We use hanks on Illusion. We like the ability to change headsails easily. Shorthanded it is also nice to be able to just run the jib halyard and not worry about anything going wrong. This is a helpful ability either in a squall, or in a spinnaker set. When you’ve got time you can pull the jib out of the bow wave and onto the deck.
In the old days when Cal 40’s were used for the Congressional Cup, with full crews and hanks, we did the same thing. At the weather mark the mastman would just run the jib halyard and let the jib just sit on the bow wave. The first crewman available after the set would later pull the jib out of the bow wave, over the lifelines and onto the deck.
Racing Illusion singlehanded on Farallon Races I would always gain on my competitors when we passed Point Blunt and had to change from our #1’s to #3’s. I’d do a bald-headed change, but I’d already have the new sail hanked on under the old one, so I’d just have to drop the old sail, tie it to the deck, unhank it, move the halyard, and hoist the new sail. At no point in the process was there any risk of losing control of a sail or having a sail blow out of the luff groove. Meanwhile the guys trying to change a luff groove genoa by themselves were having a very difficult time, and the guys with roller furlers had a hopeless sail shape once furled and were out of the race.
We don’t see many boats using hanks any more in the cruising fleet, but it works great for us.
On Illusion for cruising and deliveries we use a 125% reefable solent jib, and keep it on deck in a jib bag when at anchor. We didn’t invent this sail. I first ran across this idea when I delivered the Cal 40 Whisper back from Hawaii after the 1975 Transpac. I credit the Brauch’s for inventing it although Whisper’s solent jib used reefpoints instead of a zipper and tended to hold water in the reef.
The jib has two tacks and two clews.
To reef the jib you temporarily drop it on deck, roll the foot up, run the very heavy zipper which encloses the rolled up foot, change to the new tack and clew, and rehoist. The jib goes from a 120 to a short hoist 100. Having the reefed foot enclosed in the zippered pocket keeps any water from accumulating in the folds of the reef, which can happen if you use reef points.
Reefing the jib has a number of advantages. The sail has a perfect shape both when reefed and unreefed. We are able to carry one fewer sail.
For racing upwind, however, we use a #3. We do use the highcut, reefable 125% as a blast reacher in Hawaii Races.