I'm one of those sailors that believes a heel belongs on your shoe and not on your boat. I try to keep it to 10 degrees myself. Five degrees means I don't worry about my drink spilling in the cup holder.
A holdover to the days of tall ships using the trade
winds, most boats are designed to be the most effective in a 13.8 knot
wind heeling at less than 15 degrees. After that you begin to loose efficiency, so keeping all your sails
up serves no purpose.
When I bought my boat, the previous owner was very into racing
(unlike me) and my 25 O'Day is what I would call over sheeted. I find that starting my day reefed in is the best idea. If the winds are really light it's easier to un-reef in calm winds than to reef in a blow. In a 15 knot
wind, reefed to the first spot keeps us under 10 degrees and traveling very close to hull speed
(depending of course on tack).
The part that worries me more than suffering a knock-down is the more immediate problem of losing helm
control. That begins fairly soon with excessive heel. That must have been a real thrill at over 40 degrees. Bet that rudder
weighed a ton!
I had a similar experience once coming around Prudence Island. We were sailing along on an almost even keel
when we hit a gust. Nearly put the rail in the water
. The wife was on the wrong side of the boat and it threw her off balance. She grabbed the only thing she could which unfortunately was the tiller. I'm yelling LET GO and she's hanging on tighter for dear life. Now that was fun.
Narragansett Bay is a wonderful place to sail, but as you know it's also full of little surprises when it comes to wind velocity. I remember coming out of Wickford Cove under the main only. Nice day, light wind, calm seas. All of a sudden from out of nowhere a gust came up and I'm 25 degrees over with nothing but a full main up. I can only thank God I hadn't set the jib
yet. That could have very well been a knock-down.
when on the bay is, under sheet to begin, add sail as needed and ALWAYS allow a margin for those little blasts. I keep a keen eye on the water ahead when sailing around any land mass that can hide an increase in wind speed. It's pretty easy to spot them on the bay. Keep in mind that bay sailing is different than open water. The land shapes and forms the wind and knowing those spots can make a day's sail far safer and pleasant. Keeping the line handy for a quick release on the main is also not a bad idea especially when rounding an island with hidden wind currents. When sailing solo I run the jib
line across the cockpit
for a quick release there too. I would much rather luff the sails than discover how well my cockpit
If you see a red hulled 25 O'Day someday on the bay with the main reefed and sailing flat ... sail over and say Hi! There's not many red boats on the bay. The only other one I know is Starlight and she's a 30 foot. I always monitor
ch 16. We're always happy to make new friends.