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Multihulls are superb yachts for sailing downwind around the world. They are an extremely stable sailing platform that does not roll as the yacht sails directly downwind. The big question is, "What is the best sail rig for downwind sailing?"

Cruising multihulls making offshore passages haven't been around that long, and many people carry their monohull biases into the multihull world. The fact is, multihull performance and behavior are so different from monohulls that you need to have a new and different way of thinking about how you sail a multihull offshore.

A good example of this is downwind sailing.

When I first started sailing downwind around the world, I absolutely drove myself crazy trying to run downwind wing and wing. My monohull brain said that I should vang the main out on one side of the yacht and the headsail out on the other side of the yacht, and life would be perfect as I sailed downwind to paradise.

Unfortunately, things didn't work that way on the high seas. There were several reasons.

1. We didn't have backstays like a monohull. Instead, we had cap shrouds that came back about 2/3 of the way aft. That meant that I could not get the mainsail as far forward and as flat as I wanted to sail downwind. The capshrouds were in the way.

2. I had diamond stays on the mast to hold the mast in column. When I tried to sail wing and wing, the mainsail would chafe on the spreaders that had a backward bias in their positioning. I didn't like that chafe.

3. The mainsail on a catamaran is extremely large with an equally large roach, so in the wing and wing configuration, the main tried to overpower the headsail, and we tended to round up into the wind. Someone had to be watching things like a hawk to keep everything in balance. If you reefed the mainsail so that it had less power, and the headsail overpowered the yacht, then you could have an unintentional gybe.

4. Because of the tendency to round up created by the battle between the mainsail and headsail, you had to pay attention to sail balance all the time. If the mainsail overpowered the boat and we rounded up into the wind, then the Autohelm 7000 joined into the fray and tried to bring the boat back on course. If the autopilot made a maximal correction and the boat didn't get back on course, the autopilot tried even harder to do it's job until it stripped out the epicyclic gear on the autopilot. So if we did the wing and wing sail combination, someone had to sit in the cockpit and watch the autopilot, the sails, and the seas to make sure everything stayed under control, and the autopilot didn't destroy itself. We only stripped the epicyclic gears one time during our circumnavigation, but we learned our lesson. Don't put the autopilot in a position where it is at a massive disadvantage, and you will keep a smile on the face of the autopilot.

We left Fort Lauderdale on our circumnavigation with our monohull brains forcing us into the wing and wing sail pattern. By the time we arrived in Panama, we realized that we needed to have something that worked better downwind. We figured out that we needed (horror of horrors) two spinnaker poles and a double headsail rig.

Once we put out two spinnaker poles and double headsails, and doused the main, our life instantly improved. Words like "awesome", "unbelievable", and "it doesn't get any better than this", popped into our minds.


Before we leave port, we fix our spinnaker poles in position using a topping life, a foreguy and an afterguy. We leave those poles up all the way across the Atlantic. The poles serve a triple purpose. First, they keep the sails out in front of Exit Only at the level of the bows. Second, they keep the headsails quiet. Third, they allow us to carry the double headsail rig until the wind moves forward almost to the beam.

Keeping the sails out in front of the bows keeps the center of effort of the sails forward and balanced which makes it easy for the autopilot to steer downwind.

Keeping the sails quiet is a big help to the person on watch. He doesn't need to continually look at a thousand square feet of white sail in front of his eyes to tell what's happening. He only needs to listen with his ears. If the sails are starting to flutter, the wind has moved forward, and it's time to adjust the course. If the sails are quiet, it's time to keep on trucking.

The poles make it possible for the wind to move around a great deal without having to make major course adjustments. You don't need to be sailing directly downwind for the rig to work. As long as the wind stays twenty degrees abaft the beam, you can carry the downwind rig.

We have one headsail on a Profurl roller-furler, and the second identical headsail flies with a free standing luff. We roll the Profurl headsail in and out according to how hard the trades are blowing. The Profurl sail is like a throttle that we adjust to control our speed and the amount of stress on our rigging.

If the wind becomes too strong and we want to take down the free-standing genoa, we unroll the Profurl on the same side of the boat as the free standing genoa to blanket it. Then we can easily take down the genoa without having to battle a flogging sail. It would be easier to have two Profurl roller furling headsails, but that would cost a lot more money and require modifications to the mast and rigging. So we do it the less expensive way which is a little more work.

If the trade winds blow really hard, we use only one headsail; we roll the Profurl in and out to suit the prevailing conditions.

It's more fun to go sailing when you do no bruising cruising. It's more fun to sail downwind when you have a balanced helm. It's more fun to cross oceans when the autopilot steers the boat. That's why we sail in a catamaran and use a double-headsail downwind rig. Life is good.

Dr. Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Patreon - Maxing Out

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.


    Team Maxing Out Sails Around The World On Their 39 Foot Catamaran

    Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea


    Give your dream machine a shot in the arm

    See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one


    View the storm management video to learn how Captain Dave dealt with storms at sea

    After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams

Red Sea Chronicles

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.