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Old 15-10-2012, 19:21   #16
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Learn to anticipate the gusts is probably the best advice.

No need to change course if you are paying attention and ready to adjust the sails.

The more you sail, the less you will be caught out
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Old 15-10-2012, 19:38   #17
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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I suggest getting an inclinometer. They only cost about $10. I installed one recently, and my suspicions were confirmed - you are heeling less than you think. What feels like 45 is probably 30 degrees.

Tell your wife that readings on the gauge of 30 degrees are normal, and 45 is acceptable during gusts. That may provide some re-assurance.
I agree on the inclinometer, but don't tell your guests what it is, or what it is for. I made that mistake and told a good friend of mine (who was thinking about getting into sailing) it was ok if she saw 30 degrees, at 40 degrees and I would start getting ready to take action ( i.e. main sheet in my hand, ready for a bit of "dynamic" reefing), 45 degrees and I would probably let fly the main sheet and head up.

Naturally on the first beam reach we got hit with a gust and it took us to about 44ish, she started screaming, "Its 45, its 45". I told her to calm down the gust was passing and the heel would come off in a minute. That didn't make a bit of difference as her eyes were glued to the inclinometer...

I thought I broke her and her first sail would be her last, but she took sailing classes, bought a boat and spends every second on the boat she can.
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Old 15-10-2012, 19:40   #18
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All reasonable answers above. I think it depends where the true wind is. You say "beam reach". I would guess that means the true wind is well aft unless the boat is a very slow dog.

With the wind aft of the beam the usual reaction to a gust would be to steer down immediately. But nowhere near gybing. The main, and probably the traveller if used, should already be mostly out, no? So not much to do with those perhaps. Easing the vang is important.

Turning down promptly can depower the headsail as the main shadows it.

With the wind aft turning up, or rounding up out of control, will greatly increase the apparent wind. That can't help.

With the true wind ahead of the beam a small turn up should do the trick. But better is to hold your course and try for some insane speed thrill.
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Old 15-10-2012, 23:26   #19
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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First the short answer - If alone on a reach and gusted I will always head up. However the caveat is if I am alone in 12kts I am tending the mainsheet and would likely sheet out first.

Second I suggest you read this mainsail trimming guide.

North Sails: Mainsail Trim

I would also recommend attending a NorthSails Trim and tactics course if one happens near you. I attended one early this year and it was great. You can buy the books from them as well.

I trimmed main on a 40+ foot race boat. I learn all the time and main trimming is my favorite position on a race team. The main trimmer has so much to do with the outcome of a race. Anyhoo...

At 12-15 kts almost every boat (we will sail on) is at "full" power. Any gust or increase of wind will overpower the boat. The tactics for dealing with that power are varied depending on point of sail. On a large (40 foot) race boat the natural weather helm will almost always over power the rudder and the skipper will be unable to hold course.

I tell trimmers that as soon as you are on the wind (boom is over the traveler) the traveler becomes the boats throttle and steering control. The trimmer fixates on the upwind side looking for gusts and the rail crew helps by calling the gusts. The trimmer also has some sort of heading or bearing and is very sensitive to the lateral movement of the bow. The skipper ideally has the rudder centered (low drag) and when the bow moves even a tiny bit to weather the traveler is eased an inch or two. After the gust the traveler is hauled back. A good trimmer is anticipating the gusts and will do this before the bow moves.

If the increase in wind is persistent the traveler is lowered until there is no traveller left, then the only option is to use mainsheet trim. If the vang is hard on (which it should be from close reach on out) the boom will not rise and sail shape is preserved.

I see many "experienced" trimmers playing both sheet and traveler when close reaching and close hauled and it sort of drives me nuts.

So now we have your condition reaching when boom is past the traveler - sail has been shaped for conditions by outhaul and vang and boom angle is being adjusted by mainsheet. You are reaching.

When a gust comes there are two options - release main sheet or vang. Main sheet will dump wind without changing sail shape and vang will increase twist and dump wind. Generally one will use main sheet because the idea is not to permanently adjust sail shape, just luff off a bit in the gust. Remember depending on sea state when fully powered we want a fairly flat sail shape.

In your case it sounds like you were reaching with the traveler still up. As you turned to a reaching heading the only change you should have been making is dropping the traveler until it hit the end of its travel. Then you sheet off the main.

In 12 kts gusting, some one should always be tending the main. I demonstrate this when close hauled. We will have 15 degrees of heel the boat is fully powered and I will simply drop the traveler all the way (from a boom centered, leech slightly closed position) and the boat will immediately stand up on its feet and slow down. It is the clearest way I know to demonstrate why the mainsheet is tended.

In your case no one was tending the main and you caught a gust. I always teach to head up. Two reasons - First it is always harder to go to windward and I hate giving away ground already made up. Second is that by bearing away you are not depowering the boat and in wilder situations you can get out of control downwind and accidentally gybe.

We sailed in company a couple of years ago. The other boat was not that experience and had only 2 up. We had to penetrate a thunderstorm (not unusual here) and we were in a wide channel. Visibility went to zero for about 30 minutes. We shot a heading, reefed and in each gust luffed up. After the storm the other boat was almost aground on the leward side. They continually bore away in gusts and almost ended in disaster. They ended up OK but a long tack back to the channel.

Sailing at the edge of power and getting the most from the boat is a blast - that's why I race. But if I am cruising and want to relax and not tend the sheets so much I will start reefing at 15 knots.

Rounding up is scary for two reasons. The boat is already heeled, the gust adds to it and then the centrifugal forces in turning to windward add to the heel momentarily as well.

I agree 100% with others - the boat will handle it and take care of the passengers even if it does seem a bit scary. YouTube some broaching videos to see how far one can go.
Fantastic stuff

A vivid lesson of what racing does for your sailing skills. Very few pure cruisers have this level of understanding of how the sails work. Certainly not me.

The only thing I would add is something so obvious to a racer that Dan would probably not consider it worth mentioning, but something which took me a long time to figure out - of crucial importance in handling gusting conditions is having the main in the right shape to start with. If you're near the edge of the wind speed envelope for the amount of sail you have up, it becomes crucial to have the main in its least full shape, so you want full halyard tension to move the draft forward, and you want plenty of vang and outhaul tension to keep the sail relatively flat. This makes an amazing difference (and I really regret how many years it took me to figure that out) - less drag and so less heeling, more lift (proportionately) so you get more usable power out of a strong wind, less weather helm. I now reef quite a bit later than I used to, having figured this out, and gusts don't bother me nearly so much. A floppy, baggy mainsail, on the contrary, in a strong wind, will turn all the wind force in a gust into heeling and rounding up.
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Old 15-10-2012, 23:47   #20
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Reef twenty minutes before your story started?

No joke but if you're near broaching when a gust pops up you have too much sail in the air. In a harbor with a lot of boats you can't afford to loose steerage like that.

Running off in a gust isn't my thing. Easy tactic but it's lazy (my opinion):
- now you're down wind with gybe potential
- your jib wasn't set for downwind
- if it's not a gust and sticking around for a bit, you're now stuck in the crappy situation of needing to reef a main while it's fully powered downwind. do-able if you have the reefing gear to do so, nearly impossible if you don't

Just drop sail. Boats sail faster on their bottoms.
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Old 16-10-2012, 01:35   #21
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

That's the reason I love sailing--there are so many levels, you master one and like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, there is another level to go to.

A quick primer on main trimming--as the wind picks up, you use more mast bend to flatten and depower the main. Bending the mast tends to loosen the leach of the sail, reducing weather helm and increasing boat speed. It also makes the draft move aft, which is why more cunningham is required to move it back forward. I remember watching the legendary Lowell North (aka "The Pope") drive a boat in the Big Boat series on San Francisco Bay. He had one hand on the wheel and the other on the running backstay to control the mast bend.

Even at the ultimate levels, there are still things to learn. This is a great video of highly paid professionals showing how not to trim a sail:



Note the sequence--they are stooging around, the wing sail is brought in as they turn off the wind, they lift a hull, the wing was NOT let out, and they are capsized--all in about 5 seconds.

There is another similar view of Oracle-Spithill's latest capsize from their rear camera, where you can see that wing goes all the way out, but they have stuffed their bows in and are too far off the wind for it to do any good. I can't locate the clip, but they were replaying it continually at the awards ceremony--great stuff!
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Old 16-10-2012, 02:09   #22
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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The only thing I would add is something so obvious to a racer that Dan would probably not consider it worth mentioning, but something which took me a long time to figure out - of crucial importance in handling gusting conditions is having the main in the right shape to start with. If you're near the edge of the wind speed envelope for the amount of sail you have up, it becomes crucial to have the main in its least full shape, so you want full halyard tension to move the draft forward, and you want plenty of vang and outhaul tension to keep the sail relatively flat. This makes an amazing difference (and I really regret how many years it took me to figure that out) - less drag and so less heeling, more lift (proportionately) so you get more usable power out of a strong wind, less weather helm. I now reef quite a bit later than I used to, having figured this out, and gusts don't bother me nearly so much. A floppy, baggy mainsail, on the contrary, in a strong wind, will turn all the wind force in a gust into heeling and rounding up.
Flatten the main definitely, but leave the vang off. A vang strapped on hard will inhibit your ability to depower a main when reaching. It will hold the boom down and therefore not allow you to twist off the top of the sail

As a rough guide, there is no need to use the vang at all unless the boom is outside the extents of the traveller. It is very much an off-wind sail control
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Old 16-10-2012, 02:31   #23
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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That's the reason I love sailing--there are so many levels, you master one and like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, there is another level to go to.

A quick primer on main trimming--as the wind picks up, you use more mast bend to flatten and depower the main. Bending the mast tends to loosen the leach of the sail, reducing weather helm and increasing boat speed. It also makes the draft move aft, which is why more cunningham is required to move it back forward. I remember watching the legendary Lowell North (aka "The Pope") drive a boat in the Big Boat series on San Francisco Bay. He had one hand on the wheel and the other on the running backstay to control the mast bend.
cough... hunter... cough
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Old 16-10-2012, 04:34   #24
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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cough... hunter... cough
such a useful dig disguised as a comment
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Old 16-10-2012, 04:40   #25
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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Flatten the main definitely, but leave the vang off. A vang strapped on hard will inhibit your ability to depower a main when reaching. It will hold the boom down and therefore not allow you to twist off the top of the sail

As a rough guide, there is no need to use the vang at all unless the boom is outside the extents of the traveller. It is very much an off-wind sail control
All very true, but many boats will have the boom out beyond the limits of the traveller on a beam reach. At that point, the mainsheet ceases to control the leech of the sail and the vang comes into play.
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Old 16-10-2012, 05:56   #26
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

I surly need to read this thread more closely. Had a similar incident with the wife, with a wrinkle or two.

Two am, motor sailing, I'm asleep on setee. Center cockpit boat has a tiller pilot on an aries wind vane to a permanetly fixed tiller so I need to go aft to pop out the chain and disconnect pilot. Also have a Dutchman boom break set, I am frequently solo so this is a common set up.

What I think happens is the wind builds gradually, wife does not notice or correct, autopilot tries to keep heading. Get a good puff of air, she rounds up, wife alarm goes off EXACTLY as in OP.

I'm out of the bunk, into cockpit, dump motor, let main go, Dutchman has it (****), go back and pop chain off auto pilot, all is calm, maybe 20 seconds.

I should have popped the Dutchman boom break to release the boom.

At that instant, with a freaked crew, it is challanging, at least to me. We need to do better.

I was sleeping all standing so had my harness and tether on already, jack lines set, which was good for trip back to tiller.
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Old 16-10-2012, 06:51   #27
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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Flatten the main definitely, but leave the vang off. A vang strapped on hard will inhibit your ability to depower a main when reaching. It will hold the boom down and therefore not allow you to twist off the top of the sail

As a rough guide, there is no need to use the vang at all unless the boom is outside the extents of the traveller. It is very much an off-wind sail control
Sorry, easing the vang is exactly the the wrong thing to do in breeze. The vang is essential for keeping the main flat and in control. Also, if sailing down in the puffs as the original poster offered as a strategy, the danger of an accidental jibe is increased without a vang.
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Old 16-10-2012, 07:35   #28
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Set up in a breeze Tartan 34C. Single handed
Working jib, 110%. Full main under 15kts, over 15kts with gusts one reef.

Always full vang, traveler not the main centered. Traveler dropped to leeward in sustained higher winds.

Going to weather. Make sure jib is fully sheeted, flat foot with a little twist. Mainsail, flat foot, possible flattening reef if available. Full vang. Traveler centered. I take my gains to weather in the puffs by letting boat come up then sail slightly down to keep keep speed in the lulls. If the breeze pipes up and I'm sailing on the rail and it's a bother to keep the boat on her feet I will reduce sail. One thing to remember, a fuller sail is a more powerful sail. Inexperienced sailors when experiencing overpowering let try to depower by easing a jib which usually makes matter worse, unless you are going to sail off on reach or downwind. If I'm not racing or with family, nothing is more fun than sailing in big wind with reefed sails.
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Old 16-10-2012, 08:44   #29
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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Sorry, easing the vang is exactly the the wrong thing to do in breeze. The vang is essential for keeping the main flat and in control.
What you say is true in a moderate breeze. You tension the vang to flatten the sail, and you play the main sheet. However, in stronger breeze you need to ease the vang to depower. Picture this: you're reaching in a strong breeze (beam reach to a broad reach), you've already used the backstay, outhaul, halyard, and cunningham to flatten the sail. The mainsheet is already out as far as it can go. When a big puff hits the boat the only control that will quickly depower the main is the vang. You ease the vang, the boom rises, the leech twists to leeward, and the sail instantly depowers. In a gnarly puff you should do this before the boom hits the water. When racing you need someone with their hand on the vang in these conditions. If you're singlehanding in such conditions and you know that you won't be able to quickly get to the vang, you should reef or sail a lower point of sail; also, you can ease the vang pre-emptively, creating a lot of twist and depowering the sail.

You're absolutely correct that you need to be careful easing the vang on a run, because while the vang powers up the sail it also stabilizes the sail plan laterally. Picture this: you're running in 20 knots of true breeze, with the jib or spinnaker poled out to windward. A nasty puff hits, and you blow the vang. Whoops! The boom rises, the leech twists, and the formerly balanced boat - having lost the pressure on the most leeward part of the main sail (the leech area) - immediately rolls to windward, creating lots of lee helm. The boat heads off, and you crash jibe, probably into a broach. This is why a race crew on a downwind run needs to keep a hand on the vang. They ease the vang if the boat rolls to leeward and threatens to bury the boom in a wave, but then they put the vang tension back on to keep the boat from rolling erratically to windward.
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Old 16-10-2012, 08:59   #30
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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Learn to anticipate the gusts is probably the best advice.
+1. The wind should never surprise you. Not only can you see the puffs on the water before they hit you, but with a bit of practice you will be able to tell whether they'll come in as headers or footers. Feathering up before the gust hits you has the same effect as easing the traveler. Let me say that again: FEATHERING UP BEFORE THE GUST HITS YOU HAS THE SAME EFFECT AS EASING THE TRAVELER.

Think about this from the perspective of the sail, not the helm, and you'll get it. The same thing happens to the apparent wind angle when you luff up as when you dump the traveler.

Bottom line: rounding up is a rookie mistake. Round-ups are not inevitable.
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