Spinnaker and Code 0 or Drifter?

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When I had my 150% genoa on the furler, I found that I didn't have the right sails for sailing off the wind or in light airs. The genoa was too heavy a fabric to fly in light airs, and would twist when sailing off the wind.


I contacted my sailmaker and his suggestion was to add a spinnaker and a Code 0 to my sail wardrobe; the spinnaker for off wind, the Code 0 for light airs.

Being how I used to single hand my 45 foot Morgan cutter, I was very interested in how these sails would be managed. The options for the spinnaker were a sock or a continuous furler.

The sock would require me to go forward to douse the sail, which would then cause the balance to shift to weather as the sail was taken doused while no one was at the helm.  

The continuous furler caught my attention as I could retrieve the sail from the cockpit with ease. This also would make jibes easier as I could furl, jibe, and unfurl on the other side.  

Now, as a rigger, I was very interested in how these sails would all be attached to the vessel. The continuous furler needs to be forward of the headstay and the drum; I also had a bow rail in the way. My only option was to add a bow spirit to move the tack point further forward. In my case, the tack needed to be around 4 feet forward to clear everything; that's quite the addition!

That much of a bow spirit would certainly need support to keep the upward pull of the sail from ripping it up off the deck. Now I need a bobstay and a bobstay tang, which needs to be attached to the stem. Then I need whisker stays to keep the spirit from being ripped laterally. As you can see, this got complicated in a hurry! We haven't even discussed where the deck members would go in my crowded forepeak.  

I already didn't like this idea, but since I don't have an iron jib, I needed the sails to keep me moving in all conditions.  

Aside from the incredible complexity of the addition, there was the cost factor as well. Each sail needed is own furler, plus the cost of the spinnaker and the Code 0. I scraped the whole endeavor when the calculated cost climbed over $20,000 for sails that would be used "sometimes". 

In the Pardey books, they frequently mentioned using their drifter. It is pretty much a giant nylon genoa, but with a higher clew, allowing better trim when off the wind.  

I mentioned this idea to the sail maker but he didn't seem too crazy about it. He did have a good reason, if drifters were so wonderful, all the race boats would fly them. You can't beat a spinnaker on a run and a Code 0 will take you to windward like a boss! But I'm not racing, I'm cruising! 


The drifter was a very cheap sail! If I had kept my furler, I could have gone with a flying drifter and not have it stayed. But since I decided to switch to hank on sails, it was very easy to have a hank on drifter made that would fly off of the existing headstay; no extra rigging, no extra parts, no extra cost!  

Our drifter is about the size of a 180% genoa, so a rather large sail.  


In light airs, the drifter is king! We can reach, run, tack, and jibe; all while moving along towards our destination. We usually do about 1 knot less than the wind. Our takedown wind speed is 7 knots apparent, because the nylon will stretch and can easily tear if flown in too much air. This said, we have had it up in winds of 15 knots (as we scrambled to get it down) and it doesn't appear to have sustained damage. A Code 0 is made of a much stronger laminated material, allowing it to be flown in winds above 20 knots! So I see the sail makers point there, but I like to reef in winds above 20 knots instead of flying a monster sail. 

Off the wind, the drifter is also wonderful! it has a bit of a full belly, which doesn't let it point as high as a Code 0, but this gives it plenty of depth to fill with air on a run. On a board reach, it simply fills with air, and pulls the boat along on a gentle ride. On a run, the drifter can be placed wing on wing, with it flying by the lee. On Wisdom, we have around 1200 square feet between the main sail and the drifter. This will catch any whisper of wind and move you towards your destination. 

They say the two least used sails are the trysail and the spinnaker.

I have flown my trysail only once out in the Atlantic and boy was I glad to have it! Yet I have used the drifter about 25% of the times we go sailing. It really is our light air sail that we can use on all points of sail. We don't have to switch between the spinnaker and the Code 0 as we make our way around shoals entering rivers in the Chesapeake since it can run and reach.

I feel that we fly it often because of its versatility and ease of management. 

Do you have a spinnaker or a Code 0? How often do you fly them? Do you think the average cruiser would benefit from these sails over a drifter?

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