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Old 30-04-2013, 04:48   #1
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Beating Home Alone and oh so Slow

Hello Cruisers,

I recently had a short jaunt across the Gulf St Vincent in South Australia with three of us on board a Swanson 42. The trip over was great, did the 35 nautical miles in 6 hours pointing the whole way, nothing to complain of except one of the crew got quite seasick. The next morning we set out home, a trip due East for 35 miles, but had to turn back when the crew member became quite sick again. For various complicated reasons this meant I left both crew members on the Westerns side of the gulf (to be collected by car) and sailed home alone, into a pretty grotty Easterly. I didn't get to leave till midday so I was looking at a very late arrival, but the boat has good lighting, good auto pilot and a radar so I was not too worried, and once you are half way across the gulf you can keep all shipping traffic to the south of your path so solo navigation was not a big problem. The weather forecast was for a number of days of similar or worse conditions, so waiting around on the Western side was not a great option either.

The unexpected problem I ran into was that the wind was gusting between 18 knots and 28 knots. To reduce strain on the boat and rigging during the 28 knot blows, I reefed the main down to about half size and rolled the jib back in to give a balanced helm. This stopped me worrying about the strong gusts, but I found that between the Swanson's rather "rotund" hull form, the suprising large seas coming from directly on the bow and the fact that with the sails reefed down that much there was barely any power when the wind abated to 18 knots, I made absolutely no headway all evening, and to cut a long story short, did not get home till 5:30 in the following morning.

Looking back, I feel there must have been a better tactical approach to this one. On the face of it, it was simply a matter of beating 35 miles into strong winds in fairly undemanding expanse of water (though it can get a bit scary if there has been a Southwesterly blowing for a bit of time.). I had plenty of sea room to the North and South of my course, though the area to the South does have some shipping traffic so I was keen to avoid it. The boat was certainly up to the task, but taking nearly 18 hours to do 35 miles is horrible and left me with the unavoidable need to take short sleeps between tacks, reinforcing my desire to keep the sail area to a minimum, and slowing me down even more. Vicious circle.

What should I have done?

Thoughts and suggestions welcomed, I'd really like to avoid another night like that one.

Matt
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Old 30-04-2013, 05:53   #2
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

I should add, one thing that I have wondered about is my sail setup. I wonder if by roller reefing the jib to produce a more balanced helm I actually spoiled my overall distance made good.

Is it possible that the resulting poorly shaped jib simply provided more downwind drive than forward drive and so, while preventing excessive weather helm, also prevented making progress to windward?

Might it have been better to completely stow the jib and use a slightly larger main and accepted a fair bit of weather helm?

i have read advice on this forum suggesting that a storm jib in the position of the main is a better option than on the forward stay, and although this was not a storm condition, some of the same rules of performance might apply?

M
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Old 30-04-2013, 05:54   #3
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

Sounds like you were underpowered, except in the gusts. Might just have been a case of putting a single reef in the main or easing the main in the gusts. Or having a full main but down the traveller a bit. Either way, I think you just needed more power. The 42 is a fairly heavy boat, so underpowering it will ensure you don't go anywhere. Good comfy oat though.
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Old 01-05-2013, 00:43   #4
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

If desperate and unable to make sufficient progress to windward in variable conditions (particularly when a roller headsail is not setting well) it can help to run the engine at relatively low revs as a supplement -- particularly during the lulls.

Another dodge is to put up a bit more sail, but easing the mainsheet traveller during periods where you're overpressed (as Cherp suggests) so the front half is backwinding. The only part which needs to be 'drawing' properly is the part with the battens.

Don't whatever you do ease the headsail.

Not sure what you mean about a storm jib "in the position of the main"?

If you mean flying it on the inner forestay and rolling away the roller headsail, that's definitely a way better option than an over-reefed, baggy roller sail.
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Old 01-05-2013, 02:18   #5
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

So a VMG of about 2 knots. Thats not really too bad, given the changeable conditions and lumpy seas, I got about 2.5 vmg on average bashing into a open ocean sea, but probably in steadier winds on my roberts 34, Thats pushing fairly hard in about 20-25 knots with an angle of heal around 20-25 degree's. But she has a deep fin keel and despite her tubby looks is a fairly efficient windward shape, with a good windward rig. I tack though about 110 degrees to make 4 to 5 knots boatspeed.

If I switched to the small solent jib and rolled up the furler I would probably do better, but then I lose the ability to fine tune the sail area to suit the changing conditions..(and I probably get wet!). So I tend to stick to the furler even though it is not as efficent. It sounds like you definitely should have had the staysail set. The cutter rig is made for exactly these conditions. You can still play the main and use a scrap of furler to fine tune the performance and balance, sometimes even a couple of meters of clew unrolled can help the drive if the staysail is not quite big enough.

Getting a deep reefed furler to sheet correctly can be tricky, usually needing the car moving well forward and sometimes the sheet needs to be rerun inside the cap shrouds. It would be good to have a photo of the boat under sail to see what shape the furler is and what sort of staysail you have.

But regardless It's very painful progress, so well done for sticking it out. You can see why so many people just start the motor and motorsail, with a reefed main, and on the whole it probably costs less when you take into account the wear and tear on the sails, winches, rig and hull. And the vessel is much more comfortable with often twice the VMG. You often see even very fast racing boats motorsailing like this on deliveries.

What sort of Boatspeed and tacking angle both on the GPS and on the compass where you getting? What was the typical heeling angle? Any currents against you? How much weed is on the bottom?

I guess I would have thought you should have been getting around 4.5-5.5 knots boat speed at 110 degrees for about a 2.9 knot vmg. But then I note even IIRC adalard coles only got a 2.5 knot vmg to windward out of a 40 odd foot boat he delivered. So for a single handed long keeled cruiser in gusty conditions your progress was not so bad!
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Old 01-05-2013, 02:25   #6
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

I would have had the motor going too. Nothing helps winward performance like a motor ticking away.
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Old 01-05-2013, 03:41   #7
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Motor?

I would first try to sail with the jib rolled all the way out but seriously depowered. Lead aft to depower the top. Sheet the foot against the shrouds. Halyard tight. Backstay or runners on hard. Depower the main with one reef, outhaul hard, traveller down. Halyard or Cunningham hard. The main sheet tight but not so tight as to remove all twist. The main may be flogged in the gusts. Sail on the jib telltails.

Partially furled headsails are nearly worthless for windward progress. Sorry. Even with foam luffs. Because its all about reducing drag.

If the heeling and bashing is too much. Or the headsail is going to be overstressed (likely for genoas over 25kts)and you cannot change headsails then yes ...

Furl the headsail and turn on the motor. Maybe strike the main too.
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Old 01-05-2013, 04:06   #8
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

No great advice, except that I probably would have experimented a bit on the sails - but likely would have done the same as you! A PITA for sure, but slow and certain progress with likely no surprises does have much to commend it.
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:10   #9
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

I would have motored.

But did you consider changing your course instead of trying to staright direct?
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:15   #10
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

Apologies if this is stating the obvious, but steering also makes a difference, and when frustrated with VMG to windward some folks try and point too high. You want to achieve boat speed first (whatever that might be) then optimize the angle to windward. To steer in the waves 1) get the boat moving at its potential speed, 2) head up slightly into the face of the wave, and 3) head off slightly down the backside to regain speed.

Good points above, concerning deeply roller-furled jibs. It sounds like you want to carry more jib and play the traveller in the gusts.
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:20   #11
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Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

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Originally Posted by Cherp View Post
I would have had the motor going too. Nothing helps winward performance like a motor ticking away.
Motorsail to speed things up.
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:38   #12
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pirate Re: Beating home alone and oh so slow

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Motorsail to speed things up.
+A1 With such short distances... also longer shallower tacks for comfort.. getting there is the aim.. not how quickly..
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:49   #13
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Re: Beating Home Alone and oh so Slow

Another vote for the Iron Jenny
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:34   #14
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Re: Beating Home Alone and oh so Slow

A gent from down under once told me that a sailing voyage description should sound like this: We went, it was nice. We had a good time.

In other words, wait for the weather to be right or go somewhere else.

The right thing to do is simple. It is however, not always possible, and it's almost never easy.
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:36   #15
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Re: Beating Home Alone and oh so Slow

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Motor?

I would first try to sail with the jib rolled all the way out but seriously depowered. Lead aft to depower the top. Sheet the foot against the shrouds. Halyard tight. Backstay or runners on hard. Depower the main with one reef, outhaul hard, traveller down. Halyard or Cunningham hard. The main sheet tight but not so tight as to remove all twist. The main may be flogged in the gusts. Sail on the jib telltails.

Partially furled headsails are nearly worthless for windward progress. Sorry. Even with foam luffs. Because its all about reducing drag.

If the heeling and bashing is too much. Or the headsail is going to be overstressed (likely for genoas over 25kts)and you cannot change headsails then yes ...

Furl the headsail and turn on the motor. Maybe strike the main too.
When motoring I almost always leave at least a partial main set. It stabilizes the boat so nicely and lets you use less fuel. The only time I'd strike it is if I was going to just bash into the teeth of the wind, but that's something I really hate doing.
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