Monday, 12 January 2015

The Code D, Demystified: Part 1

We visited our sail maker just before Christmas to talk to him about getting a Code D sail made for Mareda. I stammered around clumsily, explaining that I wasn't exactly clear about the technical specifications.  He stopped me immediately. 

“Let me make it simple for you,” he said.  “NOBODY knows what a Code D is, nor a Code 0, nor a Code 5.  You just tell me what you want the sail to do, and I’ll make it.”

This did, in fact, clear up a lot.  Various technical articles and web sites of the major sail makers all have a different opinion on what these headsails are supposed to do.  In general, a “Code” sail simply means a headsail on a removable furler.  The Code D is a light-to-medium wind reaching sail that can be used with a large apparent wind angle from 60° to a full 180° polled out.  I suspect that the name “Code D” was invented by Delta sails, while the generic term for it is a Code 2.  But I much prefer my sail maker’s take on things: forget about what it’s called and focus on what it does. 

Can you name these headsails? Answer at bottom of post...
While smaller than a classic spinnaker, a Code D can be used with a larger range of wind angles than with either a symmetrical or asymmetrical spinnaker, and the fact that it is on a removable furler makes it easy to set and easy to douse by short-handed crews.  This is exactly what we are looking for.

Fortunately, our sail maker already has some experience directly with Sun Odyssey 379s and suggests a sail area of 65 m2.  A symmetrical spinnaker for the SO 379 is 99 m2 so we will lose some power, but we’ll gladly trade power for ease of handling.  Because it’s so easy to use, we’ll put it up earlier and take it down later than with a spinnaker, or so we’re told by Code D owners.

In the technical articles that compare various headsail options, the Code D wins over both symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers and even the famous Jimmy Cornell touted Parasailor. If you can read French, a couple of great articles are:

But this ease of handling comes at a price. To furl and un-furl correctly, the size, cut, and material of the sail have to be adapted specifically to your boat.  The error tolerance for the length of the stay is less than 1%. Too short or too long by more than this and you’ll end up with a mess when you try to furl the sail.  People who buy sails and furler systems without having a custom fit are usually the same ones who gripe that furling spinnakers are crap.

The price, however, even with our custom-made sail, is still cheaper than the spinnaker option from Jeanneau for the SO379.  Go figure.  The only downside, then, is that we have to be patient and wait for the sail maker to make his detailed measurements once the boat is delivered.  He says once he has all the numbers he needs, he can deliver the sail in 15 days.  He’ll also be making a 3rd reef point in the main sail for us, and we’ll have to rig up a way to fix it to the boom.  It just can’t be any worse than what we had to do on Spray

In Part 2, I’ll describe the nitty-gritty of the hardware, equipment, and installation, with pictures from Mareda, sometime in late May when she's all rigged. Stay Tuned !

Answer to headsails photo question:  1.  Asymmetric Spi  2. Gennaker  3. Classic Spi  4. Parasailor  5. Code D.


Astrolabe Sailing said...

Can't wait to see her! and interesting that the custom made sail is cheaper too. I am soaking up all your information in the hope that we can follow in your footsteps in the not too distant future!
How are your designs going for the arch?

MH said...

Thanks, Astrolabe. The plans for the arch are set. They assure us that the total height above the waterline doesn't exceed 3.40 meters (needed for the canals). I've seen one on an SO379 in the boat yard and it looks nice. Our big question now is the tack point for the Code D. The sail maker called us yesterday and said we needed to offset it to avoid interference with the genoa roller. Fun never ends !