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Old 26-07-2013, 12:45   #1
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Tacking Issue

Looking for some advice. I'm relatively new to sailing and don't have a boat of my own yet. My family and I have been chartering for a day to a few days at a time. I took a week long liveaboard course and have learned a lot so far and have a lot more to learn. We took a 3 day cruise this past week in a 40' sloop and did pretty well, even in some nasty weather (by do well, I mean we ran for cover and made it). I did have one problem that I am having a hard time finding information on.

We were cruising the Lake Erie Islands and had a problem trying to get around the islands sometimes. It seemed that many times as we approached a point of an island close hauled, we wold have to tack to keep from hitting shoals, our tack would put us going in almost the exact opposite direction. Our tacks anywhere else were great. It was frustrating and a couple of times we had to motor around the point just to get past it. I understand the wind shifts in such an area can be difficult, but I am reticent to be the carpenter who blames his hammer or nails or the wood.

I deeply appreciate any help anyone could give or at least point me in a direction to look for answers.

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Old 26-07-2013, 12:46   #2
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Re: Tacking Issue

What sort of 40' sloop?
Did you have the jib cars set in the proper place for close hauled trim?
What size headsail?

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Old 26-07-2013, 12:58   #3
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Re: Tacking Issue

If your tacks were good in other locations then this was almost certainly due to land effect. Land effect can be quite dramatic. I used to sail in one inland venue where one tall point sometimes produced 180d windshifts!

If you really want to improve your sailing knowledge and skills then go out and study these wind shifts. For example just motor very slowly around the area of the shift and note the direction of the "true" wind (boat not moving). Using this data you can then better predict your tacking angles.

This kind or "local knowledge" is very useful when racing or just for a less frustrating cruise.
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Old 26-07-2013, 12:59   #4
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Re: Tacking Issue

We were on a Beneteau 400 with a 130% genoa. As for sail trim; I kept everything pretty simple. Thing is, as an example, I would try and round an island (the wind always seemed to be coming right off the point) and be heading for the turn doing 5+ knots riding the groove right on the wind on a starboard tack. I took us toward the island so that the tack to port would take us past the point and into the channel. When we tacked, though, we would be doing 5+ knots riding the groove right on the wind on a port tack... but with the point of the island almost right off our stern. Tacking back sometimes got the same result. I didn't try a series of quick tacks, mainly because... I may have been lazy and just wanted to cruise. Is this a thing, or am I doing something wrong?
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Old 26-07-2013, 13:11   #5
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Re: Tacking Issue

Based on a few things in the OP, I'm wondering whether you're tacking too fast, which is a common beginner mistake when moving up to a heavier boat.

A light boat accelerates faster than a heavy boat, so you won't be penalized as much for slowing the boat down during a too-sharp tack. A heavier keelboat needs to carry its weight through the tack, which means you shouldn't turn too sharply. As a general rule, you shouldn't come to your new course prior to when the jib can be brought in fully. If it takes five seconds to make the turn but ten seconds to sheet in then you've messed up.

Look back over the transom next time you tack to see whether there are whirlpools in your wake. If there are, you need to take longer to change course.

So, during your recent course you had moved up to a larger boat, you were tacking to avoid hitting shoals (which probably induced you to tack more quickly than usual), and you were unable to point on the new tack, which indicates that you had lost too much boat speed during the tack.

The good news is that this is an easy problem to fix. Visualize a bigger arc for the turn rather than a right angle.
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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Old 26-07-2013, 13:40   #6
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Re: Tacking Issue

Hi, everyone,

There may be another issue here as well: Many islands have shoals, sandbars, and rocky outcrops sticking out from them. Some are wooded. My thought is that the OP might have been better staying out a little further, where the breeze is likely to be more consistent even if tending to run parallel to the shoreline, and also giving the "hard bits" a little more clearance.

He may have been rushing his tacks, as Bash suggested, and apparently no one was playing the main, either, which would have helped him accelerate, also. Trimmers working together will help keep the speed up and the tacks "tighter".

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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Old 26-07-2013, 16:13   #7
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Re: Tacking Issue

We have to know more about your area to help you. Your boat should point to about 38 degrees off the true wind. You may have had your sails sheeted tight but not pointing as high as possible. Were you using your telltales that are glued on the jib or sewn into the jib?
kind regards,
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Old 26-07-2013, 16:14   #8
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Re: Tacking Issue

the other contributing factor is whether the boat sails close hauled as efficiently under genoa as under a smaller jib - i never do any tight sailing on my boat under genoa because the tacks are much tighter and she heads up better under the jib. The other thing is the effect of currents and 'land' effects on winds around points and channels can be quite dramatic
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Old 26-07-2013, 17:07   #9
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Re: Tacking Issue

Wind flows around features like headlands and islands. It changes direction and accelerates (esp if the feature is tall). Also there may be a surface, wind driven current that accelerates around the island. Alone or together they may act against you at a point. If so, you can use this 'bottleneck' to your advantage - when sailing back!

Seek local know-how, look at how others tackle the same issue. Often there is one way that leads ahead better than all others.

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Old 26-07-2013, 17:32   #10
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Re: Tacking Issue

It all depends on the shape and size of the island. Often, the leeward side of an island can see wind shifts on both sides in the neighborhood of 25 degrees for a total delta of 50 degrees as the wind on both sides of the island "reconvenes" in the draft of the landmass. The leeward sides of the island is a low pressure area, relatively speaking, and the air curves back in to equalize.

This could explain why you were not able point as high as in undisturbed air. An exaggerated example:

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Old 28-07-2013, 09:19   #11
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Re: Tacking Issue

Hard for me to imagine any wind conditions and close-hauled sail trim that would consistently result in 180 degree tacks. Most boats tack close-hauled through 100 degrees or less.

It almost sounds like you were tacking beam reach to beam reach but you said you were close-hauled so I have no idea.
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Old 28-07-2013, 10:21   #12
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Re: Tacking Issue

Are you taking into account the apparent wind vs the true wind?
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Old 28-07-2013, 10:30   #13
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Re: Tacking Issue

You need to pay attention to the apparent wind angle (AWA) on each tack, and on the true wind angle (TWA) if you can figure that out. I don't know if that 38 degree number mentioned is accurate, but you should generally be able to tack within 90 degrees (+/- 45 degrees) TWA, with the AWA being somewhat tighter than that. If you can't sail this close to the wind it could be due to sloppy sail trim, too much sail for the wind giving you excess heel, not enough sail and low boatspeed so your rudder and keel aren't effective, or possibly tired sails with poor sail shape.

If you are sailing into current, you may be doing just fine into the wind, but because of the current your course over ground (COG) may be horrible. There's not much you can do about that but look for areas with weaker current.

And then there are the wind shifts that have been mentioned. Here it's a matter of picking your best tack (being aware of shoals, etc), and fighting your way through to the undisturbed or favorable wind.
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Old 28-07-2013, 11:05   #14
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Re: Tacking Issue

We used to come in at the end of the day to an " L " shaped beach. You are trying to get near the SW corner or on the long part of the L. (near the angle) This was to windward. Their were large highrise condos to windward also above the beach. It was crazy getting in there after sailing in clean air.

Sometimes coming in to the beach you would tack right into a header and have to go way low then tack again and the same thing would happen. Btw, the long part of the L is the west, and the short is the south. The seabreeze would seem to shift between the two due to landeffect and the highrises etc etc

Wind tries to depart land at 90 degree angles. So from this, you can visualize what a mess it can be.

Maybe you folks are just sailing in to close and the land effect is all the problem is like a couple others have spoken about.

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