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Old 06-11-2013, 14:34   #1
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Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Hello, it's my first post, and I'm a relatively new sailor. My husband and I are (possibly) buying a Willard 30 8-ton cruiser, shown here in SailboatData. We'll be doing a sea trial this weekend, and I'm trying to learn what to anticipate regarding a couple changes that the PO made.

The new boom is shorter by about 1.5 feet, maybe more, than the original boom's length. The new mainsail is fully battened, so it may have more roach (we don't know yet, haven't seen it uncovered).

Would the shorter boom and narrower mainsail cause the boat to heel more, because the center of effort would be proportionately higher up the mast?

Might it cause lee helm in a cutter rig?

Also, the main sheet no longer goes back to attach aft of the tiller (as it did in the SailboatData diagram), it now attaches only to a traveler across the cabin top. I'm concerned because I've seen some stress cracks in the gelcoat where the cabin meets the deck, on both sides. Could this attachment of the main sheet to only the cabin top traveler be causing stress that it wasn't designed to take? It's a pretty heavy boat...

Please forgive any incorrect terminology, I hope this is not too vague. Any help will be gratefully received!
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Old 06-11-2013, 16:07   #2
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Assume they had some reason to shorten the boom and Mainsail foot. Probably because the boat developed weather helm at higher speeds. Would need to sail the boat to find out what the negatives are. Yes, it could cause lee helm in lighter winds. If the lee helm goes away as boat speed builds above a knot or two, I could live with it. In fact did with our Westsail that we cruised for many thousands of miles. reduced mainsail area should reduce the healing force at any given windspeed but not as much shortening the hoist/reefing and probably not as much as its effect on the helm.

Sheeting to a cabin top traveller allows better control of mainsail shape without resorting to a vang. It will also almost guarantee you'll need a winch to sheet the boom in hard in anything but light air conditions. When you do your sea trial, try and do it ln more boisterous conditions. Go below and look carefully at how/if the cabin top flexes under the load of the main sheet when going to weather. It will probably move a bit if the wind is up but little, if any, in light air. It's not uncommon for boats to develop gel coat cracks especially if the gel coat was applied too thick. Gelcoat is quite a bit less flexible and tends to crack if a direction transition in the cabin/deck area is too short a radius. Early Tartans were notorious for this because of near right angle turns without an easing fillet where the hull met the deck.

Personally, I'd want all the mainsail I could get. These type of boats sail the best off the wind and mainsail area really has advantagesoin those points of sail. My experience is that boats of this type develop strong weather helm as they near hull speed. It requires constant force on the tiller but doesn't hurt boat speed. If you have a self steering vane, you wouldn't have to steer so weather helm is not a big issue.
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Old 06-11-2013, 17:07   #3
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

You already have concerns about this vessel, so take them along on your test sail. Be very skeptical about everything and don't just "go for a sail".

If at any time, you experience "lee helm", be polite upon returning, thank the owner for the opportunity to see his boat, and walk calmly down the dock knowing that you have been spared the curse of lee helm.

Weather helm can be lived with; lee helm will just make you miserable, if not borderline insane.
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Old 06-11-2013, 17:24   #4
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaryEllenCarter View Post
You already have concerns about this vessel, so take them along on your test sail. Be very skeptical about everything and don't just "go for a sail".

If at any time, you experience "lee helm", be polite upon returning, thank the owner for the opportunity to see his boat, and walk calmly down the dock knowing that you have been spared the curse of lee helm.

Weather helm can be lived with; lee helm will just make you miserable, if not borderline insane.
Gee, that's a little harsh IMO! Lee helm in light airs is unpleasant but not so dangerous, and I really doubt if the shortened boom would cause that much of a change in balance, especially if the new main is a bit roachy. The other thing to consider is that the PO may have shortened the boom to correct for excessive weather helm. I don't know anything about the characteristics of that design, but weather helm is the curse of many a boat!

Even if there is some LH exhibited, all is not lost. Raking the mast aft a tad will have a noticeable effect on the balance, and can usually be accomplished without too much trouble.

So, if you like the boat otherwise, I don't see the boom as a deal breaker.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 06-11-2013, 22:32   #5
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

I agree that lee helm is a pita, but if you look at the first sticky in this sub forum (correcting weather helm) and reverse the recommendations you can probably correct lee helm without a lot of trouble. Just my 2 cents worth. ______Grant.
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Old 07-11-2013, 05:49   #6
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, simplify.
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:01   #7
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Just had another thought! In traditional boats it is not uncommon to have the boom long enough to hit the backstay if the boom is angled up(such as in an uncontrolled gybe) You can actually dismast yourself if the boom hits hard enough. Some older designed boats have had their boom shortened just for that reason. That may or may not be why this particular boom was shortened, but a Willard is a pretty traditional design. If the sellers dont have an explanation , you might loosen the main sheet and raise the boom up, to see if it comes close to the backstay. If it doesnt clear by much, then it was probably long enough to hit, and was shortened to prevent hitting. Just something to look at. _____Grant.
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:35   #8
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Most boom shortenings, and the sheet attachment moving away from the end-boom that I've seen, is to free up the cockpit for awnings, arches, and associated structures.

The higher and shorter you make a boom the "less it gets in the way", but the less sail area you have and the harder it is work on the foot, outhaul, clew, and really anything on the boom. Having a lower and longer boom gives you more access but you pay for it with stronger gybe force, a *really* long mainsheet of it's 4:1 and end-boom, and less ability to put typical-cruiser awnings up.

"I can do everything without leaving the cockpit" is a bit of a misnomer because things break.
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:58   #9
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

I have read these comments with interest, esp the comments on Lee helm. Both my compac and my Valiant came with marked weather helm. My Valiant would overpower her large rudder with just the main up and head upwind. Later versions of the boat came with a mid boom sheeting and a shortened boom, and a fully battened mainsail. I got ahold of one of those sails and I love it! Balanced sailing in a wide range of conditions. So now I am doing just what your po did.
I would not pass judgment on the changes till I saw how the boat sailed. And make sure the traveller is backed up properly. And there is place to put a preventer.
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Old 10-11-2013, 09:39   #10
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Simplify,when you get a chance, please post what you discover about the boom length, and the boat in general. It may help some CF member in the future. Sometimes a small piece of the puzzal will be a big help to a member. Thanks,________Grant.
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Old 10-11-2013, 10:27   #11
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Thank you so much to everyone for the insightful and thoughtful answers, you have given me a lot to look for on the sea-trial which will be happening tomorrow. The forecast is for light winds, 10-15 mph, so hopefully we will get a few good indications how the boat handles with this configuration. I'll post an update tomorrow evening, and thanks again to everyone who took time to read and reply.
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Old 10-11-2013, 10:50   #12
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

The boom was probably shortened to eliminate excessive weather helm. It's all about sail balance and the original sailplan is just a "snapshot in time"... in other words it will only be perfectly balanced (if ever that) under one wind speed and one sail plan. Your sail plan is a variable tool. The shortened boom probably only changed things a minor amount... less than reefing the main. I prefer a boat with a neutral helm. ALways have... and if I buy sails or adjust a rig that is my goal. I hate weather helm.
If you reef your main you change the balance, If you change or furl your headsail you change your blance, if you flatten the main you change your balance. Odd's might be good that if the PO added a nice Battened mainsail that the changes he made were all for the better. You'l know soon!
Not all sailplans produced by a designer worked out very well! I once had a boat designed by a guy who taught at the marine school. That boat became unsteerable on a close reach in 20 knots of wind.... so bad that I broke a brand new steering cable trying to turn it! It was a hull shape issue not sail plan issue.
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Old 10-11-2013, 11:09   #13
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

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Originally Posted by simplify View Post
Thank you so much to everyone for the insightful and thoughtful answers, you have given me a lot to look for on the sea-trial which will be happening tomorrow. The forecast is for light winds, 10-15 mph, so hopefully we will get a few good indications how the boat handles with this configuration. I'll post an update tomorrow evening, and thanks again to everyone who took time to read and reply.
Where you sail must have a different definition of light winds than mine. 10-15 mph is a hurricane on the Kona Coast. If the winds are towards the upper end of that range should give you a good idea of the boats sailing capabilities. Light air, 5k or so, will be this boats weak point so might try and schedule a 2nd sea trial if/when winds moderate to really see how the boat sails.

So how did the sea trial go???
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Old 10-11-2013, 19:40   #14
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

I just looked at the specs for a Willard, and I doubt if 5 knots of wind will even move it. It has a pretty low sail area to displacement ,and a high displacement to length. It will not be a good light air boat. But, that does not mean you cant get a lot of good cruising out of that type of boat. Just that you will want to make sure you have good light air sails, and a folding or feathering prop. A reliable diesel (doesnt have to be large) and a reasonable fuel capacity will make life easier. The heavy displacement will probably make for a nice motion at sea. I also looked at the diagram of the sail plan, and it appears that the boom might hit the backstay if it was raised during an uncontrolled gybe. That may be why it was shortened. ____Good Luck with it , and keep us posted. _____Grant.
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Old 11-11-2013, 09:43   #15
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Re: Shortened boom & main foot on a cutter, effects?

Yep, depends on your own particular cruising mode. Some people insist on sailing. For me, if the speed drops below abot 3.5 knots I turn on the iron reacher, become a motorsailer, make water and charge batteries. Others put a chute up. I usually have a plan for the time it takes to get from point A to point B. To me the boat is just a tool to accomplish that plan. If the plan requires 5.25 knots, that's what I do.
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