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The driving force
Sails Talk


So with the spring sailing season approaching how many of you are now turning your attention to tuning up your boat for the sailing season?

As a valued Banks Sails customer, whether past or present, you can arrange a free consultation on your yacht with Debbi, who will help you to get the most out of your sails; whether for racing, cruising or even just to talk through sail trim and rig setting!

Debbi can come out on sea trials for racing or cruising, and evenings and weekend slots are still available.

Call us to find out more!

This is 'Sailplane' with her new Carbon Membrane Mainsail.

She has a clean scorecard of 1s in the Warsash Spring Series so far, having only taken possession of her new main 2 days before the first race!

Heaving to in a Storm

Knowing how to effectively stop your boat at sea is a very powerful tool when sailing in tough conditions.

Yann Elies, currently the fifth place skipper in the Vendee Globe has spent the best part of 24 hours hove to trying to preserve his boat through a rapidly formed low pressure system in the Southern Ocean. He is expecting gusts of 80 knots and 10 metre seas as the low pressure passes over him and has decided to ‘stop’ the boat as a precaution.

Heaving to is not just a storm survival technique. It is an effective way of putting the brakes on in rough weather or in the middle of a long passage, calming the motion of the boat through the wind and waves, allowing the fixing of broken parts, the making of dinner, or just giving the crew a break from a punishing passage. The boat will heave to equally well with a deep reefed main and storm jib in force 8 as it will a full main and large jib in light airs.

How to Heave to:
Firstly, you have to have the sails reefed as needed for the conditions, if you have too much sail up you can still be knocked down. If you are due to be sailing in a place where you are expecting to encounter many storms you should think about having a fourth reef added to your main to enable you to reef down to a similar size to your trysail. This will enable you to get out of trouble quicker than having to drop and hoist a trysail. Your sail will have to be properly reinforced to cope with this use.

Sail close hauled and tack the boat, without moving the jib sheets. The jib should be backed to windward, and you can ease the main sail with the traveller centred.

At this point the boat will probably be about 60 degrees off the wind. You should be able to turn the helm up to wind and lash it down, keeping the nose around 40 to 50 degrees to the wind. If the boat cannot come up at all you may need to reduce the sail area forward, and if the boat comes up to wind too much and tries to tack through again you need to reduce the sail area aft or simply adjust the main sheet.

Boats will not react to being hove to in similar ways, it is best to practice this manoeuvre before you ever have to do it to ensure that when the time comes you know exactly where the sails need to be to achieve the desired effect.

You can also ‘heave to’ without having a mainsail up, but you will move sideways at a greater rate than if you had some mainsail up. Just back the jib, think about trailing wharps, and get some rest from the elements!

Sailing in storm conditions

Many people will be following the Vendee Globe competitors as they battle their way through 45 knots of wind and 8 metre seas, ripping sails and breaking rigs, not to mention the collisions with Unidentified Floating Objects (UFOs).

So if the professionals on boats which were built for these conditions are having trouble, what happens if you are long distance cruising? What should you prepare for?

Firstly there isn’t much we can do about UFOs, except help to stop the pollution in our seas. However, we can offer some great advice for storm sailing and what you can do to prepare your sail wardrobe!

Debbi is our veteran Southern Ocean sailor, with six Drakes Passage crossings under her belt and two complete roundings of Cape Horn whilst double handed sailing.

The first thing is always prior preparation. At all times you should know the condition of your rig and sails. Being able to trust them explicitly helps keep you confident when things start getting tough. In much the same way that you wouldn’t like to drive in icy conditions in tyres which have barely any tread left in them, you should not be going out to sea with sails which are close to collapse. Simple things like replacing stitching which has been UV damaged does not cost much money and can give your sails many more miles of life. Try to make sure your sails get a yearly ‘MOT’ from your local sailmaker.

The second part of preparation is knowing the forecast. There are few times when storms come up from nowhere. If you think there might be a storm coming, or are in an area prone to squalls, make sure your reefing lines are ready and unfouled. Have your genoa ready to come down and your storm sails somewhere nearby. Make sure your crew are aware that they may be needed, and know what they need to do. Always think one manoeuvre ahead of where you are. This will give you a much better chance of having things go smoothly, saving snags and possible damage to your equipment and crew!

If you feel that you will need to change down, it is always best to do this early when it is easy to do so. Battling up to the foredeck in 50 knots of wind to change to the storm jib is not fun. It just isn’t.

If you are heading out to an area where you know you will encounter some pretty harsh weather it is advisable to consider adding an extra reef to your mainsail. We had four reefs in our mainsail while in the Southern Ocean. This meant that we could easily reef down to a mainsail which was the same size as a trysail and the yacht would pull along nicely with just a four reefed main and staysail, weathering some pretty huge weather systems.

Know when to turn downwind – this may seem like a fairly obvious suggestion, but know when your boat, sails and crew have had enough. Turning downwind and down-wave can quickly make the conditions bearable, just remember to have lots of wharps handy to trail behind the yacht, and make these off securely! It is also good to know that a small amount of canvas – such as a storm jib – can steady the roll and pitch of a yacht quite nicely, while trailing wharps slows the yacht down again.

Having the right sail wardrobe and knowing when to use it can make a huge difference to your ability to weather a storm. Preparation will give you confidence, and confidence is what you need when everything starts getting tough on board!

Atlantic crossings

Scarlet Oyster, with a Banks Sails inventory, is currently 1st in class racing across the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers from Gran Canaria to St Lucia.

Ross Appleby, owner and skipper of Scarlet Oyster has been a customer of Banks for many years, and has also spent many years on the podium when crossing the pond. The best thing about this achievement is that he does not have a professional crew, in fact he rarely has the same crew from one race to the next. Ross’s results come from good planning, excellent expertise and really understanding his boat and how it sails.

To get the most out of his boat his sails are often pushed to their maximum potential, so how do we make sure that he gets optimum performance, speed and durability?

Crossing the Atlantic is a huge undertaking, and for many sailors it is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list, kind of adventure. Leaving the Canaries the boats can be beating into large seas with headwinds, trying to head south ‘till the butter melts’ before turning towards their destination. After hitting the trade winds it is surfing and downwind sailing until nearing the Caribbean sea, where the weather can turn squally and your boat can be hit with sudden gusts with speeds well into the 40s.

Often there will be a day in the middle of the Atlantic where it is calm all around you, with barely a breath of air and the mainsail is gently waving from side to side, before the sleighride starts again.

As you settle into a watch routine it becomes a priority for someone to be looking for chafe on the rigging and sails, as most sailors will be relying on a small selection of sails to carry them through all of these weather conditions for thousands of miles.

If these sails become damaged it will be an increasingly difficult and long crossing. That is why it is always best to trust your lifetime ambition on equipment that has proven itself time and time again.

Here at Banks we have professionals that have undertaken this crossing many of times, with hundreds of thousands of sea and ocean miles. We know just where a reef point should be for when you are deep in the Atlantic Ocean and a squall is on its way, we know how to shape the sail to be kindest to the rigging and get you the best performance.

Our best wishes to Ross and the crew of Scarlet Oyster who will be pushing hard to keep 1st place in a tough class, attempting to defend last year’s title.

Banks Sails and Nick Jones.........

Tenacity and dogged determination were to the fore for the class winners of the 230-mile Myth of Malham Race. With a light fickle northerly breeze, staying alert and making the best of the light conditions was the recipe for success. Yachts from Britain, France, Germany and Oman were the class winners.

Gilles Fournier's French J/133, Pintia was the overall winner of the Myth of Malham Race, after atremendous battle with Suzi and Nick Jones' British First 44.7, Lisa. The two boats were literally side by side for the 230 mile race and after IRC time correction Pintia was the winner by just eight seconds after 38 hours of racing. Lisa was second but now leads the RORC Season's Points Championship. Past RORC Commodore Mike Greville racing his Ker 39, Erivale III was third overall





And a good result with the Impalas.....


Matt Baker with Banks Sails wins
Simon Baker with Banks Sails 2nd *
Nigel Talbot with Banks Sails 3rd
Lindesy Knight 5the place with Banks Sails*
• - partial inventory

Banks Mocra Results

Ross Appleby "Scarlett Oyster" Winning in Antigua Sailing Week!
1st Overall Racing (only boat to do it twice consecutively), 1st overall CSA 6, best British boat, best charter boat and winners of the Royal Southern Yacht Club challenge

Scarlet Oyster using a full Banks Sails inventory.Photo coutesy of

Mocra Mark rounding in 6 knots



Copyright © 2012 Bruce Banks Sails Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Banks Sails, 372 Brook Lane, Sarisbury, Southampton, England, SO31 7ZA Telephone: 01489 582444 Fax: 01489 589789