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Old 21-01-2009, 15:23   #1
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Steering with Sail Trim

Hi all, I have heard of balancing the boat to 'self steer' based on the sail trim. I realize that it is boat and sail plan specific, but are there any general techniques for this?

I have a 30' boat that draws 4.5'. I'm using just the main and jib (on roller furling). With some work, and a little persistence I can usually get the boat happy enough to steer with a lite touch. What do I need to do to take the next step? I am a novice and have learned quite a bit so far (and am forgetting lots while I wait out the winter) but I still have a long way to go. Thanks for help.
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Old 21-01-2009, 16:41   #2
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Dboat,

Once you get to the point of the... light touch...let go..and then make small sail or even weight adjustments....`probably best to practice in light to moderate winds..steady winds are perfect....it's gusty days that are a challenge..

heading to wiind...if I think the sails are nicely balanced.. ...I've been playing with raising and lowering my centerboard in various increments..to get her to track herself...
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Old 21-01-2009, 16:44   #3
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DBoat:
Getting a boat to self steer (w/o a vane or auto pilot) is tricky, especially with a fin keel and might be considered a 'lost art" with all the gizmos now available but great for the basics of how your boat handles. There are several "sheet to tiller" options that can be tried or you might get lucky with simply carefully spilling more of the mainsail while keeping the jib a bit tighter - but that's only my experience. If you can find "Self Steering for Small Craft" by John Lecher (sp?) or there must be other sources and certainly others here with more experience.
John
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Old 21-01-2009, 17:08   #4
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The only point of sail where I can literally let go of the helm and she tracks straight is a close reach in moderate air and relatively flat seas.
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Old 21-01-2009, 18:08   #5
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Steering with just sails on a close reach or close hauled should be within the capabilities of most boats.

If you have your main and jib both properly trimmed, the boat should sail with just a touch of weather helm. Usually to keep the boat steady you will need to lock the rudder rather than just let go. You can experiment with this just by holding the rudder in one spot and watch where the boat settles. Even in rough weather a well designed boat should run pretty straight even in rough water. Letting the rudder "go" removes a lot of stability from the system on most boats.

For beam reaches and further off the wind, a sloop will need something more exotic. You CAN do it, but it requires active trim of sails. I once sailed a J-24 back into the marina after the rudder pintle broke, so it can be done.

My own boat is a ketch, which give you a LOT more options. By slightly overtriming the jib and easing the mizzen the boat will run straight and stable on a beam reach.
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Old 21-01-2009, 20:20   #6
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Start on a relatively flat sea with a steady breeze if possible.

Set up a close reach and balance the sails as best you can. Pick your more "powerful" sail - for us it is the 150 genny - and ease the sheet. The boat should head up.

Before it luffs haul the sheet, maybe over sheet, and she should head down.

Practice with both sails. We've had limited success with tacking but it goes like this.

- Get the boat balanced and moving well close reached
- Luff the genny while oversheeting the main
- As she heads to wind resheet the genny hard on the old lee side (same side) to back the genny and carry the bow through
- As soon as she goes through the wind sheet the main hard and luff the genny to arrest the rotation then sheet the genny to the new side. The key is when to luff the genny. In a strong breeze the bow can swing all the way through.

You need at least 2 people well coordinated on our boat to do this and you also need the momentum to carry through the weather.

You also might practice going head to wind and seeing what it takes without rudder to get your boat out of irons. Getting stalled head to wind with no rudder control and an out of control boat could be sporty.

There is no way I would try to sail into a marina, or channel. I'd be calling for a tow when I got close. And I would have an anchor ready if the cavalry didn't arrive.
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Old 21-01-2009, 20:41   #7
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I greatly improved my ability to adjust sail trim after I installed hydraulic steering w/ a wheel lock system.

I "T"ed in pressure gauges on both side of the steering cylinder, so when I set a course I adjust the sails so that I have as little feed-back as possible. I have been able to let go of the wheel for up to 15 minutes, in a 10 knot wind, w/o having to make an adjustment. The boat even follows the wind changes to a point.

Past 10 knots I have to make adjustments more often in relation to the wind and seas.

But this only works on a reach to a closehaul! Before the wind there is no feed-back on the rudder....................._/)
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Old 22-01-2009, 04:41   #8
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There is an interesting article, that explains steering by sails, on Pim Geurts’ "Sailing Theory" website entitled “Couples and Forces”:

Sailing Theory:

SAILTHEORY.COM -main page-

Couples & Forces:
Couples and Forces @ sailtheory.com
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Old 22-01-2009, 05:33   #9
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I assumed this was a no rudder control question.

I'll often attach a bungy cord to the wheel rather than lock it, so that there's a little give, and then play with the sails.
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Old 22-01-2009, 05:44   #10
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Thanks everyone. I am thinking about the bungie cord on the wheel to hold some tension on the rudder. Then adjust sails. So far the only times I have been able to really balance the boat is on a reach with light air and pretty flat water. I need a few more degrees around here before I go out and try some of this.

GordMay- that link gives an interesting theory on sailing forces. thanks.
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Old 26-01-2009, 12:08   #11
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I use tiller to boom or tiller to sheet steering for most of my soloing aboard my Compac. I can maintain course this way with all but dead downwind. In that case I often just tie the tiller off. You really have a windvane in your main if your willing to use some of the sails for steering instead of propulsion. google sheet to tiller systems- you will get quite a bit of information.
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Old 12-01-2010, 16:44   #12
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Update

As a update, I am working on sailing dead downwind now with a twin jibs ( often called a yardarm.) I have a sheet to tiller tutorial on sailfar.net. I feel comfortable solo sailing on my Compac with most points of wind- including downwind. Just get on and search for sheet to tiller and "newt"
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