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Old 06-01-2018, 09:25   #1
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New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Happy New Year to you All,

I recently purchased a used Sabre 34 monohull and have some basic sailing knowledge. As everyone here is likely aware, wind conditions in New England can change quickly and last Fall I found myself in a 25-30+ knot breeze and the boat became overpowered instantly, with a lot of weather helm (sailing close to the wind at the time). I'm still new to sailing and wanted some input from the pros on what steps you would recommend taking the next time I encounter this situation. For instance, would you try to furl the Genoa first and then adjust the main, or work the opposite way? I feel like the Genoa is the drive sail on this boat but I'm not entirely sure. When reefing do you ease the sheets to make adjustments or head up? I have read enough at this point to know that you should always try to reef before you leave the mooring field, but sometimes things change and you don't have that luxury. Any steps or helpful hints on how to adjust sails and in what order would be greatly appreciated. Also, the mainsail has two reef points. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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Old 06-01-2018, 09:40   #2
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Howdy and Welcome Aboard CF OCEANA207!

The topic you raised (what to do when overpowered and experiencing weather helm and heeling) is one that has recently been discussed on CF (sometime within the last two or three months as I recall. There were many comments and suggestions posted. I recommend you take a look back through the forums as that long thread will have many good tips for you. It was started (as I recall) by someone who posed a very similar question about what to do when overpowered. The good responses came from a wide range of experienced sailors.

At the moment, I do not have a link to that previous thread/discussion. I don't keep links like that, but I will look for a moment to see if I can find the thread title to help you find it. Or perhaps another member can provide the link to you if they kept it.

In the meantime, you can do some reading of many threads on the topic of "Weather helm." Within the following list of threads I am sure you will find hours of reading and many tips and opinions. Here is a link to the list:

I hope this helps you more enjoy your new boat, sailing, and the forum.

Ahoy All Sailors! Need experienced crew for a passage or delivery in Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, Med, PNW, ICW, coastal or across an ocean anytime in 2018 or 2019? I am available on 24hr notice. See my CF Profile "About Me" page for detailed CV. Happy to lend a hand!
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Old 06-01-2018, 10:15   #3
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

There are many more here with far more skill and experience than I, but here’s my quick thoughts:

First off, weather helm is generated from the force on the sails aft of the centre point of the sail plan. On sloops this means the main. So you’ve got too much main up for the sudden wind conditions.

Assuming wind forward of the beam, what I do in your circumstances is immediately ease the sheets (main & jib), and then head off on more of a beam reach. This eases the pressures and heel.

Then I reef the headsail if needed, maintaining balance as I do. Sometime this necessitates depowering the headsail so you’re just on the edge of luffing. You don’t want to tack, but you also may need to reduce pressure on the furler.

I’m now likely headed in the wrong direction, so I have to reef the main. To do this first depower the main by easing it out so its luffing. You are now driving the boat on headsail alone.

At this point the forces are off the main so you can go ahead and put in the reef.

Once the reef is in the main, make sure the headsail is sufficiently reefed to balance it, and come back on your course.

IF you’re on a run and want to reef the main the process is the same, but you have to move up to some sort of reach so you can get the pressure off the main.
Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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Old 06-01-2018, 10:25   #4
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Not really familiar with your boat or how it's setup right now. Are you single handing? Are the sails reefable from the cockpit? Wheel or tiller, autopilot or vane? I like mikes advice for Reefing with furling. A bit different than hank. Learn how to read weather maps and systems, start checking satellite and weather reports for your extended area.
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Old 06-01-2018, 10:30   #5
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pirate Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

I guess it all depends on where its coming from.. if I am beating into the wind I tend to harden the jib, set the AP and then go forward and drop the main a couple of reefs.. head back to the cockpit and take back over, go back on course and see how she feels.. if needed I then roll in a bit of the genny..
Why a double reef..??? it saves me going back on deck again.. unless it really starts kicking up.
Beam, broad reach or running I'll do the same.. but I'll go round so as not to alter the genny apart from hardening it but instead back it and then adjust the main in a more or less hove to situation.
Some may say one can drop the main while running but I am not a fan of this.. to much cloth flapping around and snagging in the lowers with normal battens.. bludi hard work when not needed.
Play with your boat and see what suits your boat and system best in a F4/F5 to get a feel and rhythm..
Have fun..

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Old 06-01-2018, 11:04   #6
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

The first thing I do when Iím caught really overpowered is let out the sheet on my Genoa - on my boat this is where most of the juice comes from. Then the sheet on the main if necessary. Then I furl in the genoa as much as I feel is necessary, get some control and boat speed and drop the main as much as necessary.
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Old 06-01-2018, 11:12   #7
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

If headed up wind, ease the traveler but keep main sheet on to keep sail flat. If you luff up slightly the boat will slow down, weather helm will reduce and give opportunity to furl some genoa. You can let the traveler all the way out if you have to, to de-power the main. At some point you will need to reef it though.
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Old 07-01-2018, 08:27   #8
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

check the weather reports regularly , watch the sky and the sea state and , wherever possible, reef before you are in a difficult situation. As the old adage goes " if you think that you might need a reef , then you DO need a reef" it's a lot easier to shake out a reef that you don't need than to reef in strong wind. If that fails (and it will from time to time) then of course you need to have a safe method of reefing as described in previous posts.
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Old 07-01-2018, 08:30   #9
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Lots of good advice here. I would add that reefing early is the best way to avoid things getting hectic or out of control. Most of us leave it too late, know the weather is coming, or see it coming, and still don't reduce sail until the boat it getting hard to handle and our guests are getting frightened. While you're learning your boat, consider sailing with a small sail plan and having the motor running and available to keep the boat moving at an acceptable speed if the wind isn't doing it. As you get comfortable, gradually reduce the reefing, but focus more on comfort and control than speed.
To get an idea of what you can actually survive and how best to do it, it's still hard to beat the classic book "Heavy Weather Sailing" by K. Adlard Coles. If you're in the Northern Hemisphere right now, sit by the fire, stay warm, and be transported to a survival storm in the Bay of Biscay, without actually getting wet.

Good luck and enjoy your boat.
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Old 07-01-2018, 09:22   #10
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

We try to stay ahead of the power curve with situational awareness, and pay close attention to the wind and the sea state. as soon as we see whte caps we reef down, and then change down the jib or roll in the roller snarler to reduce the genny to a 110% lapper or smaller. We still need power to get thru the waves.

Actually, I double reef he main since most often the wind continues to increase is velocity, not decrease. I am done, not need to go thru a another reef. Depending on the forecast, sometimes we will triple reef the main.

As to the jib, don't forget to run the sheet blocks forward to get the best shape our of the sail. Some times we will fall off a close hualed intended course to a slight close reach.

We have no weather helm, reduced the heeling factor, and are sailing comfortably.

If the winds are strong before we leave the dock or anchorage, we reef down before shoving off.

1. pay attention to the weather conditions, forecast and visual.

2, Reef early.....white caps on the ocean starting up....reef down.

3. Reset the sheet blocks for the jib when rolling in the roller snarler.

4. When reefing down at sea,

1. Close reach if going to windward.

2. Slack off on the main sheet several feet.

3. Hual up on the topping lift to de- power the main.

4. Lower the main to the luff reefing cringle, Secure tightly.

5. Hual up tight on the Main Halyard.

6. Haul in tight on the leach reef cringle ( and I mean tight.)

7. Lower the topping lift

8 Trim both sails for your proper point of sail

9. Make up and properly secure all lines....decks and cockpit clear.

You are sailing well and life is comfortable , no weather helm, and you are having a spirited sail, and no rail buried, or extreme heeling angle, or rounding up or scaring the hell our of you and your passengers.

And if the conditions are above the the capability of the vessel or the crew do not go out.

* And those tiny reef points that run horizontally along the main from the luff to the leach, DO NOT tie them up tightly with the lines under the boom, keep em slack. Why ? Because the pressure of the wind in the main in very strong, and those tiny reef points for the cosmetics of the fall of of the sail, will rip, and the main will rip and you get to not only handle that mess under sail, but buy a new main.

We stay alert , pay attention to the weather and sea conditions, and reef early. Keep life easy and safe and the vessel under control and sailing properly . You have, no or hugely reduces weather helm,, no out of control rounding up or backing winding of of the jib, or luffing up.

The boat is sailing closer to her lines, and the wife is not screaming,
SELL THIS &%$@&* boat, along with the Divorce word at high volume.

Actually, with our sailing club, I put together a FIRST MATES COURSE for the wives , or sometimes the husbands who were not going thru the sailing courses together, Husbands trying to teach wives how to sail is not a good plan . The fist mates course was one weekend long was 16 hours and covered and they learned parts of the boat, nautical nomencalture, VHF radio, boat systems, rigging the vessel, reefing, sail handing, point of sail, coming about , jibing, docking under sail, knot tying, fire fighting, anchoring, man over board, etc.

Now when they went out sailing with their mates, the could be viable crew members, understand what was happening and actually have fun and increase the overall safety and enjoyment . As well as add to their knowledge with more experience.

Big difference that okole sitting in the cockpit, or passing up a beer, and not having a clue.

Happier sailing times for everyone.
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Old 07-01-2018, 09:32   #11
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Hove to. That is achieved by taking through the wind until the jib backs without touching the sheets then reversing the helm. The boat should now be sitting quietly and going nowhere so you are in control and have time to adjust the sails. In effect you have 'parked'. Try it on your boat to see how she does as all boat behave differently. If you are well off the wind you may want to take the sheets in a bit as you come up to the wind. With roller furling it has the added advantage that the wind in the Genoa will give you a neater furl and even if you do get a jam everything is still safe while you sort it out.
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Old 07-01-2018, 10:05   #12

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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Mike O'Reilly summarized it nicely.

We all get smacked by a squall now and then. Part of the fun, and something to alleviate the boredom of a long tedious trick on the helm :-)

Your boat is, like all other "modern" boats, TrentePieds included, fat in the waterline beam midships, has little deadrise, a fin keel and a spade rudder. Your skeg is so diminutive that it doesn't even count. TP doesn't have one at all! The consequence of that design ideom is that the difference in heel between sailing politely and being "overpressed" and ill mannered is very little. When a boat like that is heeled beyond a certain point (differs from design to design) she'll "gripe" (turn to weather) violently and become intractable. The reason for that is that she'll rise up on her lee bilge and pull her rudder out of the water. En Bref, therefore, your job, helming, is to limit the heel, at all times, to what the boat will tolerate without showing her intrinsically bad manners. The gripe can be very violent and even frightening to a novice. The boat, unless controlled, can come right over on the other tack.

So, as others have stated, your first job is to ease sheets so she'll come back up on her feet. The first sign of her griping is that the helm goes "hard", i.e. to hold course you need to haul the tiller to weather (thus, "weather helm"). If you have a wheel rather than a tiller, as you indubitably do, the "feedback" that a tiller affords you will be far less discernible, and as a novice you may not even perceive what is going on. So watch your clinometer. If you don't have one, make one. If you can't do that, and even if you can, learn to judge your heel by the mast's angle against the horizon. As you approach the tolerance limit, ease sheets handsomely. Doing so you will retain your speed and your control. Ease the sheets until the sails JUST luff, then harden just a tad. Luffing, in this sense, means that the fore-edge ("the luff") of the sails are just beginning to collapse.

A combination of astute easing of sheets and astute turning to weather will always get her back on her feet. That you have found yourself with a need to do that is a sure indication that you've LEFT REEFING TOO LATE!" Well, we all do that sometimes :-) Just keep her luffing under control until the squall passes. You are not racing, so you really have nothing to worry about, and there is no sense in stressing the gear.

Experiment with your boat. See how LITTLE sail will give you acceptable speed in various wind conditions, and make that amount of sail the "norm" for these various conditions, so that if you know, cos the weather broadcast has said so, that the wind will be "one zero knots rising to two zero during the afternoon" you wear the canvas for "two zero" as you leave the marina. You can always increase sail if the "two zero" doesn't materialize. Similarly, when you see a squall-line on the horizon, you reef THEN, not after the squall hists you.

Remember that just because you can roll your genny out to 130%, no-one will beat up on you for using only 80%, if that is what the weather requires. Quite the contrary :-)!

Roller furls are not roller reefs. No sail will set "properly" (i.e. be maximally efficient) if part-way furled. Doesn't matter. You are not racing. You don't need the last possible one tenth of a knot.

So as I said: Experiment. Discover by experimentation how much genny to wear at maximum tolerable heel for every, shall we say, 5 knot increment of apparent wind speed. You can mark your furling lines where they pass through the stoppers to achieve consistency. Play with the relative areas of main and genny to find a combination that "balances" the boat by minimizing weather helm.

Combine all that with all that was said above. The go out and practice! Experiment till you really know YOUR boat :-)!

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Old 07-01-2018, 10:11   #13
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

No two boats are the same. Figure out what works for you. I know that's not much help.
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Old 07-01-2018, 10:18   #14
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Lots of very good points and agree with them all. However, I don’t think anyone has used the back stay as as option. All depends on your set up. However, there is a very good reason you see massive multiple purchase back stays on more racing orientated rigs. Just pull it on open up the top of the main and you will depower the main. Just one more option. You have endless options. All depends on the detail of your rig and the actual conditions at the time.
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Old 07-01-2018, 14:10   #15
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Re: New boat owner - sailing in heavy wind conditions

Hi Oceana, welcome aboard!
Lots of good advice here, maybe hearing from folks with different kinds of boats you'll get the big picture. The first thing if you are caught with too much sail up like that is, as mentioned ease off everything. Then as you say, the Genoa is to be dealt with first, it should be furled to a point appropriate to the wind speed... given what you said I'd guess 75% or 60%. Then, if you want to avoid reefing and you are close to home, haul in the main till it is starting to luff and see if you can live with that till you get back.
If you decide it's time to reef, then there are a few different techniques depending on how your boat is set up and equipped. Since I have no auto pilot nor furling headsail I can say how I do it my own old school way when I am alone.
In my own boat, heaving-to won't work because once the main comes down, or is luffing generously, the boat loses its interest in rounding up and then, with that jib or Genoa backed against the shrouds, starts to head off which will eventually lead to a really dangerous gybe, unless I have the preventer vang on, and then it is just a potentially destructive slam on the vang and boom.
Now what I do, when alone, and it works OK FOR MY little 29' boat, your results may vary, is I slack both main jib sheets a bit and head off to a close reach or so. Then I let out a lot more on the main, letting it flap in the breeze. I set the tiller so that the boat is sailing herself with the jib (furled Genoa). At this point I will use something like my surgical tubing, or a tiller extension set to the right distance works too, to set the tiler angle to get the boat sailing along on a close reach or so on her own. If I have a helper I tell them to steer so the jib is just luffing (I don't have a Tillermaster.) Then I go forward (got the harness on? And your gloves!?) to drop the main, which if flapping generously will fall easily without jamming. Keeping the halyard around the drum of the winch so I don't lose the whole thing I let it drop to the cringle I want and put it on the reef hook and then pull the halyard back up so the downhaul has room to be pulled down. Then pull tight the reef line on the clew too (hopefully you have a toppiing lift or a boom gallows holding the boom up) ( and try not to catch the sail between the boom and reef line!) Meanwhile, hopefully I set the tiller angle right and the boat has been sailing along on her own with a lightly flapping jib. At this point if you have the downhaul rigged to the cockpit, it is easy to tighten up on the luff tension from there. The loose sail cloth under the reef will likely inflate into a nice tube which some folks just leave if they figure they will be shaking out the reef in a short while. If you want to gather up and tie up the material don't tie the reef lines around the boom as someone mentioned, only around the sail.. only the tack and clew should be taking the strain.

Now in MY case, if my jib is too big, this is when I reverse the process and set the boat to sail herself on the main and go about the very fun process of bringing a smaller headsail up, hanging on the lurching deck, pop the halyard on the jib, go forward and pull it down, rolling it up while I am sliding around the foredeck with cold salty water going down my neck and up the (old) cuffs, tying it off, unhanking it, and untying the sheets. (Don't let them go!) Then I hank on the smaller jib with the bag still on it, then I slip the bag off hanging on desperately to it before it parachutes itself and me off the deck, grab the clew of the sail before IT is gone from view overboard, hang on while the wind is trying to pull me and it away, with the plunging deck launching me to give the wind a little help in the conspiracy, tie the two bowlines one-handed with frozen claw hands then release the mass to the wind's will. Then I crawl back to the mast and gently tug on the halyard to unravel it from the headstay and then pull it and crank it down hard with the winch. If the jib is flapping wildly in the breeze, that is good. If it is not because the sheet got snagged on something unforeseen, then, well, I gotta get back to the helm quick, because the boat will quickly be turning downwind, heading off and running to a hard gybe in about 10 seconds. And don't forget to bring the winch handle back with you because winch handles love to snag jib sheets. And make sure you can bring your harness tether back without it getting snagged on anything in your haste! Then I settle in to the cockpit, grab the violently flogging jib sheet and crank it in till all that damn noise stops! Then I settle back with my thermos of cold coffee and soggy, salty PB & J, wipe the cold spray from my brow, and revel in the moment of old school bliss.
This, sadly for you, since you have a furling Genoa, is a joy of sailing you may never encounter

1962 Columbia 29 MKI #37
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