If you really can't carry the full genoa in more than 20 knots of APPARENT wind while close hauled, I would imagine there is something rather wrong with that sail's shape. That should be 14 knots of true wind--or even a little less. Something seems quite out of order. That should not be a struggle for an AMEL SM. Those numbers are far enough outside my experience I do not consider them a valid argument for retro-fitting a staysail.
On our boat, sailing close-hauled, as the wind picks up our first reaction is to furl away the mainsail at 23 knots of apparent wind or so, and carry on with full jib and mizzen. The first reef into the jib we think about at 26 knots of apparent wind, and the second at 29-31 knots apparent. Sea conditions also have a lot to do with the exact point at which we reef.
There is a multipart, and complex answer to how we go upwind in stronger winds. Of course all boats start to lose some pointing ability once they start getting thrown around by waves and strong winds. But the ability to sail away from leeward dangers--even in strong winds--is a key aspect of boat safety. We have never (yet!) felt like we were over-canvased without an option to make things better.
It's important to in a discussion like this to be a bit rigorous with numbers. It is easy for people's expectations to be quite divergent. I expect in "easy" conditions for our boat's COG to be about 50-55º off the true wind. We have never had a case where we were not able to have a COG better than 60º off the true wind.
My first comment on upwind performance is an admittedly smart-ass one: Don't do that! We will go very far out of our way, and wait a long time to avoid a lengthy beat to windward in 25+ knots. But of course... stuff happens, and sometimes we are left with no choice.
We have been quite successful in making way working tightly closehauled in true winds of 25+ knots. Most recently coming south in Buzzards Bay after exiting the Cape Cod Canal. We were making better VMG--much more comfortably--sailing at 58º to the true wind than we could motoring straight into a very nasty, very short, very steep chop. We did not feel at all like we were struggling at the limits of what the boat was capable of, but higher winds than that, we haven't had the "pleasure" of needing to work upwind in.
Our genoa has a foam padded luff that appears to be well designed because we maintain a reasonable shape as we reef down. Without some way of "bulking up" the luff, sail shape goes all to heck as it is rolled. With a baggy headsail, upwind performance drops dramatically.
For sailing upwind in strong winds, even before you reef, be sure your jib halyard tension is sufficient. Tightening the halyard counteracts the stretch in the sail that moves the draft back as the wind increases forces on the sail. A draft too far aft is not immediately obvious to casual observation, but is does have a serious negative impact on your ability to make good progress to windward. Jib halyard tension is an sailing adjustment, not something to "set and forget."
For best upwind performance correct adjustment of the jib sheet lead position is critical. Any part of the sail from top to bottom that is not pulling evenly is just dragging you sideways. This is very much worth the effort to fuss with and get as close to perfect as you can.
As the genoa reefs, and the sheet lead moves forward, the effective sheeting angle widens a little bit. That means the sail won't point quite as high, but... it also means the sail generates more power to punch through the bigger waves.
As the winds pick up, the boat's sailing balance needs to be managed. In strong winds, we typically sail with jib and mizzen. If you try to sail with headsail only, you will likely experience a good deal of leehelm. That will seriously impede progress to windward, and dragging the rudder through the water offset 10º or 20º will slow the boat down. We use the mizzen not to generate extra boat speed, but to balance the boat so our helm is either neutral or with a little weather helm. Makes life a lot easier for the autopilot, too.
If we expect to be sailing in strong winds regularly, especially upwind, we have a smaller working jib that we use to replace the genoa. A "Yankee" style sail with a high cut clew. Great upwind, not so much downwind. We used it extensively when we were working our way east in the Caribbean and it was very helpful.
I have always liked sailing a well designed cutter. I spent a fair amount of time sailing a Cabo Rico 38, and it was a sweet sailing boat. But a cutter is most certainly NOT just a sloop with an extra stay added. The mast is further back and usually shorter, the main sail is smaller, (usually) the headstay is out on a bowsprit, etc. Cutters were developed not because they made it easy to carry smaller sails. They come from the day when all sails were hanked on, so all sail changes were pretty much the same. They were developed so that a boat could carry a big head sail WAY out in front, yet still be well balanced in strong winds when the mainsail was reefed. On a well designed cutter, it is a piece of cake to tack even a large genoa with the inner forestay in place, if you know how.
In my opinion, an Amel SM does not make a good cutter. It does not need staysail to balance as you reduce sail--the ketch rig takes care of it. The distance between the mast and headstay is too small to fit a proper staysail and still leave room to tack the genoa, and the hull and rig were not designed to carry the loads.
That was way more than I meant to write... Sorry to be so long winded...
Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
---In amelyachtowners@..., <osterberg.paul.l@...> wrote :
I’m curious how do you without a stay sail go upwind in true wind exceeding 25 knots, with occasional gusts of +30 knots, in reasonable comfort. We go comfortable up wind in 20 knots apparent wind with the full Genoa, but if gusts exceeding 24 knots apparent we are definitely over canvased. therefore we start to furl just before 20 knots apparent wind. When we encounter apparent wind of 30 knots we found very poor up wind performance with the Genoa heavily furled and VMG is very poor.
Paul on S/Y Kerpa SM#259