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Old 09-10-2013, 18:22   #1
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Depowering sails

Hi all

I am teaching myself to sail (with some occasional local tutoring). I was out on the SF Bay the other day crossing the slot on a beam/broad reach. Heeling about to the rail. The wheel needed to about turned leeward almost to limit to prevent turning upwind. It was managable but I wanted to learn how best to depower sails.

I let the main out to dump wind. I had a rolling jib fully out (I think 135%). When the main was let completely out it nearly touched the the jib. As a result the main was luffing completely due I think to the wind pouring off the jib into the back of the main.

This worked mostly but I doubt it was optimal. What should I have done? Roll in jib (or is that a genoa?)? Reef main?

Again just learning and all criticism will be taken constructively. Including my vocabulary!

Cheers
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Old 09-10-2013, 18:52   #2
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Re: Depowering sails

I have been learning about this the hard way the last few weeks. Currently sailing down te West Australian coast and its all to Windward in 25 - 35 knots. Te biggest thing I have learned is that the minute your boat feels over powered you should have already reduced sail. Perfect example was a few days ago we were beating into an increasing 30 kts with about a 3m swell. We were already 24 hrs straight with this weather and I was cold wet and very tired. I thougt it wouldnt increase much more so basically did what you did and just took the pressure off the sails. Still a heap of weather helm but was managable. Put up wit it for a few hrs before the wind increased more and gave me the motivation to reduce more sail. The difference that made was amazing, the motion was smoother, I could almost steer hands off so the wind vane went back on and the sails were no longer getting hammered and we actually increased our speed !! So I learned that no matter how crap I feel I will feel better with less sail area up.

Reef early, every one always says it but its easy to let it go when you are out there.
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Old 09-10-2013, 19:11   #3
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Re: Depowering sails

Quote:
Originally Posted by nbourbaki View Post
Hi all

I am teaching myself to sail (with some occasional local tutoring). I was out on the SF Bay the other day crossing the slot on a beam/broad reach. Heeling about to the rail. The wheel needed to about turned leeward almost to limit to prevent turning upwind. It was managable but I wanted to learn how best to depower sails.

I let the main out to dump wind. I had a rolling jib fully out (I think 135%). When the main was let completely out it nearly touched the the jib. As a result the main was luffing completely due I think to the wind pouring off the jib into the back of the main.

This worked mostly but I doubt it was optimal. What should I have done? Roll in jib (or is that a genoa?)? Reef main?

Again just learning and all criticism will be taken constructively. Including my vocabulary!

Cheers
When you're heeling to the rail, it can be tremendously exciting, but since you're teaching yourself, I'm assuming you are willing to be called a beginner?

Some of the best advice that can be given to a beginner is to reef as soon as you think about it. You feel the wind pick up and notice it's harder to keep the boat on course, she heels more than she typically does -- experiment, and put in one reef first, but you're saling on San Fransisco Bay and you have to be ready to reef.

Are you by yourself? If you are, turn on your engine, give it a little power (in open space of course), point her into the wind, and also pull your headsail in some. You don't want to make a habit of this because it will eventually deform your headsail and she won't work as efficiently, but in an emergency it's the thing to do: reef your main and shorten your headsail.

If your boat has a staysail, IMO given where you sail, you should already have your sail for the staysail out on deck and hanked on. You can secure it with a bungee and raise it quickly, then pull in your main headsail completely. That does two things. In addition to giving you less canvas, it moves the "center of work" back some on the boat, which will also help in heavy conditions.

You should have a really good reefing system, understand how it works, and practice using it so you can do it quickly and easily when the need arises. If you can put a reef in easily you won't hesitate "because it's a bother." You can easily put in a reef and then shake it out when you don't need it any more.

Have you read SAILING FOR DUMMIES? I hate to recommend that title except by "dummies" they really mean "smart beginners who are going to learn all they can." It's a very good book and explains things extremely well.

When you're sailing upwind, or "beating" (which I think is the short version of 'beating your brains out -- ) -- if your boat has a centerboard, it should be down.

For an "instant fix," you're right, spilling the mainsail is a good thing. If that's your only choice, then use both sails inefficiently, or, as I said, partially furl your headsail (if you can -- you can't do that on my roller furler).
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Old 09-10-2013, 19:13   #4
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Re: Depowering sails

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
When you're heeling to the rail, it can be tremendously exciting, but since you're teaching yourself, I'm assuming you are willing to be called a beginner?

Some of the best advice that can be given to a beginner is to reef as soon as you think about it. You feel the wind pick up and notice it's harder to keep the boat on course, she heels more than she typically does -- experiment, and put in one reef first, but you're saling on San Fransisco Bay and you have to be ready to reef.

Are you by yourself? If you are, turn on your engine, give it a little power (in open space of course), point her into the wind, and also pull your headsail in some. You don't want to make a habit of this because it will eventually deform your headsail and she won't work as efficiently, but in an emergency it's the thing to do: reef your main and shorten your headsail.

If your boat has a staysail, IMO given where you sail, you should already have your sail for the staysail out on deck and hanked on. You can secure it with a bungee and raise it quickly, then pull in your main headsail completely. That does two things. In addition to giving you less canvas, it moves the "center of work" back some on the boat, which will also help in heavy conditions.

You should have a really good reefing system, understand how it works, and practice using it so you can do it quickly and easily when the need arises. If you can put a reef in easily you won't hesitate "because it's a bother." You can easily put in a reef and then shake it out when you don't need it any more.

Have you read SAILING FOR DUMMIES? I hate to recommend that title except by "dummies" they really mean "smart beginners who are going to learn all they can." It's a very good book and explains things extremely well.

When you're sailing upwind, or "beating" (which I think is the short version of 'beating your brains out -- ) -- if your boat has a centerboard, it should be down.

For an "instant fix," you're right, spilling the mainsail is a good thing. If that's your only choice, then use both sails inefficiently, or, as I said, partially furl your headsail (if you can -- you can't do that on my roller furler).

PS I meant to say that heeling to the rail is too much heel. Not only is it a sign that the boat is overpowered, but it's inefficient. The boat is moving sideways (more than typically) as well as forward.
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Old 09-10-2013, 19:15   #5
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Re: Depowering sails

There's a chart at the end of this article that might help:

Sail Trim
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Old 09-10-2013, 19:16   #6
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Re: Depowering sails

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Originally Posted by Mattyb View Post
I have been learning about this the hard way the last few weeks. Currently sailing down te West Australian coast and its all to Windward in 25 - 35 knots. Te biggest thing I have learned is that the minute your boat feels over powered you should have already reduced sail. Perfect example was a few days ago we were beating into an increasing 30 kts with about a 3m swell. We were already 24 hrs straight with this weather and I was cold wet and very tired. I thougt it wouldnt increase much more so basically did what you did and just took the pressure off the sails. Still a heap of weather helm but was managable. Put up wit it for a few hrs before the wind increased more and gave me the motivation to reduce more sail. The difference that made was amazing, the motion was smoother, I could almost steer hands off so the wind vane went back on and the sails were no longer getting hammered and we actually increased our speed !! So I learned that no matter how crap I feel I will feel better with less sail area up.

Reef early, every one always says it but its easy to let it go when you are out there.


You are absolutely right. My first boat was a little Irwin -- 25' and only 8' on the beam.

At 20 mph she was overpowered. I reefed her and she immediately settled down and it turned into a beautiful, smooth, sail.

Reefing doesn't mean you don't have the skills to handle the boat. You're redoing the sail design to match the conditions. If you think about it, when the wind is blowing at 30 kt your boat simply does not need as much wind on the sail as she does when it's only blowing 15. It isn't something that experienced sailors avoid. They DO tend ot avoid turning on the engine, but reefing is SMART.
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Old 09-10-2013, 19:57   #7
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Re: Depowering sails

1. Roll up some headsail
(as an aside, typically a "genoa" is a headsail that overlaps the mast, whereas a jib doesn't overlap) so your "135%" headsail is a genoa, not a jib.
2. Reef the mainsail

The above are the things that will have the most de-powering effect. Rolling in the headsail is generally easier than reefing the mainsail, especially if you are short-handed or solo. The disadvantage of rolling in some headsail is that your sail will progressively lose ideal shape the more you furl in. Poor shape won't matter if you are running or reaching, but if you are trying to make way to windward, it becomes very difficult.

Reefing the main should have less impact on the sail shape.

If you are only slightly overpowered, there are various things that you can do that will assist with de-powering, without necessitating reefing or furling:

1. pull on backstay, which should help to spill some of the air out of the top part of the sail.
2. pull on mainsail out-haul, which should help flatten the sail and make it less powerful
3. Put traveller all the way down (as opposed to easing sheet)
4. Slightly ease vang to spill air out of top of sail
5. Move headsail car position aft, which will flatten the sail in the lower part, but allow air to spill out of the top part

Just a few ideas...
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Old 09-10-2013, 20:08   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weyalan View Post
1. Roll up some headsail (as an aside, typically a "genoa" is a headsail that overlaps the mast, whereas a jib doesn't overlap) so your "135%" headsail is a genoa, not a jib. 2. Reef the mainsail The above are the things that will have the most de-powering effect. Rolling in the headsail is generally easier than reefing the mainsail, especially if you are short-handed or solo. The disadvantage of rolling in some headsail is that your sail will progressively lose ideal shape the more you furl in. Poor shape won't matter if you are running or reaching, but if you are trying to make way to windward, it becomes very difficult. Reefing the main should have less impact on the sail shape. If you are only slightly overpowered, there are various things that you can do that will assist with de-powering, without necessitating reefing or furling: 1. pull on backstay, which should help to spill some of the air out of the top part of the sail. 2. pull on mainsail out-haul, which should help flatten the sail and make it less powerful 3. Put traveller all the way down (as opposed to easing sheet) 4. Slightly ease vang to spill air out of top of sail 5. Move headsail car position aft, which will flatten the sail in the lower part, but allow air to spill out of the top part Just a few ideas...
Good suggestions and well organized. Thank you!
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Old 09-10-2013, 21:50   #9
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Re: Depowering sails

Many thanks to all of who responded, I have learned a lot (esp that I need to practice reefing more).

That sail trim chart is very handy, although I admit I have never adjusted the backstay tension nor even know if I can on my boat easily. I think I will tackle other techniques first!

I have another sailing basics book, but Ill look at the Dummies one (I too tend to avoid the series...Even if I perhaps qualify). I am pretty sure the boat is without a staysail, but I will investigate.

Cheers, and many many thanks.

Next I need to really master that traveller.
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Old 09-10-2013, 22:13   #10
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Re: Depowering sails

Practicing reefing is, in my opinion, very important. When conditions get nasty, and they invariably do, sooner or later, the ability to quickly and efficiently tuck in a reef or two can save your life, possibly literally. It is well worth practicing putting in and taking out reefs in lighter winds where strictly they aren't necessary - you are less likely to get into difficulties and less likely to damage sails if you practice in light breezes so that when you have to reef in strong winds you are already comfortable with the process and know what needs doing. The best time to put in a reef is definitely before you need it! So if you are out sailing and it looks as though the wind is getting up, better to put a reef in early (and possibly not need to have done so) than not put a reef in and then find oneself in a nasty situation with no reefs in!

One good way of learning how all these things work is to go sail on someone elses boat - someone who is more experienced. Lots of clubs have weekly low-key twilight races. Many clubs will maintain a list of people wanting to be crew and skippers / boats who need crew. Gettingg onto a boat with experienced crew is a great way to see first hand how all those "tricky" systems are supposed to work.
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Old 09-10-2013, 22:39   #11
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Re: Depowering sails

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Originally Posted by nbourbaki View Post
Many thanks to all of who responded, I have learned a lot (esp that I need to practice reefing more).

That sail trim chart is very handy, although I admit I have never adjusted the backstay tension nor even know if I can on my boat easily. I think I will tackle other techniques first!

I have another sailing basics book, but Ill look at the Dummies one (I too tend to avoid the series...Even if I perhaps qualify). I am pretty sure the boat is without a staysail, but I will investigate.

Cheers, and many many thanks.

Next I need to really master that traveller.

The SAILING FOR DUMMIES book is outstanding and got me out of a potentially very dangerous situation one day because it had been written so clearly. Hate the name; heartily endorse the book.
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Old 09-10-2013, 23:05   #12
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Re: Depowering sails

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... I have never adjusted the backstay tension nor even know if I can on my boat easily...
If it's a masthead rig (the forestay goes all the way to the top) then this technique is not relevant. This only applies to fractional rigs.

Chris
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Old 09-10-2013, 23:15   #13
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Re: Depowering sails

Good advice here.
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Old 10-10-2013, 03:58   #14
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When possible, I like to heave to for reefing the main. It immediately settles the motion of the boat and gives you a more stable platform from which to work. This is particularly important if you need to go forward to the mast to reef (I didn't see any mention of your reefing setup). Another huge benefit of heaving to for reefing is that you will learn more about how your boat heaves to under various wind speeds, sea states, and sail configurations.
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Old 10-10-2013, 05:30   #15
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Adjusting backstay tension applies to masthead rigs as well as fractional rigs if it is setup with backstay adjustment. Tensioning the backstay on a masthead rig bends the mast and flattens the mainsail. This along with flattening the foot of the sail with the outhaul depowers the mainsail. The next step in depowering the mainsail is to reef.
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