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Old 30-03-2013, 12:12   #1
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Broaching - where is the edge?

I believe it when I hear the greatest fear of new sailors is broaching and everyone needs to know how to avoid it. But heeling in a steady wind can be fun and exillerating if the crew and helmsman can tolerate the excitement. Question is, where is the edge and what is the point of no return?

When I was a lot younger and much more stupid the only way to find out how fast you could go through a turn without the rear tires breaking loose was to go faster and faster until the rear tires did in fact break loose. But I'm older now and I don't want to test the limits of heeling without broaching by utilizing empirical evidence.

I understand all boats are different and generalizations are hard but generally speaking in steady winds with relatively calm seas less than 2 feet, how much heeling can a modern fin keel sailboat (circa 2000 or later) under 32' tolerate without broaching? Is it 45 degrees? Is it safe to sail with the leeward rail in the water? If the leeward rail is in the water is it safe to head up to depower the sails or is easing the traveller and/or main the only best option?

Don't get me wrong. I don't intend to take it to the edge but if I know where the edge is, then it is easier to stay calm if/when things get dicey.

This question is in the context of recreational cruising - not racing.
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Old 30-03-2013, 12:23   #2
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pirate Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

Never take things to that extreme cruising if I can help it... if I'm gonna broach it'll be entering a harbour with a nasty bar in weather.. or a extra large cross sea in a gale.. but I avoid that kinda press under sail thanks...
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Old 30-03-2013, 12:33   #3
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

I know you wanted a generalization, but the answer depends hugely on the boat design. Generally, a narrower-beam boat can handle more heeling before it tries to uncontrollably round-up. Boats with wider sterns can lift their rudder earlier, and lose steering control.

Twin-rudder designs let you have steering control at greater angles of heel. The twin-rudder boats are mostly racers, but this feature is seen on some racer-cruiser style boats.

The keel style matters too. The more typical thin blade-keels will lose lift sooner when they start to be pushed sideways, and this can also result in loss of control. Of course sail trim is crucial to the equation too.

On my boat, which is probably more of a 1970-style design, we can easily sail at 30 degrees heel and remain in full control. I've only pushed it harder that this when racing under spinnaker, and we definitely start getting in trouble when we're being pushed over beyond 45 degrees (but this is because of the spinnaker being out of control).

I usually try to keep the heel under 20 degrees. At 30 degrees our rail is in the water and passengers are starting to get concerned. I usually reef before we are at this point, and the boat usually sails better (faster) closer to 20 degrees.

You should find out where you begin to lose control. On my boat it's not an abrupt transition -- the comfort zone is pretty broad. On other boats you're doing fine until you cross that line and then you might as well give up.

Heading up to depower is a good quick technique, but if you are really overpowered your headsail will probably be flogging before the main feels comfortable.
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Old 30-03-2013, 12:37   #4
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

I had a boat that had the ships bell mounted so perfectly, the bell would chime when it was time to reef.
In calmseas and steady winds your boat will probably head up into the wind before the broach. Plus her weather helm will get too much. Remember, at a certsin degree heel, the boat will just start dumping the wind and you will slow down.
My husband loves to try to touch the spreaders to the water.. me, I like a cool 20 degrees.

A racer would be the best at this question, they always are pushing a boat to her limits.

Erika
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Old 30-03-2013, 12:55   #5
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

I think in general you don't want to be sailing the typical modern, beamy, high-sided, flat-bottomed fin keeler anywhere near putting the rail under water. For one thing, even if she could get there and stay under control your speed will be a lot less and the steering much harder than with the boat flatter. On older, deeper boats with full keels, lower freeboard and swoopy shear lines you might have the side deck pretty steadily underwater on a hard beat to windward. It can be exciting sailing like that, but tiring for a long run.
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Old 30-03-2013, 12:59   #6
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
I think in general you don't want to be sailing the typical modern, beamy, high-sided, flat-bottomed fin keeler anywhere near putting the rail under water. For one thing, even if she could get there and stay under control your speed will be a lot less and the steering much harder than with the boat flatter. On older, deeper boats with full keels, lower freeboard and swoopy shear lines you might have the side deck pretty steadily underwater on a hard beat to windward. It can be exciting sailing like that, but tiring for a long run.
Good point. I probably should have added that I only sail Catalinas, Hunters, and Beneteaus.
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Old 30-03-2013, 13:21   #7
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

Our rule of thumb cruising is we take in a reef or change sails the first time we think about it unless our destination is in sight. If we don't have far to go I might hang onto sail longer, but I would definitely clear the main sheet for fast depowering if needed, assuming the traveler is already pretty well eased off and the sail flattened. Frequently if you are near the edge of too much sail you can also head off the wind a bit, ease the sails just a bit, and have a faster and more comfortable sail. At least cruising I find it is rarely worth it to point as high as possible.
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Old 30-03-2013, 14:27   #8
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

When I think about "broaching" I don't think about upwind sailing. While sailing upwind if you bury the rail excessively the boat rounds up, the sails luff, and the boat recovers. Then you'll probably take in a reef. It's no big deal.

However, while sailing on a reach if you get overpowered, especially in seas or carrying a spinnaker, the boat can heel excessively, causing the boat to begin to round up, which increases the heeling moment. Before you know it, the boat can be heeled over radically - beyond 45 degrees - which means the rudder is stalled and totally ineffective. Yet because you're no where near head to wind, the sails aren't luffing, and once the boom hits the water you can't even ease the main. That's a broach: you've basically lost control of the boat, which lays on its side and yaws, eventually recovering but maybe after you're broken some gear or (worst case) lost someone overboard or taken on some water.

There's no formulaic answer for avoiding this. To say, "don't exceed 30 degrees heel on a reach" doesn't help. You need to de-power by reefing in advance. Steer properly in waves, keeping the boat under the sails. Sail down in the puffs (the opposite of what you do when beating). Also, be ready to blow the vang - in addition to the mainsheet - in the event a broach begins to happen.
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Old 30-03-2013, 15:05   #9
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

cfarrar, you are technically correct about broaching. I could very well be wrong, but from the OP's wording I think he means when sailing hard on the wind how much heeling can the boat take before it loses control.
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Old 30-03-2013, 15:32   #10
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean Girl View Post
I had a boat that had the ships bell mounted so perfectly, the bell would chime when it was time to reef.
I have a friend I sail with quite regularly that uses the same indicator.
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Old 30-03-2013, 16:12   #11
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

cfarrar, you are totally correct.
Broaching only occurs when running/ reaching with the waves going in the same direction you are. The boat is overpowered, the boat turns and heels dramatically, rudder loses its grip and the waves roll the boat sideways...that's a broach.
Boats don't broach sailing upwind. They heel and eventually round up to windward if the heel is such that the rudder loses its grip.
This is no way to sail up wind, its wet, slow and puts tremendous strain on all the gear. If this is happening its time to bear off or reef to get the boat back "on an even keel".
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Old 30-03-2013, 16:14   #12
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

My experience in more traditional craft sans spinnaker has always been that any tendency to broach was by going too fast off the wind in larger following seas that were steepened due to some factor such as entering shallow water, a contrary current, going over a bar etc..These hull configurations may be more forgiving than the modern wide body that Kentwell describes in post #5. I suspect that those wide sterns will be much more likely to slew around and broach as the stern is lifted and driven forward by the seas as the plumb bow will tend to dig in to the trough further accentuating the turning moment. Yikes!
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Old 30-03-2013, 16:51   #13
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My experience in more traditional craft sans spinnaker has always been that any tendency to broach was by going too fast off the wind in larger following seas that were steepened due to some factor such as entering shallow water, a contrary current, going over a bar etc..These hull configurations may be more forgiving than the modern wide body that Kentwell describes in post #5. I suspect that those wide sterns will be much more likely to slew around and broach as the stern is lifted and driven forward by the seas as the plumb bow will tend to dig in to the trough further accentuating the turning moment. Yikes!
I would argue the opposite. Modern underwater designs are more hydrodynamically stable and spade rudders provide more control. Modern designs can surf without loosing control and broaching.

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Old 30-03-2013, 17:14   #14
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
cfarrar, you are technically correct about broaching. I could very well be wrong, but from the OP's wording I think he means when sailing hard on the wind how much heeling can the boat take before it loses control.
You folks are so smart...that's why I come here. Should have figured your answers would depend on point of sale. I was generally thinking anything from a beam reach to close hauled. Is the consensus that one cannot broach while sailing close hauled in steady winds and relatively calm seas no matter how much the boat heels?
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Old 30-03-2013, 17:20   #15
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Re: Broaching - where is the edge?

I agree with Dave, the modern boats have much more control and no rudder is as powerful as a spade. The only downside is that when the spade rudder stalls its finished where a skeg hung rudder(depending on design) will often give you quite a bit of warning. The barndoor rudders on a full keel boat are the least powerful.
Broaching is often thought of as simply losing control either upwind or downwind. As others have said upwind its a nothing experience, the rudder stalls and the boat heads into the wind and the rudder is good to go again. When your rudder stalls down wind things get a hell of more exciting.
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