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Old 09-01-2018, 17:33   #31
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Virgin Islands
Boat: 1999 Leopard 45, 45 foot cat, 1980 Hunter 33, 33 foot monohull
Posts: 594
Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Lots of good points, but I don't think these were mentioned, perhaps because they are so specific to how various boats are rigged.

1 Weather helm is commonly blamed on the center of effort being aft of the center of lateral resistance - hence reef the main. Whilst that is certainly true, a lot of weather helm comes from heeling too much, which throws the drive of the boat (the sails) way outboard. This spins the boat, just like rowing with only one oar. Decreasing heel, by any means, can solve this, and it's often easiest to simply take a few turns on your roller furler, if you have one. Less sail, less heel, less weather helm, and a very easy solution, to boot.

2. The larger main on a fractionally rigged boat can often drive the boat under perfect control, without a jib. A masthead rig, with a high aspect main and driven mostly by the jib, is much less effective doing this. The fractionally rigged boat with the larger main allows you to simply furl or drop the jib and proceed under perfect control with just the main. Again, an easy solution, but it is IMPERATIVE to ease the main. It is now sailing in clean wind whose direction has not been changed by the jib. So, to sail just as close to the wind as with full sail, you need to ease the main, as the wind it sees is more free. If you don't adjust the jib, you will stall or go sideways.

3. A main that is designed to be stowed in a cradle often likes it's clew cringle to ride several inches above the boom, not snugged down right on the boom as used to be universally correct. The shape is much better, and if you tighten the clew too much, you can actually rip the clew patch. So, experiment exactly where is best, or ask your sailmaker. Mine, for example, is best about eight inches above the boom.

Nothing like sailing in big wind with only the right amount of sail up. The boat goes like a witch, with perfect helm control. And, it's amazing how early most boats can be reefed, without loosing speed.

Look at it this way: for a boat to be a good sailor, it must have enough sail area to sail in light wind. If that is the case, pretty much as soon as the wind gets up, it's time to reef. Like changing gears in a car when you go up a hill. The corollary is that most boats that "can carry full sail" up to a considerable wind speed, say 25 knots, are dogs in anything like light winds. It's not bad to have a "tender" boat, for that reason. Otherwise, have a good engine!
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