Another frequent question concerns our experience with the boat and the various systems: what worked and what we would do differently next time? Obviously every experience is different, and a tradewind cruise is not the same thing of sailing in the “roaring forties”, anyway here is what we can say:
THE BOAT: we chose an OVNI mainly in view of the aluminium hull’s strength, and picked the 385 (which is in reality a 40-footer) simply because it was the largest we could afford, while we were not particularly attracted by the lifting-keel.
The size: only one-fourth of the Rally fleet was in our same size-range, all the others were bigger, some much bigger and obviously more capacious and faster.
This size turned out to be near the limit for two people to handle without the help of electric winches, and still it was insufficient to stow all the stuff needed in a two-year voyage plus the food stores. It would have been difficult to accomodate another person (plus the extra stores!), expecially on passage.
Our average speed has been exactly 5 knots, one of the fleet’s lowest, while the larger boats were averaging between 6 and 7 knots, with a top of nearly 9!
The lifting-keel has been almost useless, just useful in few shallow passes to reduce the risk of touching bottom, while he places suitable for beaching the boat or anchor in very shallow water are almost non-existent (or dangerous!) in coral-fringed shores.
SAILS: sailing most of the time with the wind not more than 30 degrees from dead-astern, we soon discovered the ease and comfort of sailing with the genoa alone, easily handled by one person from the safety of the cockpit; the problem was light winds, below 12-13 knots apparent, when we needed more sail area and our heavy genoa had a hard time remaining inflated in the ever-present swell.
Several Rally yachts had twin-headsails (twin yankees, to be precise), poled-out, and in light conditions they were averaging one knot more than us; the disadvantage is tricky to set or take down in variable wind conditions.
Another option is sailing goose-winged, a solution we used often but requiring two people ready to quickly reduce sail when the un-avoidable squall shows up.
We were planning to use a gennaker in light wind conditions, but its limit is somewhere between 10 and 15 knots where this sail quickly becomes a handful and taking it down is a slow process: we would have needed a furler.
We were counting a lot on the cutter-rig expecially for strong-wind sailing, but our oddly-shaped self-tacking staysail turned out to be impossible to set properly and it was not worth the hassle of tacking the genoa around the babystay.
The full-batten mainsail with conventional reefing just worked flawlessly (when we used it, that is!) and reefing from the mast was not too challenging.
WHAT WE WOULD DO OTHERWISE:
first of all, our CREDO: ideally all sail handling should be possible for a single (over-60…) person without leaving the cockpit, and without submitting the rig and the sails to excess shaking and stress.
– twin poled-out headsails (possibly with the so-called “twizzle rig” which allows a broader wind-angle range)
– gennaker on a furler (to quickly take it out temporarily in a squall)
– cockpit-led maisail reefing lines (or maybe a furling mainsail?)
We have strong reservations about the cutter rig: accept the annoyance at every genoa tack (but with a larger staysail?) or go for a removable babystay only for a storm jib?
ENGINE: our 50HP Volvo Penta (professionally checked before the departure) behaved without a glitch during the whole voyage, just like the Maxprop feathering propeller.
The engine was over-dimensioned, and THAT’S RIGHT!! Spare power allowed us to maintain control in a few tricky situations while givng us a decent economical-cruising speed.
NEXT: THE ON-BOARD SYSTEMS