Another good "drill" is to set up on a close reach with the sails
With proper trim there should be practically no load on the tiller. If the boat is tending to lee, haul in the main sheet. If weathering ease the main sheet.
- practice making small adjustments only to the main to "steer" the boat. Try not to trim the jib at this time. You should be able to get to the point where you can make 10-15 degree heading adjustments with sail alone and hands off tiller for a good minute at a time. You are trying to learn how the main affects weather
and lee helm
- Do the same thing with the jib
- Later try different points of sail including close hauled
- Later (depending on conditions available) try it with reefs
in and out, genny furled or not
Some courses require learning
how to steer the boat with sails
only. I can make heading changes but I can't really "drive" the boat without tiller. Although the skills above are very important.
When you get on a new boat take a look at the sail plan. Is the main bigger than the genny? is the genny bigger than the main. Which sail will be more influential on power? Which sails likely to have more influence on lee and weather
I sail on some bigger race
boats with big sail plans. On the boat I sail as the main trimmer I work very closely with the skipper
. In most upwind conditions he cannot "steer" the boat beyond a few degrees. The sails are too powerful.
On a crossing situation if he needs to fall to lee and duck a boat I must ease the main traveler or he cannot. At the top mark he could not bear away and round the mark unless I eased the main sail.
Final thought, if you are doing all the right things to eliminate weather and lee helm and you still have the tiller over hard to control the boat, it is definitely time to think about not only reefing but how you are reefed.
Double reefing the main without taking power out of the genny will most likely result in lee helm. You need to depower the genny. Easing sheets
is the first thought but that could result in a flogging genny. OK for a very short time (minutes) but long term will destroy the sail.
Many boats have adjustable genny cars. Cars
will result in the genny twisting off more at the top spilling air and depowering. finally there are gennys with reef points and there are furling
(edit - fixed my car error - thanks Jim)
On our boat we furl the genny to 100% around 15-20kts. take teh first main reef at about 20kts. Above 25kts we furl the genny to about 60-80%. We've penetrated prettty big thunderstorms and so far have not had the second main reef in up to around 35g45kts although we have furled the genny in completely at times.
It is important to understand how your boat will respond to helm with all these different reefing options.