We have just now sailed 800nm without taking the mainsail out once and only flying the 110% foresail. It got sometimes fully deployed, sometimes partly reefed and sometimes not even unfurled. With or without spinnaker pole.
This gave me some food for thought on sail arrangements and after a long and heated discussion with the lady we concluded the following concerning the mainsail.
The mainsail is good for two purposes:
#1. Obviously you cannot take the lady out on a catwalk without having mainsail out. Imagine, sailing the parade alongside many other boats, whereever in the world, and no mainsail out. The yacht will only look complete and attractive under full set of sails. No doubt.
#2. The mainsail is also needed, from a technical point of view, if the skipper wants to bang his head against the wall. In other words, the skipper wants, or has to, sail against the wind. Technically you will need some mainsail out to make that work properly.
In all other circumstances the mainsail remains a nice to have, which brings minium speed advantage but plenty of headache. The mainsail can become a huge risk under certain broad reach courses, especially with increasing wind angls in windy and wavy conditions. Numerous times this was the reported root cause of serious injuries or even death in worst case or best case de-masted yachts desperately crying for help. Some had preventer lines some maybe not.
I had my own experience around 2005 when Susan and myself approached Hasle in Denmark on our beautiful HR34 at that time. We did the unintentional gybe and I found my glasses next to me on the cockpit bench and cannot recall how they got there. The only thing I remember is that the boom did not bang my head as in this case I would probably not be sitting here typing these lines. Perpaps I did defend my head against the boom with my hands and by doing so the glasses flew off. I cannot recall the exact circumstances but understood at that time, that I was lucky.
Sometimes speed could be a good reason and the extra knot you would get from the mainsail might bring you into the marina before the storm kicks in or it´s getting dark but passage planning can partly compensate for that. Perhaps not in each and any case but it´s worth a consideration.
I am sure this subject can be debated further but personally I feel much more relaxed keeping the main furled into the mast even though I arrive a bit later at my destination.
We will need to decide on our sail configuration for the upcoming crossing of the Atlantic towards the Caribbean.