Working with the experts

We’re starting on the upgrades we have been planning for the winter. When we moved Wildling from La Grande Motte to Port Corbières in Marseille, I was very fortunate to meet Philippe Escalle, who is based in L’Estaque, and in addition to running the regional North Sails loft, also designs, manufactures and installs the rigging and custom carbon components for a number of offshore racing monohulls.

It’s quite amazing how much knowledge and talent there is in the French sailing community. These folks are seriously into sailing, and ocean racing in particular. It’s no accident that nearly all the singlehanded round the world records are held by French sailors, it seems to be part of their DNA. What’s great for me, is that although I have no interest in racing, I am learning a lot from these guys that applies to offshore cruising, and also that I have people working on our boat that have been out there testing, using and perfecting their equipment in the most challenging conditions imaginable.

Philippe has done a lot of racing himself, much of it in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, and he has a good amount of experience with multihulls, which makes him a great partner to design and install the changes we want to make to our sailplan.

In this post, I’ll summarize the modifications we are making, with links to some research info I found useful. I’ll explain each change in a more detailed post with photos and video as they are done.

Project List

Replace self tacking jib with new Genoa – We are removing the self tacking jib, and replacing it with a North 3Di Genoa. The genoa will be on a furler that is either fully furled, or fully unfurled i.e. no reefing.

New Staysail – aft of the Genoa we are installing a self tacking staysail. This will also be a North 3Di sail on a permanent 0% or 100% furler. The staysail will balance the mainsail when it’s double reefed.

New storm jib – aft of the staysail we are adding a storm jib. This sail will be on a detachable, textile stay, that is hoisted when required. The storm jib will balance the mainsail when it’s triple reefed.

New headsail furler winch – on the foredeck aft of the trampoline we are installing an electric winch with a remote control at the helm. This winch will allow single handed furling of the staysail, genoa and gennakers from the cockpit.

Running rigging changes – We have had problems with chafe and creaking on our reefing lines at the boom end, and the halyards where they exit the mast top. The lines are Dyneema, but the covers are polyester which overheats and separates due to friction under load. We are replacing the reefing lines and halyards with Dyneema core, Technora cover lines, with an extra Dyneema cover at the friction points.


Anchor replacement – Our 35 kg Spade anchor is undersized for our boat. Even in excellent holding, and plenty of scope, we are creeping backwards in gusts over 25 knots. After a lot of research and discussion we have decided to replace it with a 45 kg Ultra Anchor.


Anti-capsize and Man Overboard safety system – There are now quite a few 5X boats that are using the UpsideUp anti-capsize and man overboard recovery system from Ocean Data Systems. I’ve discussed this with other owners and also with Christophe Lassegue at ODS to better understand how it functions. The system serves three main purposes:

  • Anti-capsize – monitor the rig loads and heel angle and automatically depower the sails if the load or angle exceeds safe limits
  • Automatically detect a man overboard, then sound the alarm siren, release the Jon Buoy, and mark the MOB GPS position in the water
  • Environmental monitoring – monitor wind speed, wind angle, water depth and traffic and alarm when safety ranges are exceeded.

While we always try and sail conservatively and anticipate bad weather, on a voyage as long as we are planning, we will run into unexpected situations, and this system might help us avoid or at least better cope with an accident at sea.

Here is a video (sorry there’s only a French version) explaining how UpsideUp was designed for offshore racing and then adapted to the cruising marketplace.

I’ll be adding more details about each of these changes, including why I think we need them in upcoming posts.

10 thoughts on “Working with the experts

  1. Hi Doug, what made you select the Ultra anchor? I have been trying to compare the Ultra to the Mantus but haven’t been able to find any direct comparison tests. And there are few Ultra owners to get feedback from. But in concept the Ultra looks really good. However, all the data and owner testimonials on the Mantus make it a sure choice in my opinion.

    • There were a few factors that made me choose the Ultra. I had pretty much decided to get a heavier Spade (the Spade 200 which is 55 kg vs our 35 kg Spade 160). But I’m really not a huge fan of the Spade, although everyone raves about them and they do well in all the tests, I found the Rocna we had on our last boat to be a better anchor. I can’t fit a Rocna on our bow roller, so I figured I would just upsize the Spade. I had looked at the Utlra, but I was having the same problem as you, I couldn’t find much info on them, although their design makes a lot of sense, and the videos on their website look pretty compelling. It does seem they are becoming more popular in France, and last week I talked to some other owners that had switched to Ultra anchors and were raving about how well they set and held vs any other anchor they had used. So I talked to the folks at Ultra Marine in France to determine the correct sizing for our boat. I went into a lot of detail about weight, length, windage, multi-hulls, etc. to be sure their recommendations were considering all the variables. Based on all of that, I decided to switch anchors.

      Some other details I learned in the process that influenced my decision are:

      – I can increase size by 10 kg to a 45 kg anchor but get proportionally more holding power because the shaft is hollow (light) and the extra weight is focused in the tip of the anchor to help it position and set.
      – The Ultra sizing is more conservative than Spade (so is Rocna) and Ultra is guaranteeing that the 45kg will work on our boat.
      – They give a lifetime warranty against damage and a 12 month guarantee that if I’m not happy with it for any reason, I can return it for a refund.

      It seems like a low risk proposition, so I’m going to give the ultra a try and see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Doug, I found your blog doing research on head sails. I have a Catana 55 now in the Med, where we bought her last year. We sailed from Toulon to the tip of Sardinia and back, summer before last and this summer, Toulon to Turkey, via the Corinth canal. The boat is on the hard in Kos for the winter. With that experience, I am going to change out our Gennaker and am considering the options. We fly a symmetrical spinnaker when I have some experienced help and will add an assymetrical for when I don’t and match it with a code 0 probably. Can’t wait to read your discussion about changing your sail plan! Great blog and I have enjoyed reading it. Our boat is the only owner’s version of the 55 that Catana made. The 55 is just a stretched 50, so 5 feet added to the basic dimensions and the mast and mailsail are identical to the 50. It is a very well balanced boat though and unlike the 50’s, the fuel tanks are aft under the bridge deck. I have seen a couple of 5X boats out there and have admired them. Very fast boats!

    • Hi Henry, glad you like the blog, thanks for the feedback! Your Catana 55 sounds really nice. We had a 471 and loved the layout of the boat but it was not much fun to sail. The extra length you have would make a huge difference!

      I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting consistent advice on the bowsprit sails for our 5X. The factory package is a Code-0 for light upwind (which is a must have by the way, awesome sail!) and a Delta Voiles, Code-D for light downwind. In practice, the Code-D is only good for a limited wind angle range, 100-140 AWA, but if you rig it to move the tack over to the leeward bow you can get closer to 160 AWA (I’m planning on doing this when I change our sailplan this winter).

      The problem I have is when our destination is dead downwind, I want the best VMG, but I don’t want to have to constantly tweak the trim to keep the sail flying properly. If the winds are light, there’s not much choice, you just need to work harder on the angles to get decent speed, but when there’s plenty of wind, it’s nice to sit in that 150 to 170 range without needing to mess with the sails and be moving along “fast enough”. Since we have the Code-D, I don’t see much benefit from adding an asymmetric spi, as it pretty much does the same thing, although some would argue an asymmetric spi is a better sail, so I added a symmetric spi to our inventory to fill in the deep downwind gap. The criticism I get about that decision is that on a performance multi, it makes no sense to ever sail deep angles, because it’s just too slow. But there are times when I choose comfort over speed, and the symmetric gives me that option. To be fair, I’ve only just received the sail from Doyle, and haven’t tried it yet, so my theory may turn out to be completely wrong, I’ll let you know!

      Based on what I know at this point, and since you already have a symmetric spi, that you seem happy with, I would suggest adding a furling Code-0 and either a furling Code-D or an asymmetric spi. You will find the Code-D a bit easier to manage short-handed than the asymmetric.


      • Doug,

        We decided to go with a Code 0 and I have been working with Brian Hancock on the area of the sail. He is also designing the asymmetrical. Our symmetrical spinnaker is .75 oz and we will supplement that with 1.5 oz when we cross the Atlantic in a couple of years. When we fly the symmetrical we now use a spin net, after we experienced the mother of all spin wraps last spring coming down the coast of Italy. In a decent breeze with a big spinnaker, the performance even at deep angles is just fine in our experience but it kind of depends on how much excitement you hanker! And I would rather jibe the symmetrical than douse the asymmetrical. Because rigging the spin net means taking down the head sail since I need the halyard, flying the spinnaker is going to be reserved for longer runs. Who knows. We may find it is pretty much all we need and the big symmetrical will stay in the bag except for a long crossing. We will bring the boat west in the spring to Corfu and sail next summer in the Adriatic and the probably winter in Sicily, where we stopped in Spring when we were heading East. We are ommuting to and from the boat as time and our schedule permits.

        On a different topic, your comment on rigging chafe was interesting. A 5X pulled into Kos in September, the main halyard having parted with the end wadded up in the mast. They blamed it on the electric winch. Maybe not the only reason.

        Looking forward to reading more about Wildling!



  3. Hey Doug,

    Would love to hear your take on how the genoa sheets will be run. If I interpret the videos correctly, in lieu of a car on a track, something akin to a barber haul with a low friction bearing seems to be the way the sheets are run.


    • Hi Henry,
      Yes, that’s exactly how it works. There are barber haulers that we will install on the salon roof with low friction rings that allow the genoa sheets to be positioned. I’ll post photos and video once we get them in place. The traveler track that we use for the jib will be used instead for the staysail, so we will have a self tacking staysail and a traditional tacking genoa.

  4. This upsideup system looks very nice, but it will also stop the boat in case of man overboard? That would be really great for someone single handling.

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