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Old 21-05-2013, 12:01   #1
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Overpowered on a lake

Somewhat dread to ask for critique , but here goes. Boat: 23 O'day

Was on a local AZ lake last Sunday, and had just made the decision to drop sails and motor in to launch ramp. I turned north into the wind (approx 5 mph) while under outboard power, brought the boom in centerline while jib sheet was still on a starboard tack. At that moment, the wind rose to a sustained 20-25 mph in about 5- 10 seconds. I had time to sit down take the tiller. No visible clues, clear blue sky etc. Completely overpowered the motor, turned me 180 and sent me on a dead run south.

Experiencing pretty good heel and with no traffic around, I let out the boom and decided to give the boats it's head so to speak. Mainsheet full out on the port side and jib out on starboard but somewhat tangled with starboard stay. Mildly entertaining except I didn't want to go that direction or that fast.

I decided to drop the jib first as it was caught on a stay and didn't want it to release unexpected, which I did and then the mainsail. Broke a few plastic slugs in the process. Quickly tied the sails off and then brought the boat around. Even without the sails I was still being pushed heavily and a mild 1-2 degree heel. Approx 2 ft waves and white caps with spray most of the way into dock which was a 25 min trip.

My burning question was what is the best method to handle this type of situation? Reading different opinions, I think loosening the boom vang (no traveler) first would have depowered more to allow lowering the mainsail first then the jib. Would this be more correct?

(Checking the lake wind gust history on the internet after I returned home saw a recorded 23 mph.)

Thanks to all that don't beat me up too much.
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:07   #2
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conair1 View Post
Somewhat dread to ask for critique , but here goes. Boat: 23 O'day

Was on a local AZ lake last Sunday, and had just made the decision to drop sails and motor in to launch ramp. I turned north into the wind (approx 5 mph) while under outboard power, brought the boom in centerline while jib sheet was still on a starboard tack. At that moment, the wind rose to a sustained 20-25 mph in about 5- 10 seconds. I had time to sit down take the tiller. No visible clues, clear blue sky etc. Completely overpowered the motor, turned me 180 and sent me on a dead run south.

Experiencing pretty good heel and with no traffic around, I let out the boom and decided to give the boats it's head so to speak. Mainsheet full out on the port side and jib out on starboard but somewhat tangled with starboard stay. Mildly entertaining except I didn't want to go that direction or that fast.

I decided to drop the jib first as it was caught on a stay and didn't want it to release unexpected, which I did and then the mainsail. Broke a few plastic slugs in the process. Quickly tied the sails off and then brought the boat around. Even without the sails I was still being pushed heavily and a mild 1-2 degree heel. Approx 2 ft waves and white caps with spray most of the way into dock which was a 25 min trip.

My burning question was what is the best method to handle this type of situation? Reading different opinions, I think loosening the boom vang (no traveler) first would have depowered more to allow lowering the mainsail first then the jib. Would this be more correct?

(Checking the lake wind gust history on the internet after I returned home saw a recorded 23 mph.)

Thanks to all that don't beat me up too much.

If you don't have a traveler, then my first instinct would be to spill the mainsail by letting the sheet out, but that will only help if you don't run with the wind behind you. Using your sails inefficiently (ex: deliberate sail twist) can help.

It happens here too. All of a sudden you have lots of wind, and no visual cue that it was coming. At a former 5 mph and getting ready to do other things you wouldn't necessarily notice any water surface changes, but even those might not clue to the strength of the wind coming your way.
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:27   #3
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Did you have your centreboard up? Just that this behaviour is a bit confusing, normally boats only want to round up or broach to in gusts.
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:30   #4
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Thanks for checking. I still had the centerboard full down. I haven't enough experience with the boat to know what it's tendancies are.
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:33   #5
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Not entirely clear from your description, was the jib on the starboard side or on the starboard tack? IE. was it backwinded by the gust?
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:41   #6
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Hi - Well now I'm questioning my own memory. While on the run, the jib was on the starboard side, (line and a small portion of the sail caught on starboard stay) powered as much as it could be. I'm pretty sure last jib set (before wind) was on a port tack which differs from original post.
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:44   #7
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

And when you were gusted, did the boat make the 180 turn to port or starboard?
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Old 21-05-2013, 12:45   #8
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

To Port, rather dramatically
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Old 21-05-2013, 13:03   #9
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Right. I think the problem was that as you left the jib sheeted on the starboard side when you went head to wind, it got backwinded by the gust, which would force the bow away from the wind (it's a technique sometimes used to help turn the boat through a tack). As you turn further from the wind, a backwinded jib will just produce more and more force, and unless you correct it you will just end up heading further downwind. It sounds like you ended up on a dead run, with the jib gybed back over but the main still on port leaving you goose-winged. Does this sound plausible?

Cure: release jib sheet from starboard side, then sheet in main to produce force at the back of the boat to luff her up. Assist and control with tiller.

Prevention: always release jib sheets before going head to wind and letting the sails flog. Otherwise, you're just making the same moves as for a tack assisted by backwinding.

I'm not the most experienced sailor myself, and I always worry about exploring new and exciting (read 'scary') corners of a boats performance envelope! Don't worry about it, no-one hurt and no bad damage done. Best way of learning is by making mistakes and all that! The boat can't use that technique to get you again, and the more experienced you get the harder it is for her to think of new ways of spoiling your day!
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Old 22-05-2013, 00:13   #10
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Not sure if you had room for this, but if you did, you could release the main, steer back into the wind and end up hove-to. Then drop the main, release jib sheet, motor head-to-wind, drop jib and dock
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Old 22-05-2013, 05:27   #11
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

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Originally Posted by Conair1 View Post
I turned north into the wind (approx 5 mph) while under outboard power, brought the boom in centerline while jib sheet was still on a starboard tack. At that moment, the wind rose to a sustained 20-25 mph in about 5- 10 seconds. I had time to sit down take the tiller. No visible clues, clear blue sky etc. Completely overpowered the motor, turned me 180 and sent me on a dead run south.

Experiencing pretty good heel and with no traffic around, I let out the boom and decided to give the boats it's head so to speak.
Hey Conair,

My take is that you got caught by a wind change / gust which in my experience will happen often lake sailing with hills around, more so near the shore.

Try to look at the water a bit further off (or trees, grass) and not get fixated on the boat, i dont remember having 20kn gusts that dont make a noticeable difference in the water surface.

If you had noticed that coming you would have made another decision on how to handle dropping the sails.

Happy sailing,
Shane
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Old 22-05-2013, 05:47   #12
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

Knowing how to heave to is almost essential for dropping the main safely, particularly if the motor fails, or if you don't have a strong crew: as Red Herring points out, if you've got the jib aback you're already most of the way there: it's a matter of moving the tiller to whichever side of the boat makes it more parallel to the foot of the jib and lashing it there with whatever comes to hand.

Being hove to means you'll have to fight the main to get it down if it's blowing, because you won't lie head to wind or even near it, which means the sail and particularly the battens will be blown forcibly against the lee rigging, but by bringing the boom in over the quarter, standing up on the cockpit seats, and hauling the leech aft, you can usually relieve the pressure enough on a small boat for someone at the luff to be able to haul it down by putting one hand either side of the cloth and squeezing before pulling down with both hands (from below, probably best done lying down if the boom is really low). If the sail has slugs, it may be easier to try and work them down the groove.

Pulling on the reef cringles is the way to go, .... until they run out. Serious boats sometimes fit extra cringles above the top reef purely to enable getting the main down in really bad weather.

Heaving-to will keep the boat safely on a relatively constant heading, and certainly stop it being driven off downwind again, and is an essential skill for dealing with a whole slew of minor and major contingencies (from staying out of trouble when unsure of a bigger boat's intentions, to coping with a broken rudder).

PS: I think europaflyer probably nailed the explanation of why you got spat off downwind, like a spurned lover....
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Old 22-05-2013, 06:17   #13
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

it is fun and easy to watch the signs of wind coming at you---they are easy to see and they mean stuff..like--BIG WIND COMING..these signs are easier to see on a lake than in a gulf or ocean, and they are always there. hard to see em at night.

arizona is known for big winds suddenly--is desert and this is wind season.

ditch main first and sail on a bit of jib.

watch closely for those signs of big winds when you are sailing on a lake or anywhere..they ARE there

in florida the signs are just as readable as in arizona. i saw em and so did the others sailing with us.....easily read if you know what to look for. with actual [practice you will know what to look for in weather changes....doesnt take long and doesnt take much practice.
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Old 22-05-2013, 06:51   #14
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

The lakes in AZ can be tricky. The winds drop off the terrain right onto the water. Like a microburst of swiftly descending mass of air. The terrain is not much rolling hills, most is sheer canyon walls, mesas, and buttes. I'm going to guess Roosevelt although this phenomena is not limited to that lake.

Even if you had seen the wind on the water you would've had fractions of a second to react. Watch the terrain for signs of winds but of course always watch the water.

I agree with what Europa said.
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Old 22-05-2013, 07:07   #15
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Re: Overpowered on a lake

where there are sudden winds, you learn to expect it so you are going to be well prepared next time out...was a good learning situation for ye.
my dad used to have a small boat he sailed on canyon lake---cliffs and water....not much else--all wind or none. downdrafts and strange eddies.

have fun and learn all......

there are signs of impending winds in phx--we just chose to ignore them. then we complained of dirt inside our vw vans ......

when you see dust rising and no vehicle to make it so, is a wind---wind is visible in desert for looooong time.
one is able to judge timing for escape or tolerance by the speed of approach and the intensity of wind by the dust cloud accompanying it..phx is easy.

is not just the water signs of wind that must be heeded in aridzona---is visible for miles BEFORE you place boat into water.
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