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Old 15-05-2018, 06:57   #1
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Critique my atrocious tacking

Recently made an upwind passage and was disappointed in the tacking performance I was able to achieve. Most of the sailing was in moderate swell (5-7 feet) except for the last few tacks, which were in small but choppy swell.

Winds were 15-20kts throughout.

Sail configuration changed a few times. We began with 2 reefs in the main and all of the 150% genoa, and reduced down to half of that after the first tack and off of the southern tip of Curacao. During that period we were averaging around 5kts.

Towards the tip of Bonaire, our progress slowed to about 4kts, and the winds changed direction (which is why the tack looks so funny). After the tack labeled "118 (degrees)", I reduced headsail in favor of more mainsail. So at that point we had 1 reef in the main, and less genoa. Unfortunately, the main had a fair amount of twist in it, no matter how many things I tried to yank on. I think probably I'm just unable to get sufficient halyard tension without a winch.

Progress was between 3-4 kts in this region, despite winds still blowing 15-20. I blame choppy waves and current.

The last two tacks don't count, because I didn't go onto close-hauled courses after each.
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Old 15-05-2018, 07:06   #2
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Actually looks OK to me. With our working jib, full main and mizzen we tack through 120 deg. Add chop or swell to that and we foot off another few degrees for power.

When you reed the headsail though your tacking angles naturally suffer, the entry of the sail becomes baggy and therefore less efficient
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Old 15-05-2018, 07:31   #3
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Looks like your third leg you were headed by land effect wind, so I would not really be too disappointed in that.

If you have a furler on your 150 as soon as you reduce sail on it you're hosed. It's not going to point well no matter what you do, so that could explain your falling off a bit as well. That seems like a pretty big sail for that boat. You might get better performance in a broader range of conditions with a 135.

Small boat, 5-7' swell, close hauled in 15-20...I think you did pretty well. It can be hard to sail close and fast in those conditions.

Going to windward well when it's blowing is about getting your boat speed up and then making adjustments to keep that speed without the boat being overpowered...flattening your sails to depower them and playing the traveller aggressively in the gusts. That said, in a big swell you're probably going to want to keep the power on to muscle through so twist at the top to spill is probably the best approach. Different water requires different tactics. Having a smaller blade jib would have certainly helped you to stay high, that's without a doubt.
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Old 15-05-2018, 07:36   #4
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

I'm in agreement with others, Ryban. Four knots to windward in your boat is a job well done.
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Old 15-05-2018, 08:54   #5
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

You don't mention the boat so I am assuming it is a conventionally rigged offshore monohull set up for cruising. If it is a cat or a race boat with a very small main things are different.
So the other point is that to get good headings when the wind picks up you not only need smaller sails you also need flatter ones. While mains can sometimes be flatted by in creasing halyard tension you say this is limited by lack of a winch. You may be able to get round this by using a tackle from the mainsail clew and tensioning it downward if there is room. If not you could add a tackle to the main halyard when needed, attached with a prussic knot. (look up traditional sail controls on things like gaffers to see how).

You can't do the same with the head sail. A 150% genoa is going to sail like a dog in anything over about 12-14kn. To get anything like windward performance you need a flatter cut sail with a small overlap. Once a sail is furled past 10-15% of it's full area you loose efficiency and pointing. Past about 30% it is creating more drag than drive and just blowing the head off. You will probably do better dropping it and using just the main. That is why you see lots of boats with a second furller set just behind the stem head. One carries a deep cut 130-140% genoa, the other carries a flatter heavier 110% jib.
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Old 15-05-2018, 09:58   #6
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

I dunno, I think you did pretty well, Ryban.
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Old 15-05-2018, 10:25   #7
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Thanks for the feedback everyone. It makes me feel a little better knowing that this isn't that unusual. Further trips like these aren't in the plans, but you never know when you're going to have to beat into the wind.

On the whole, we averaged 4.5 kts on course.

I definitely noted that furled genoa was probably forcing us to stay a little more off the wind than desirable, or causing drag otherwise. I do have a 100% jib on board that I've never hoisted, and in retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea. After spending a thousand miles either reaching, or downwind, I got into the habit of using my headsail as a way to adjust sail area on a whim while keeping the mainsail small, so I've always liked the flexibility of the big sail.
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Old 15-05-2018, 13:58   #8
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

I looked at your chart and decided you did pretty well. After years, I still misjudge tacks sometimes - cut too close to leeward headlands and have to go about again. You didn't make that mistake either.
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Old 15-05-2018, 14:11   #9
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Fwiw, you probably would have done better with a #4 and one reef in the main. You did do okay, for sure, but the roll of sail does hinder your windward performance.

If your main has visible sag in the luff, then yes, you do need more luff tension. Even a small winch will help, and it would be easier for you if it is a self-tailing one.

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Old 16-05-2018, 05:26   #10
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Might have to go out for a bit of upwind practice (in the protection of the lee though) using a different headsail. Luckily conditions don't change here too much from day-to-day, so something in the 15-20kts is almost always available.

On a side note, I do have a small winch on the mast that I usually use for the headsail halyard (to prevent headstay wrapping), and keep it on the winch because the rope clutch has been slipping. Perhaps it's time to inspect and clean the clutch or flip the halyard end-over-end. If the rope clutch behaves as it should, I should be able to use the winch for both.
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Old 16-05-2018, 06:55   #11
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

In the conditions you mention, my boat would have done better with the 100 like you say. A roller furled 150 is just not going to be a great performer upwind. And getting better luff tension will help too, yes. How old is your main BTW? I seem to recall you got a new one right? Try it again with one reef, the 100 and a winch and I think you should get better speed and pointing height with your waterline.
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Old 16-05-2018, 07:13   #12
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Just to expand on the flatter sails concept, the point is to move the draft back, which effectively depowers the sails but also generates less drag from the sails themselves. In racing what we do is accelerate the boat up to speed and then flatten the sails. From a standing stop or slow speed flat sails provide only modest power. Primary controls for this for the main are the halyard, the cunningham, and some combination of the mainsheet/traveller/vang depending on the boat and conditions. For the Jib on anything but a racing boat it's backstay tension. Sheeting angle is going to be important as well. Move the car well aft.

However flattening your sails is to some extent a flat water tactic. In lumpy swells flattening your sails, while sparing you from being overpowered and heeling, may not give you the power to keep you going into and over waves. You're probably better off keeping the sails fairly full but reefing them down.

Interestingly my boat came with an enormous 135 genny (huge sail on a Valiant, which is a true cutter rig with the mast pretty much midships) which the previous owner bragged made her the fastest Valiant afloat. That was not true for many other reasons, but I quickly found that the boat performed significantly better with the 110 yankee that was languishing in the locker. On a close reach in light air, yes the big genny was faster but it could not point worth a damn, could not reef significantly without being virtually useless, and was just a bear to handle.
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Old 16-05-2018, 10:40   #13
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Yes, both my sails are new(ish). The genny was made a year ago, and now has over 1,000 miles on it. The main was made about 5 months ago, and has close to 500 miles on it.

I think halyard tension is the major issue, as evident in the photos I've attached. Possibly also the position of the reefing points along the boom? but that I'm less sure about.

I have a cunningham on some tackle, but I usually don't have much play on the track to get significant tension here. Also, the bulk of the sail down where the reefing cringle meets the hook makes the tension angle a little awkward and might be making the slider down there jam.
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Old 16-05-2018, 10:45   #14
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

In all of those photos your topping lift appears to be tight. No matter how hard you pull on the main sheet, if itís pulling against the topping lift, you cannot remove the twist from the leech!
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Old 16-05-2018, 10:50   #15
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Re: Critique my atrocious tacking

Ugh. I'm a terrible sailor.

Normally the opposite is the case. the topping lift is way too loose and getting snagged on things. So I think this time I tightened it up a big at one point when we were off the wind, sailing through the channel from Spanish Water (Curacao).

At that point, it would have been fine, because the mainsheet was let out significantly as we were reaching. Then when we started pointing up, I never adjusted the topping lift.
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