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Old 13-10-2015, 05:28   #1
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What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

I'm a newbie sailor having recently purchases a 79 Watkins 27 and hadn't tried out using full sails until this weekend, I had just been cruising a long using the genoa, so I was cruising along at 5 knots with around 8 degrees of heel with both the main and genoa up in about 8 knots of wind, according to the windy phone app, and then the wind picked up and as soon as it did the boat heeled over to 15 degrees and picked up speed to 6.5 knots so needless to say with me being inexperienced this kind of freaked me out so I pulled in the genoa and just kept the main up and cruised along at 3.5-4 knots. Afterwards I felt like I should have just kept going and that is exactly what should have happened when the wind picked up, so I'm wondering if there is a normal, sorta, degree of heel?
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:38   #2
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Depends entirely on the boat, many aren't sailing well it seems until they get at least 15 degrees of heel, while mine for instance 15 seems to be about max, by that I mean she is going about as fast as she is going to at 15 degrees of heel, beyond that there is very little to be gained.
Your comfort limit sometimes comes from intelligence I think, we know and understand the limits of our training and experience and become uncomfortable beyond those limits It's smart in my opinion to back off when your uncomfortable, you have plenty of time to get this figured out.

But if your like me you will eventually get stupid and get knocked down, after that 15 doesn't seem like much at all
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:45   #3
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Having the gunnel in the water is usually too far

Having the decks awash is almost always too far.


As A64 says, what is normal in boat dependant but IMO 10 to 20 degrees are about the normal limits of range.
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Old 13-10-2015, 05:47   #4
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

A64 is partially right. It depends on the boat, AND the sailor.

Were the sails over trimmed? If they were, the sails would generate more heel than lift. When I first got serious about sailing I read several books on sail trim. Both my main and jib have ribbons at several locations to let me know how the air is moving over the panel. Do you need trim indicators? No. But as someone learning the art of sailing they will help.
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Old 13-10-2015, 06:08   #5
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

I think your performance (speed) and comfort are the main indicators of the proper degree of heel. With increasing heel you will eventually lose speed as the wind spills over the top of the sails. As others have said, poor sail trim could increase heel without increasing speed. The water level at the lee side may be at the gunnel or not during the same degree of heel on vessels with different designs.

Bottomline: The normal degree of heeling is what you are comfortable with. I used to "play" with a small sloop in the surf by laying it on it's side and sitting on the hull of the little 12' boat. If lunch is on a platter in the cockpit of my current boat I choose differently.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:11   #6
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

I'm a new sailor this year as well and have been asking myself this same question. Early in the year the wife and I were uncomfortable with anything over 10 degrees, but we've gotten slightly more experience so now that no longer bothers us. Now we try to keep it around 15 degrees, with 18-20 being the max. On our boat, we're pretty much moving at hull speed at that point anyways. Going for more is fun at times, but getting thrown in the water isn't my idea of fun.

I think you were right to back off if you weren't comfortable. There will be future sailing trips to push the boat once you know more. Until then, stay safe and stay dry.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:32   #7
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

I think 20 - 30 degrees is fine, if you are hard on the wind. Off the wind, the angle of heel should be less.

An important technique to know is how to "spill the main". If you are sailing hard on the wind, and a gust comes, or you just don't want to heel so much, ease out the main sheet, and the angle of heel should deminish dramatically. Often, this is enough to get past a sudden gust, or to relax tense nerves. Knowing you can do this also gives you some confidence to heel the boat further, knowing you are in control. I suggest you practice spilling the main.

I also agree with posters above...don't oversheet. Unless you are hard on the wind, close hauled, ease your sheet till the sail luffs a bit, then sheet back in just a little till it stops. On racing boats they do this continuously to achieve maximum speed. On cruising boats, we tend to make down the sheet and relax.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:37   #8
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

The best degree of healing in the one you are comfortable with. When cruising you dont want to heel too much so as to spill your drink. But when racing more healing can be used for increased boat speed. Too much and you can try adjusting the Traveller letting it down so the boat comes back up.
I was sailing down the beach just of Ft. Lauderdale southbound and approaching the inlet and saw an outbound tanker leaving and possibly crossing in front of me, so I started the engine just in case we had to change course quickly. We were heeling quite a bit and when I started the Yanmar, it ran for a few minutes and then died. Apparently it had sucked air since I only had 1/4 of a tank of fuel and from that day on I kept the fuel tank full.

Have fun, fair winds................
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:41   #9
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

If you are married, you usually have an automatic "too much heel" alarm built in right next to you. Best listen.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:42   #10
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Like others say, it depends on the boat and the sailor, and if the Admiral is with you.

My boat is a fairly flat chined, semi-displacement hull. As such, I get the best speed when she is sailing on the flat of the boat which is really no more than 10 degrees. More than 15 degrees is too much. 1:00 is 15 degrees, so I try to sail no more than 12:30. Depends on the ballast and the depth of the ballast too. I only have a 3.5 foot lead dagger board, but since the boat only weighs in at 1200 lb, she tends to try to come back up quickly if i get beyond 20 degrees.

And then there is the Admiral factor. If you have an admiral to take out with you, anything more than 15 degrees is going to guarantee she never sails with you again---unless she was trained as a sailor as a child, and then you may find yourself sailing at 35 degrees!
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:46   #11
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Depends on boat design, sail trim, wind speed, wind direction, boat loading, etc.


Some boats are designed to heel (old CCA designs) and don't really move well on a beat until the rail is down or near down.


Newer flat bottom boats prefer to be sailed on their feet.


Almost any keel boat will round up and point head to wind (relieving pressure) if pressed to far. (ie, you will not end up in the water.)


Our boat is a CCA design (Douglas 32 Mk II) and with full sail (155 genoa) is healing about 25 degrees when beating into 10 knots apparent. This puts the midship rail about 6" (15 cm) above the water. This is her sweet spot. We have to reduce sail much earlier than most other boats. By the time we hit about 12 knots apparent we are pushing 30 to 35 degrees, which is fun for a while, but hard on the boat and contents when stuff starts flying around in a puff.


You should have a method for reefing and practice using it so you can maintain decent heel angle and speed. If you have lots of wind, there is no reason to be going only 2 or 3 knots.


Once you get some experience with the motion of the boat in waves, and the sound of wind through the rigging, you will likely realize that you boat sails much more comfortably in 25 knots with reduced sail, than in 15 knots with full sail. (True for most boats.)


A lot of newbies tend (plan) to drop sail and motor if the wind picks up. In reality, most boats will sail out of conditions much more comfortably than they will motor out of. The sails, when driven properly, provide stability and move the boat properly so that it will slice through waves rather than bob or pound over them.
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Old 13-10-2015, 08:57   #12
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblinrod View Post

A lot of newbies tend (plan) to drop sail and motor if the wind picks up. In reality, most boats will sail out of conditions much more comfortably than they will motor out of. The sails, when driven properly, provide stability and move the boat properly so that it will slice through waves rather than bob or pound over them.
Yes.... even in a 19 foot West Wight Potter. While I don't have the skills to sail her in 25-30 knot winds, lots of people do sail the WWP19 out in San Francisco Bay in that wind level. I tend to want to motor in when the wind gets to 18 knots gusting to 25, but properly reefed, I should just flow with it.
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Old 13-10-2015, 09:02   #13
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

After 50 years of cruising, mostly Cats, I traded my last cat for a Tug - so mabe you best ignore this.

But, when cruising in big blue water, I trimmed for minimum ruder force - in the case of big cats, measured by rudder angle on the autopilot. In the case of smaller boats, just force on the tiller or wheel. When that force grew, I found it uniformly corresponded with lost of boat speed.

This was easy to measure on a big cat, a 1 to 2 knot increase usually came when I reduced the main and jib to yield a more balanced rudder. On small boats, it was just getting used to the expected force - when the tiller force grew, the sails were reduced and the boat went faster.
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Old 13-10-2015, 09:07   #14
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamhass View Post
If you are married, you usually have an automatic "too much heel" alarm built in right next to you. Best listen.
My "alarm" also lets me know when I'm getting too close to shore, and its time to tack. First time I went sailing without "her", I almost ran right up on the shore!

Human instincts are there for a reason...best to listen.
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Old 13-10-2015, 09:22   #15
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Re: What is considered a normal degree of heeling?

Seems like you have a two-part question:
1) What is a "normal" degree of heel? and 2) Did I chicken out and shorten sail too soon?

1) Every boat has a sweet spot where the hull will allow the greatest speed for the wind available. If you look at boats that are out racing, you will see them move crew to either the high or low side in an effort to get the boat heeled as close as possible to that angle. For many boats, that angle is between 15-20 degrees. Excessive heel actually shows the boat.

2) Your comfort level with boat heel will come with confidence in the boat. This is true for both passengers and sailors alike. People with limited experience fear heel because they think the boat will literally tip over. I can tell you that your boat will reach a degree of heel where you will no longer be in control. At that point, the boat will turn to windward (round up) and right itself. Push yourself, and the boat, to build your confidence in the boat and yourself.

Barring a freak wave or keel breaking off in combination with high winds, it is REAL HARD to tip a sailboat over.

If possible, find a local yacht club or sailing center that does regular social racing. Skippers are always looking for crew and it is a great way to learn the limits of most boats and, in turn, build your personal confidence. Then you take these lessons learned back to your boat.
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