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Five Tips to Improve Your Offshore Racing & Coastal Racing Performance

2nd August 2021
A Quantum cableless code 0
A Quantum cableless Code 0

Mark Mansfield, Agent for Quantum Sails in Ireland, provides some thoughts on setting up your yacht to make it more competitive offshore and on longer coastal races.

Having competed in the Recent Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race (finished third overall) and was tactician on the New Grand Soleil 44, Samatom, when she won the Coastal Class at the Sovereigns Cup, here are some thoughts that came to me about areas that are important on both offshore and coastal disciplines.


Like any racing yacht, the bottom finish is equally important, inshore, offshore and on coastal racing.

On both the D2D Race and Sovereigns Cup, I persuaded the owners to haul the boat before each race and get it wet sanded while in the slings. In both cases, the bottom finish was not great, and wet sanding improved it significantly. Boatyards will normally apply antifoul with a large roller to get it done quickly, leaving a significant orange peel finish. A smaller quality roller will apply it a lot better, but really, to get a good finish, it is better to spray on a few coats, and even then, light sand afterwards is needed. Having a top-class racing finish on the bottom needs to be considered a must if you want to get on the podium.


Ensure you know exactly when sails need to be changed. Upwind it is fairly straightforward. Most race boats will hold a J1 to about 12 knots, then a J2 to 18 or so, a J3 then to about 25 knots, then a J4 and perhaps a reef after.

However, downwind is where it gets trickier and where most time is lost. When you buy new sails, you will often get a sail selection chart from your sailmaker, overlapping colourful Venn diagrams, showing which spinnaker should be up in various winds. This information is usually input into performance software such as Expedition and Adrina. The system should tell you which downwind sail to have up at what angle and wind strength.

Very often, though, these sailmakers sail selection charts are not specific for your style of yacht and are only an average. Also, they assume you have a vast array of spinnakers, whereas you might only have 3. So the sail selection chart might say an A5 is the sail to use, but you may not have one of these.

Sail selection crossover chartSail selection crossover chart

The best downwind Sail selection Chart is one you make up yourself with your own sails. It will take time and a bit of organisation. If you go out with enough crew to fly spinnakers on a particular day, say in 12 knots of wind, try each of your spinnakers and compare speeds and angles and ability to sail without broaching. So, most offshore boats have a Code 0, a reaching spinnaker and at least one all-around running/broad reaching max size spinnaker. It is when you go tight, you need to compare the three spinnakers. Test each one to the highest level it will go, then 10 degrees lower, then 10 degrees lower again. In that 12 knot wind, you will then learn which spinnaker is fastest in each wind strength at specific angles.

Then do this in 10 knots, in 14 knots, 16 knots and so on. Yes, this will take a lot of time, but it is well worth doing. How often, offshore and on long coastal races do you have the dilemma of whether you have the correct spinnaker up. In particular offshore, during the night or when the crew are tired, a reliable chart is required to answer that question.

On coastal races, when you are going from one downwind leg onto another, if you have a good sail selection chart made out, it is easy to know what spinnaker will be needed on the net leg. Putting up the wrong spinnaker, and going slow, then needing to change it can cost a lot of time.


It is often easy to concentrate on the leg you are on and then, coming to the next mark, make a call on the sail you need. However, often a small wind change or wind strength change can utterly change the decisions. If there are two options, always be prepared for both.

This year, at Sovereigns Cup week, we decided to set up a code 0 to launch before we rounded the last leg of the last race. Even though we decided to go with an outboard sheeted J2 on the last leg, it likely won the regatta for us. We initially went with the outboard J3, but the wind freed and lightened a little within about 10 minutes, and we were able to get the code 0 flying very quickly because we had it all set up. Two other boats near us on time, we later learned, took some time to get their code Zeros flying and lost time. We just beat these boats by seconds, and that won us the regatta overall.


As someone selling sails, you may think it is obvious that I would say this. However, it is amazing how many boats that race regularly offshore, and Coastal races do not have the basic downwind sails that are regularly needed - and these are,

Code 0 - This would be used both in light airs for tight reaching and doubles as a small Asymmetric spinnaker for blast reaching in strong winds, particularly with the advent of Cableless Code 0's, which are more adaptable.  A code 0 is normally about 70% the size of your biggest spinnaker and would have a lightweight laminate cloth.

XC code 0 diagramXC code 0 diagram

Reaching Asymmetric spinnaker (preferably on a sprit) — sometimes called an A3. Normally this sail would be sized in between the Code 0 size and the biggest spinnaker, so maybe 85% the max size. It would be a Nylon sail and fuller and more powerful than a Code 0.

Full-sized running spinnaker. If you are all Asymmetric, then it would be called an A2. If your boat uses a pole (symmetric), then it would be called an S2. This is the biggest spinnaker so it will be used the most.

An A2 sail set on a J/109An A2 sail set on a J/109

Bigger boats will have more spinnakers than the above, Maybe an A4 for heavy air running, perhaps an A5 for power reaching, perhaps even an A1 for very light air reaching; however, the Code 0, Reaching A sail, and Full-sized runner are the must-haves.


In particular, for outboard sheeting, a headsail, a pad-eye for an outboard sheet in the correct position is very important. Usually, it would be just forward and outboard of the upwind position.

A code 0 will need an adjustable Tweaker, and the position of this is very important. When tight reaching in light airs, the tweaker will be tightened to ensure power is not lost from the leech. Effectively you are trying, as best you can, to turn this flat spinnaker (code 0) into a very big headsail. Your sailmaker should be able to assist you in the positioning of all these pad-eyes.

Offshore and coastal racing is becoming more popular both in Ireland and elsewhere. At Quantum sails Ireland we have both myself and Yannick Lemonnier, who has a very strong offshore history, to assist on sail selection and other matters to make your racing more enjoyable and more successful.

Published in Quantum Sails

Quantum Ireland is very happy to discuss individual requirements with owners.

We offer a full-service loft at Oranmore in County Galway to look after all our new and existing clients.

Please contact us for advice and quotes

Mark Mansfield: [email protected] Tel  087 2506838

Yannick Lemonnier: [email protected] Tel: 087 628 9854

About Quantum Sails & West Sails Ireland 

The sail loft is owned and managed by Yannick Lemonnier, a former professional sailor. Opened since Jan 2011, West Sails joined forces with Quantum Sails in 2013.

Prior to coming to Ireland, Yannick worked in La Rochelle with a leading French sailmaker and he is trained in the most modern high tech CAD-based systems and software. Yannick understands sail design and has the experience and expertise to advise you on all of your needs.

In 2020, Irish Olympic helmsman, professional sailor and coach Mark Mansfield joined the loft as a sales agent.

Website: Quantum Sails and FaceBook page


Mark Mansfield

About The Author

Mark Mansfield

Email The Author

Four-time Olympian Mark Mansfield is a Professional Sailor. He is Irish Agent for Key Yachting Ltd, the sole U.K. and Irish agent for J Boats, Grand Soleil, Nautitech Catamarans and the Tofinou range of boats. More on Mark here

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