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Old 08-11-2012, 17:12   #1
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Following Seas Dangers?

I've read many times and heard many people talk about sailing TOO fast when reaching downwind, even under bare poles. I just assumed they were reffering to the possibility of pitch-poling. However, not many threads here mention that. They do mention Fast Rounding-Up and Broaching.

I've been caught in 2 gales which made for exillerating runs to safe coves downwind. Never did I feel like the bow was gonna dive even with the incredibly steep waves. My problem was the rolling action and how fast the boat would round-up if I wasn't paying attention. The dangerous part in my situation was how fast I needed manauver in close quarters, and leave the helm to get the anchor dropped and set (and do the other 1000 things that need to be coordinated at the same time) before knocking into something. Arrg!

I would like some input as to why those people would say sailing too fast is "dangerous". Is there a dynamic about planing, surfing, and hullspeed that makes it dangerous?

In this scenerio, when they say broaching, do people mean waves are breaking over the stern?
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Old 08-11-2012, 17:23   #2
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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In this scenerio, when they say broaching, do people mean waves are breaking over the stern?
No. We call that getting "pooped."

A broach would involved rounding up into the wind and following seas, a situation where you'd be putting the rail down into the water with the hull sideways to the swell. Not something you want to do in a breaking wave.

You know you're broaching when the stern tries to out-race the bow. This is why some sailors deploy drogues, to slow the stern down.

Welcome to the forum, by the way.
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Old 08-11-2012, 17:30   #3
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

To help others understand your question, perhaps you could describe what boat you sail, and where?
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Old 08-11-2012, 17:44   #4
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

Pitch poling occurs form seas, not from winds.... not directly anyway. It's pretty rare, most boats will broach and roll. It has occurred numerous times in the southern ocean between Tonga and NZ though.
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Old 08-11-2012, 19:31   #5
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

My first real lesson about broaching into following seas happened in 50+ of breeze but no breaking waves. Having too much main up prevented me from turning back downwind and kept me pinned on the wave face surfing. I had no alternative but to warn the crew, turn into the wave and jump over the back. After reefing down to the third reef and the staysail, we were able to finish the passage. Later I found that just flying the staysail offwind was even more controllable and still very fast.
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Old 08-11-2012, 20:14   #6
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

The problem with going too fast in a sailboat is if one has to turn, the boat will list away from the turn and may get swamped or worse and broach. Unlike powerboats that list into a turn when under power.

If you're on the downhill side of a wave and begin to broach, it pushes the keel out from underneath the boat causing it to roll (wing keels are worse) and if the wave is big enough the boat could go completely over. And if you have sails up the turn can become out of control.
One has to keep the boat in a forward motion and if it turns too quick it could stall like an airplane and fall.

That's why they make drogues to keep the boat under control. As well you don't want to dive into the next wave. The designed positive buoyancy of the vessel has to prevail. If the waves get really steep then it's time for a sea anchor and sit it out.
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Old 08-11-2012, 20:50   #7
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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No. We call that getting "pooped."

A broach would involved rounding up into the wind and following seas, a situation where you'd be putting the rail down into the water with the hull sideways to the swell. Not something you want to do in a breaking wave.

You know you're broaching when the stern tries to out-race the bow. This is why some sailors deploy drogues, to slow the stern down.

Welcome to the forum, by the way.

That happened to me when I was first sailing. It wasn't extreme weather but the boat was over-powered -- and I could not get my sailing companion to spill the sails. She thought the boat's repeated attempts at broaching was ... fun ... and thought I was acting like an old granny to try to prevent it.

Within a week that boat had a FUNCTIONAL reefing system on it. But I think it will have been a great advantage one day to have experience that in a smaller, lighter boat, and know the warning signs in my bones.
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Old 08-11-2012, 21:52   #8
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

Go racing on other peoples boats if you want to practice. My very first race ever had the mast horizontal to the water. That wasn't the only time it happened.
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Old 08-11-2012, 22:05   #9
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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Originally Posted by jared View Post
I've read many times and heard many people talk about sailing TOO fast when reaching downwind, even under bare poles. I just assumed they were reffering to the possibility of pitch-poling. However, not many threads here mention that. They do mention Fast Rounding-Up and Broaching.

I've been caught in 2 gales which made for exillerating runs to safe coves downwind. Never did I feel like the bow was gonna dive even with the incredibly steep waves. My problem was the rolling action and how fast the boat would round-up if I wasn't paying attention. The dangerous part in my situation was how fast I needed manauver in close quarters, and leave the helm to get the anchor dropped and set (and do the other 1000 things that need to be coordinated at the same time) before knocking into something. Arrg!

I would like some input as to why those people would say sailing too fast is "dangerous". Is there a dynamic about planing, surfing, and hullspeed that makes it dangerous?

In this scenerio, when they say broaching, do people mean waves are breaking over the stern?

As long as you can alternate drivers and have the stamina to keep up the focus, go for it. Round up and lay your boat over you will remember it when the next wave follows it up. Knockdowns with kites up will put a lot of srtrain on your rig.
Round down and gybe and your rig will remember it. Very bad results. Crew and everything else will become frisbees below. Next wave could pin you down. Night driving in a big sea way with too much speed, losing your horizon reference on a black night should give you reason to slow down...and maintain control
Delivered a J-160 from Curacao to the Canal and she would surf up to the next wave, wiggle the wheel and back out of it and surf up the next and so on. Top SOG was 19.3. Night time we reefed and maintained total control... We also had 4 good drivers that alternated every hour, day and night in the breezy conditions. Slow is always safer. not too slow....
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Old 08-11-2012, 22:19   #10
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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I've read many times and heard many people talk about sailing TOO fast when reaching downwind,breaking over the stern?
PS- Fully crewed race boats reaching with kites in a good breeze will/should move all crew/sails (weight) aft to keep the rudder in the water.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:17   #11
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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PS- Fully crewed race boats reaching with kites in a good breeze will/should move all crew/sails (weight) aft to keep the rudder in the water.

Very clear and concise.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:45   #12
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

An advantage of a center board in broaching conditions, is to simply raise it. Your possibiliy of tripping on your keel, then broaching and rolling is substantially reduced.
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Old 09-11-2012, 10:13   #13
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

Just in general the things I don't like about following seas:

- They tend to sneak up on you a bit and although it's sailing 101, people still tend to let it get way too strong before they reef or drop sail when going downwind.
- Reefing can be down right impossible downwind unless you have a winch on the boom. Round up? Yeah, right. Try that and tell me how it worked for you.
- Actively steering around the waves is a pain in the ass and exhausts helmsmen.
- I feel safer holding a loaded firearm than having a mainsail up in a bumpy following sea, preventer or otherwise.

I've never gotten a chance to sail downwind with a manual windvane, but that might change some of my opinions especially regarding the exhaustion at the helm.
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Old 09-11-2012, 10:18   #14
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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Just in general the things I don't like about following seas:

- They tend to sneak up on you a bit and although it's sailing 101, people still tend to let it get way too strong before they reef or drop sail when going downwind.
- Reefing can be down right impossible downwind unless you have a winch on the boom. Round up? Yeah, right. Try that and tell me how it worked for you.
- Actively steering around the waves is a pain in the ass and exhausts helmsmen.
- I feel safer holding a loaded firearm than having a mainsail up in a bumpy following sea, preventer or otherwise.

I've never gotten a chance to sail downwind with a manual windvane, but that might change some of my opinions especially regarding the exhaustion at the helm.
manual windvane???
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Old 09-11-2012, 10:19   #15
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Re: Following Seas Dangers?

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I've been caught in 2 gales which made for exillerating runs to safe coves downwind.
Kind of like this?
By the way the Vendee Globe 2012/13 kicks of on Sat. Nov. 10...

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