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7½ Weeks!

This is exactly how long it took us to make the boat self-sufficient: we can now efficiently produce our own electricity and make our own potable water, plus we have the right systems to monitor and manage all this.  What’s there not to like?

The next problem to tackle was: can this “floating apartment” we’ve been living on for the past month, also sail comfortably and safely?  How well can Oroboro point into the wind?  How efficient is the sails plan?  How fast can she sail? How will the standing and running riggings, blocks and tackles, shackles, halyards and sails hold up?  How easy will it be to hoist our Parasailor?  And what about the asymmetric?  Do we need a 2:1 halyard  to hoist it?  What can we do to improve performance and safety?   How easy it will be to sail the boat with a short-handed crew?  In fair and also in rough weather?  How does the boat heaves-to?  Lots of question marks…  So we started to take Oroboro out for test sails.

Getting out of the V&A Waterfront marina is tricky.  You have to go through two swing bridges.  They open only at 15 minutes before the hour and after the hour. You need to call them on channel 71 to tell them you want to cross.  Then you have to call the Cape Town port authority and ask permission to leave the harbor.  Cape Town port authority is on channel 14, whereas the rest of the ports authorities in the country are on channel 09.

Once out of the harbor, we hoisted the asymmetric spinnaker, in 10 knots of True Wind.  We rigged soft shackles on the bows, and added a bridal sheet.  This was the first time for us to have to rig a spinnaker, and we were impressed by how easy it was to do this on a cat. Preparation is the key, of course, as there are many things that can go wrong.  So we triple checked everything and everything went well.

Oroboro Spinnaker

This spinnaker was made for us by Ullman Sails, the same sailmaker of our stock white sails.  They have a big factory in Cape Town.  The quality of their sails is as good as North Sails. They use the same cloth.  The owner is a very experienced sailor and they take pride in what they do.  Our Asymmetric is 140 square meters.  The boat handled it very well, in different point of sails.  And it looked beautiful!

Then the big moment came:  testing the sail we so long dreamed of, the Parasailor.  This is a very rare kind of sail, made in Germany by Istec.  It’s like a symmetrical spinnaker but with one unique feature: a wing that flies horizontally in front of the sail.

This wing looks just like a parachute. There is a big window cut all the way across the sail about two thirds of the way between the foot and head of the sail.  The wind blows through this window and inflates the sail, creating the magic.

When flying a spinnaker, one of the common problems is keeping it wide open all of the time.  In light winds, there are moments when the spinnaker collapses for a moment and then pops back open.  With the Parasailor, the wing provides lift and serves as a structural beam to support the sail and hold it open.  If the wind dies for a moment, the sail does not collapse as a normal spinnaker.  And when there is a sudden gust, the window in the sail acts like a safety valve, a de-powering system.  It is claimed that the sail can withstand 25 knot wind because of this.  We will see about that.

Our Parasailor is 140 square meters as well.  We studied this option for almost a year before deciding to pull the trigger.  We read everything we could find, watched every video, searched every forum.  There isn’t much literature out there, being this kind of sail relatively new and very expensive.  And sailors have different opinions about it:

  1. Those who have one, love it.

  2. Those who don’t have one, criticize it (because they are basically envious).

So the time has arrived for us to finally test it.  If this sail delivers what it’s supposed to, it will be our primary sail for the whole South Atlantic crossing.  We will fly it for 30 days, all the way to Brazil.  Much better than using the main and jib, when sailing downwind, because the main can chafe when rubbing against the shrouds.  Time has come to find out the truth.  So we brought down the Asymmetric and hoisted the Parasailor:


By the time the Parasailor was up, the true wind increased to 19 knots.  Hosting it was as easy, or even easier then the Asymmetric because the snuffer has a very intelligent color coded bridal system.

What a joy to see this fly!  We were absolutely ecstatic.

There was a race going on out of the RCYC, with monohulls sailing fast very close to us.  Needless to say, they were all looking at our beautiful sail in awe. This is certainly something you don’t see every day.


Once hoisted and fine tuned it, the sail was very stable and stayed exactly where we put it.  We were impressed by how stable it was, how it de-powered in gusts and by how similar it was to a kite!  Brazil here we come!

Oroboro Istec Parasailor

Then it come the time to test the white sails: Main and jib. While sailing close hauled with full main and full jib, we noticed something strange, the boat couldn’t point more than 51 degrees.  The forestay sag in 15 knots of TWS, close hauled, was more than half a meter around the midpoint, which is excessive.

Oroboro standing riggings

The standing riggings needed to be tighten.  So the next day we called the riggers to test the tension of the Cap Shrouds and the Intermediates.  As suspected, they were quite far off!

Oroboro standing rigging retensioning

After we had the cap shrouds and intermediates properly re-tensioned, we went out for another sail and we were very happy to see that now Oroboro points very well at 40 degrees. As you can see from this picture, all that sag is now gone.  Keep in mind that a cat doesn’t have a backstay.  But if needed, we can rig our topping lift to act as backstay.

Oroboro genoa

We had a beautiful sail, we anchored in front of Clifton and had a nice lunch.  While sailing, we saw whales, dolphins and a sunfish.  And the view of the Table Mountain is spectacular!

[photogrid ids=”1023,1073,1071,1072,1026,1091″ captions=”yes” columns=”two” fullwidth=”yes” ]

We are now very happy with our sails plan, and confident that we can make good speed during the ocean crossing.

What now rest to be tested is how the boat handles in bad weather, with high wind and big waves.  We’ll have to watch the forecast and see if we can go out with a strong northwesterly, which usually builds big waves here in Cape Town.

#CapeTown #Ullman #VampAWaterfront #Parasailor #istec #Asymmetrical

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