have telltales on the genoa and sheet in to the point of seeing the telltales horizontal. Our genoa sheets are led back to blocks on the boat’s sides near the aft cleats.

In tacking through the wind we usually backwind the head sail to help drive us through, We are finding (more frequently than not) that when we come through the wind on the new tack direction the boat has a tendency to head up into the wind and not respond to the tiller at all. Also when we backwind we find the head sail getting stuck in a number of pockets (i.e between the forestay and the baby stay: around the shrouds or hung up on our recently installed rubber, bumpers on our spreaders)

Jim Andrews in his book “Catamarans for Cruising mentions this problem Pg 172 , stating something like this happened in “older Cats”.

We also noticed that when on a run (wind dead behind) we were doing 5 knots through the water We went over to a broad reach expecting to see a significant increase in speed only to find ourselves at 3 1/2 -4 knots.

Since much of our local cruising is on the Hudson River with the wind frequently in our face, the above mentioned issues seriously limit our enjoyment under sail.

Is there something we are doing wrong? We would most appreciate your comments and suggestions to allow us to better enjoy the Purrfect Sunset. We are planning some cruising in the next few weeks and would really like to have your advise. Would it be possible for you to fax it to us at the above number. 

Regards to all

Al Shapiro


5 June 1996

Albert J. Shapiro

Dear Al,

Good to hear from you and I am glad you are now able to contact USA Cattales. Hope it will make you new friends and give you pleasure meeting other Catalac owners.

Regarding the windward performance you are not getting with Purrfect Sunset, the point that jumped straight out at me is that of the headsail and sheeting. For windward work it is important to be able to sheet on the cabin top blocks and, for this purpose we always recommend using the working Jib, not the genoa. I realize that you probably have lighter winds than we do in the main and that you use the genoa far more than we do here. 

Point two. . Only in exceptional conditions would I back the genoa to come through the wind. I am not at all surprised to learn that you get into all sorts of a tangle. I am surprised that your crew has not revolted, for I would if I have to winch in the large headsail when it is already pulling – that is hard work. The exceptions I cite are when the seas are large and the wind rather slight, such as the day after a heavy wind. In general, you should sail close to the wind, without stalling, then put the helm over. As soon as the luff of the main shows signs of backing, release the genoa sheet and gather as quickly as possible, most of it being under control before the wind “bites” on the new tack. Hence another reason for having the smaller head sail. She is heading up to wind and not answering the tiller because the main is taking charge before the headsail can balance the driving force. In these conditions you will find it easier ease the main sheet a little, before she takes you into “irons”.The fastest point of sail should be with the wind approximately 100 degrees off the head. She should, however, not have been faster on a dead run (unless you were able to goose-wing, than on the broad reach. I think there was some lack of sail trim here. Perhaps the genoa was taking all the wind from the main – or visa versa,

I do not really, know the weather/wind conditions you experience in the Hudson River but suggest if you are likely to be beating for a fair time, that you give the Number 1 jib a try. If the wind is light but ahead, then I would consider having a new headsail with the luff at least as long as that of the genoa but cut flatter and suitable to sheet on the cabin top. However, if the wind is very light, do not be tempted to sheet bar tight, for there must be a little pocket of fullness to drive.

I do hope this will be of help and improve your windward sailing, do let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Lack

Catalac catamaran windward ability

By Rick

Owner of a Catalac 8M and Catamaransite webmaster.

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