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Old 15-10-2012, 08:56   #1
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Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

I was out sailing with my wife and kids on a beautiful day aboard our Hunter 31. The wind was out of the east at 8-12 Kns with calm lake water. On our way back to the marina, my wife at the helm, we were hit with a gust that healed us over hard. My wife freaked and was yelling at me, "What do I do !" I told her to hold on as I let the traveler down (the line was right next to me). We continued to rounded up a bit, but quickly flattened out and returned to normal. Unfortunately the Mrs. was pi#$%! She asked what she could have done differently and why I couldn't help her more quickly (keep in mind this entire incident was over in less than 10 seconds, I didn't have time to pop the main sheet if I wanted to). Keeping a somewhat calm head I tried to relax her. I later printed out a bunch of stuff from the web for her to read on the topic, she actually was very appreciative.

So here is the question for the forum. If overpowered in a gust while sailing on a beam reach what would be your preferred reaction at the helm. Consider yourself alone in this situation. I would like to concentrate on the helm reaction in the first seconds of being healed. If you chose to grab a sheet you will round up instantly. I believe the traditional thought is to allow the boat to head up spill wind and then make adjustments.

Here is another approach that I would like feedback on. I have played with bearing off if the rudder and I have enough power to overcome the force of the wind. Keeping the boat "under" the sails and the wind aft of the mast rights the boat more quickly and turns the guest into forward momentum. Then the sails can be adjusted. Another thought is as the gust hits the apparent wind moves aft, if you allow the boat to round up you have a good way to go before the wind spills, the whole time the pivoting force is healing you even more ! Of course if the gust is so strong then you will not be able to keep the bow down but only allow the boat to round up more slowly as sail adjustments are made. 1- What are other views on bearing away vs heading up if you were sailing alone in a mono hull (on a cat I believe the conventional wisdom is to always bear away). 2- If you are with a less experienced helmsman and they ask you what should they do in that instant, would you tell them to hold the course as you made adjustments, tell them to head up, try to bear away or something completely different ?. Thank You all for your thoughts and incite.
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Old 15-10-2012, 09:46   #2
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

If the mono is properly designed,will have weather helm on a reach, which means if you let go of the helm, it will round up by itself and spill the wind from the sails. The weather helm increases with the angle of heel.

If you are on the helm and try to head off, you are fighting the natural forces on the boat. If you are heeled hard, it will take so much rudder angle to bear off that when you do and flatten the boat, you are likely to gybe--bad idea!

Easing the traveler is a better and faster way of responding to gusts, and that is why there is a main trimmer on racing boats. The crew is also looking out for gusts, so helmsman can anticipate them and feather the boat more into the wind as they hit, instead of after.
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Old 15-10-2012, 09:52   #3
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Luff up a bit is the easy way. Tell your wife that IF she freaked and panicked LET GO OF THE TILLER NOW... The vessel will round up and if really knocked down may even tack, be ready for that...

Believe it or not some folks just aren't meant to be sailors...My wife's an example...I love her and she loves gunk holing around in good weather, but in a blow I'd rather she be on shore. And believe me so would she. It's best for all concerned...
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Old 15-10-2012, 10:23   #4
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Dump the traveller, if necessary dump the mainsheet (an instinctive reaction to anyone who grew up sailing dinghies as I did), and, yes, let the boat luff up a bit if necessary.

Every boat is different, however. On my boat, the traveller doesn't have a large effect in a gust, and the mainsheet is controlled from the coach roof -- far from the helm. I will have crew standing by at the mainsheet winch in difficult, gusty conditions, but often I just have to gut it out, let the boat sort herself out by heeling and spilling wind that way.

If you're really on a beam reach, you have to round up quite a lot before you start luffing, and this creates its own problems.

In gusty conditions I try to be reefed to the right size, and keep the mainsail flat (using tight halyard, outhaul, and vang) to minimize distress -- excessive heeling and weather helm -- in gusts. It helps to make sure the backstay is not too loose, as well.
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Old 15-10-2012, 13:56   #5
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Thanks for your replies...

Dockhead- I think you understand my point exactly. When alone or nearly alone spilling the mainsheet while diving uphill is sometimes too difficult to do quickly. You just have to ride it out then make adjustments. Your comment... "If you're really on a beam reach, you have to round up quite a lot before you start luffing, and this creates its own problems." is so true. This is the point of the post. Rounding up that much can be problematic. Letting go of the tiller in such a situation and the boat would have rounded up so fast there is no doubt she would have tacked and threw us over the other way and potentially spun out of control. Weather you can fight her down wind or are forced up I think positive control of the helm is a must.

rtbates- You are right about sailors, except we were out on a perfect day. It was a freak gust and completely unexpected.

donradcliffe- Accidental gybe would be a real concern. I have found that if you can get the boat to point further down it is slow going and control is not difficult to maintain, however your point is well noted!

Think about getting hit with a gust while heading down wind (broad reach) and you start to round. Wouldn't you keep the bow down? What tweaks would you make to the sails ?
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Old 15-10-2012, 14:07   #6
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_Maler View Post

Think about getting hit with a gust while heading down wind (broad reach) and you start to round. Wouldn't you keep the bow down? What tweaks would you make to the sails ?
That's easier - with the wind abaft the beam, you just head off. This is much less problematic. Of course you have to be d*mned careful not to get your self into an accidental gybe, but the further off the wind you are, the less heeling force and less drama, in strong conditions. Apparent wind speed goes down, too.
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Old 15-10-2012, 14:43   #7
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I was nailed in the same manner with the wind aft of beam. My mistake was I had too much main out, was only blowing 12knts. When the gust hit my first instinct was to keep her from rounding up, but was suddenly over to the gunnels. I just let go the helm and she pointed windward and I was able to reef the main and tack around and go my merry way. This was a valuable lesson for as I was solo did not know my boat well, but this is how we learn sometimes.
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Old 15-10-2012, 14:47   #8
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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.
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Old 15-10-2012, 14:54   #9
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

You've got the idea about what to do with the helm.

You should have a hand on the traveller control, and someone should be able to get to the mainsheet quickly (hard on many boats, including mine). Additionally, if it's looking ugly you'll need to release the vang, because once the boom hits the water you won't be able to ease it out, so allowing the boom to rise up is the only way to depower the sail. Review this in your mind next time you're reaching in a breeze, and you'll be mentally prepared.
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Old 15-10-2012, 14:58   #10
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

hang on (stay on the boat)
hold course till gust is over
let some sail out
reduce sail
bear away once you can
scream for your mommy
cry
puke
down the sails and start the engie and head home
laugh and smile
watch as your book slides off the cabin into the water

all things I've doe (except for puke) in reaction to rounding up i gusty conditions

now I tend to reduce sail area once I start hitting 15 degrees heel if it is gusting out, slows me down 1/2 knot but everyone is happier
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Old 15-10-2012, 15:07   #11
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

Another point on boats with a larger jib / smaller main rig (like my mid-80s IOR cruiser), is to keep the jib size under control. This is because it is harder to adjust the size of the jib than the main (given you lose shape when you furl) when under sail, and it takes longer to ease the jib in a gust. A big genoa can cause a lot of heel in a gust.
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Old 15-10-2012, 15:12   #12
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I am a new sailor myself and I can say that information and experience have been the key. I have read enough to know what is acceptable heeling, as well as how to react. However, it was finding myself in the conditions you describe, and living through it, that finally increased my comfort level. In medium conditions, I have experimented with rounding up versus letting out the mainsheet, rounding up versus falling off, so that I know I have options if the shore or another boat is nearby. When there aren't any gusts around, I do sailing in the groove drills to feel the wind. I still don't want to test the fact that in theory we could have a complete knockdown and still recover, but I know that the boat design and wind dynamics are working in my favor.

Unfortunately, on our trailer sailor the porta potty can come out of its niche when you put the rail in the water. The good news is that it doesn't leak.
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Old 15-10-2012, 15:19   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenhand
I am a new sailor myself and I can say that information and experience have been the key. I have read enough to know what is acceptable heeling, as well as how to react. However, it was finding myself in the conditions you describe, and living through it, that finally increased my comfort level. In medium conditions, I have experimented with rounding up versus letting out the mainsheet, rounding up versus falling off, so that I know I have options if the shore or another boat is nearby. When there aren't any gusts around, I do sailing in the groove drills to feel the wind. I still don't want to test the fact that in theory we could have a complete knockdown and still recover, but I know that the boat design and wind dynamics are working in my favor.

Unfortunately, on our trailer sailor the porta potty can come out of its niche when you put the rail in the water. The good news is that it doesn't leak.
Oh yea the holding tank! That's a whole other subject!
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Old 15-10-2012, 16:34   #14
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

g'Day all,


Back to an earlier statement that if the helm is released one might continue to round up and even tack... with the inference that this was a really bad thing.

Well, IMO if the jib is still sheeted in it is fairly unlikely to tack, and if it should actually do so, why then you are in the classic "hove to" condition. This may not have been what you intended, but it leaves you with very little boat speed, good stability, smaller heel angles, and if it is needed, an easy situation in which to put in a reef.

Seems like a good outcome to me!

And while thinking about this occurrence, the tendency to round up uncontrollably in gusts is likely a side effect of the wide beam being carried so far aft (as in many of the current generation of production boats). With this configuration, as the boat heels the upper part of the rudder comes out of the water, and air may be sucked down the leeward side (called ventilation, I think). Also, at large heel angles some of the force generated by the rudder tends to lift the stern (rather than turning it) even further exacerbating the condition. The combination of reduced immersed area, ventilation and poorer thrust vectors causes loss of control and... up she goes into the wind!

This syndrome is the cost of that big aft cabin in a 30+ foot boat!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 15-10-2012, 18:43   #15
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Re: Rounding Up... Other Tactics & Questions

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Originally Posted by Rich_Maler View Post

So here is the question for the forum. If overpowered in a gust while sailing on a beam reach what would be your preferred reaction at the helm. Consider yourself alone in this situation. I would like to concentrate on the helm reaction in the first seconds of being healed. If you chose to grab a sheet you will round up instantly. I believe the traditional thought is to allow the boat to head up spill wind and then make adjustments.
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.
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