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post #24 of Old 06-13-2014 Thread Starter
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

Wow. Thank you all for your responses!!!

Each of your posts and viewpoints allowed a deeper understanding of the forces involved and better explained our experience. Consolidating all the posts under four separate topics (ie. “Balancing the boat”, “Having enough sail area to create the drive”, “Solution”, and “Weather”), the following will be our new guide to sailing during Small Craft Advisories (please let me know if anything below does not seem accurate!).
Your statements that I was not clear on are followed by my comments and questions displayed within a quote.
Thank you all for your close reading of our problem and in-depth responses!


Why we experienced a Problem Turning Windward during a Small Craft Advisory with our main sail completely down and our jib reefed:


    • Davidpm: Think about the forces. Your reefed jib is at the front of your boat. It is forcing the bow down. You can counter act a little with the rudder but the main would have potentially counter acted that force and balanced the boat better. Next time try it with the main. (So balancing the boat with the main is needed.)

    • Davidpm: You will find that the more the wind the more important it is to balance the rig. That is why ocean going sailors often rig a deep third reef in the main and a storm sail set on an inner stay. Smaller sail area suitable for higher winds but still balanced.

    • Law Student: The problem was that you had no mainsail. Balance, man, balance!


    • Davidpm: The main gives the drive.

    • Davidpm: The jib has no drive but helps prevent the main from rounding up the boat during gusts.


      Questions for Davidpm:

      Using Full Main Only: Since the main’s tendency is to round up the boat during gusts, and if no jib is used at all, even if the boat does not round up, wouldn’t the Captain be fighting the tiller a lot more for a Full-Main-Only Scenario than if a reefed main/jib combination is used?

      So why would a boat round up during gusts?

      Is it because the boat is heeled over further which, in turn, gives less control of the rudder because the rudder is partially out of the water?

      And if this is true, what is the maximum degree a boat can be heeled over before control of the rudder is lost?

      I’ve also read that when heeled over, sailboats travel faster than sitting flat on the water. However, there is a turning point at which the speed decreases. All sailboats are probably a little different in this respect. However, in your opinion, about what angle to the water would sailing speed be lost?
    • Stumble: Generally, sail area attached forward of the keel pulls the bow off the wind, while sail area behind the keel does the opposite.

    • Davidpm: The problem with trying to go upwind is that you need enough sail area to create drive. But with too much wind you have to shorten sail otherwise you heel too much. Then you don't have enough drive.

    • Paul in Victoria: As soon as you want to start heading upwind, you need the main there to stop the bow from blowing off. Remember that your boat basically pivots around the keel, think about where the forces from the sails are going to act, so the foresail tries to pivot the boat away from the wind, whereas the main wants to try and act like a windvane and point you into wind. Balance the two and you have a nice gentle sailing day that will feel a whole lot less crazy.

    • Stumble: Boats like a sunfish or laser only use one sail, but if you look where the mast is stepped it is far forward of the dagger board. All of the sail area in front of the board acts to push the boat off the wind, while the sail area behind it drives the boat into the wind.

    • svHyLyte: With the head sail only, and particularly reefed, the center of effort of the sail would have been too far forward to allow you to sail to weather. One can sail to weather with a head sail only but not reefed as you describe (and in the conditions you described you probably didn't need to reef the sail). As noted by others, above, next time start with the Main, only, reefed if necessary.

    • Davidpm: If you have the normal roller furling jib that gets baggy and high as you roll it up, the boat will not perform as well as it could and may even do better with no jib in some circumstances.

    • Sailormon6: I believe you were able to point on one side of the bridge and not the other because, by unrolling the jib, you greatly reduced the imbalance that Davidpm described. By raising both the jib and main, you balance the pressures ahead of, and aft of, the keel's center of lateral resistance (CLR).

      To an extent, you can do the same thing by unrolling a large, overlapping genoa. Part of the genoa extends forward of the CLR, and part of it extends aft of the CLR, and, although that doesn't achieve a perfect balance, it is adequate to enable the boat to point fairly well to windward.

      If you are going to sail on jib alone, don't roll it up deeply. If you do, you won't be able to point to windward or tack well.

      The better choice to balance the sails and to enable the boat to sail to windward efficiently in stronger winds is always to raise both the jib and mainsail, reducing the size of each in proportion to the strength of the wind.

    • Aelkin (Andy): I don't know if this will help or not, but it helps me. Draw an imaginary line from the tip of your mast to the center of your keel. Roughly speaking, this is the point on which your boat pivots. If all of your sail area is ahead of this line, your windward performance will be very poor. If all of your sail area is behind this line, you will likely develop a lot of weather helm (ie. tendency to go into the wind) as the wind builds, and will need to use a lot of rudder to keep the bow down - which, combined with the previous comment about small mainsail area makes the boat very slow. Most of this has already been covered, but I find that visual to be helpful when making decisions about sail I hope it can help someone else. Andy

      Thanks Andy, yes it does help. Now I want to try to better understand your bolded comment above. Engineer_sailor (Josh) had given some interesting rules of thumb for how to set sails in different conditions. For example, for our standard rig C27, if the winds are 30+ knots, then the rule of thumb could be just using a reefed Main.

      Our boat is in the water, but from the picture of C27 below, it looks like the mast going straight down would hit the front of the fin keel. So most of the main sail is behind the center of the fin keel.

      So let me see if I can understand what you are saying in bold: If all of your sail area is behind this line, you will likely develop a lot of weather helm (ie. tendency to go into the wind) as the wind builds, and will need to use a lot of rudder to keep the bow down - which, combined with the previous comment about small mainsail area makes the boat very slow.

      QUESTION: What do you mean when you say “will need to use a lot of rudder to keep the bow down”? Do you mean that I’ll need to be fighting more with the tiller to keep the boat from pointing into the wind? As long as the boat is not pointed directly into the wind, why would fighting more with the tiller make the boat go slower?


    • Davidpm: Sometimes what will work in that configuration is to leave only a couple feet of jib out with the main reefed.

    • Jim’s CAL: The best situation is a reefed main and a small headsail. If you become overpowered:

      1. Step #1: De-power by trimming the main and genny. [ie. Definition of ‘trimming’: setting the sail’s angle relative to the wind].
      2. Step #2: As the wind speed increases, then you begin reducing sail area.

    • Sailormon6: The better choice to balance the sails and to enable the boat to sail to windward efficiently in stronger winds is always to raise both the jib and mainsail, reducing the size of each in proportion to the strength of the wind.

    • svHyLyte: As noted by others, above, next time start with the Main, only, reefed if necessary.

    • Skygazer: I'd like to point out that if you are sailing with jib alone going downwind, and find you need or want to go to windward, you will have great difficulty raising the main. You can't point into the wind, or tack across it to get headed into the wind. When you try to raise the main the wind is grabbing it and it will likely hang up on the standing rigging or be too loaded to raise easily. (Of course, if your motor works you can motor into the wind and raise the main, then shut down the motor.)

      So when sailing off the anchor or mooring, we like to raise the main first while pointed into the wind, reefing it if it looks like a good idea. Then we raise the anchor or let go of the mooring and quickly raise the prepared jib and sail off. We don't have roller furling (I have one at home, I just prefer hanked on jibs) but it would be the same idea.

    • ------------------------------------------

      ccRiders (John): Also, it sounds to me that you were stalling the jib by sheeting it in too tightly. When you stall the sails, then you are swept by the current. If you ever find yourself in the same situation see if you can make better headway with full jib sheeted just so there is no luff fluttering. These kinds of experiments will give you great knowledge about your boat and how it sails in various conditions. I still get very nervous in tight quarters and it takes discipline to rely on my knowledge and experiment a little until I can get the boat to go where I want it to go.


      Aelkin (Andy): CCrider’s just addressed the issue I thought no one was going to - the OP's original statement was something like: “Won't sheeting the jib in tight help turn the boat into the wind?” No - it will help PREVENT you from turning into the wind. Small adjustments inward, with small helm adjustments upward will allow you to go to wind as well as possible with only one headsail. Once you get to the point where you make helm adjustments up, but get no response from the boat, that's as far to wind as you can get...trim the sails to that point, and live with it. (Or raise the main.)


      ccRiders and Aelkin: Thank you both so much for reading so closely and picking up on this. The way I explained things was probably not exactly correct, however, it is definitely a point of confusion on my part. So I want to make sure I understand what is being said here. So more questions to you both:

      I went back and extracted the key areas related to this from the original post. Here is the extracted portions in red:

      QUESTION #1: Am I correct in saying that pulling in the reefed jib tight to what a sail should be for a close haul should actually help to turn the boat?

      Turning counter-clockwise: So I moved the tiller to turn the boat windward and we brought the reefed jib in as tight as she would go. The boat simply seemed unable to go any further windward despite pulling her reefed jib in as far and tight as possible. Turning clockwise: But we experienced the exact same problem that we did when on a port tack when the most we could turn the boat was to a beam reach and not being able to do a close haul (even though the reefed jib was pulled in as tight as she would go)!

      So from your explanations above, I now understand that the answer to QUESTION #1: is “No.” Is that correct? In other words, the sails have nothing to do with turning the boat; the tiller, alone, is what turns the boat?

      The following is a better explanation of what happened than the paragraph in red above; so the following changes are in order:

      FROM: “Turning counter-clockwise: So I moved the tiller to turn the boat windward and we brought the reefed jib in as tight as she would go. “

      TO: Turning counter-clockwise: So I moved the tiller to turn the boat windward. When this repeatedly failed, it occurred to me that, possibly, the reason it was failing was because the trim of the sail itself contains the ability to help turn the boat. And since the direction we wanted to go in would have been a close haul, I thought bringing the jib in tight might help in turning the boat since on repeated attempts we were unable to accomplish this with just moving the tiller and bringing in the jib to lesser extents.

      The “Turning clockwise” situation was exactly as above: it was only after repeated attempts to turn clockwise failed, that it occurred to me that perhaps the trim of the sail itself was required to help turn the boat. But, again, my understanding from the above paragraphs is that this is not true: the tiller, alone, should be able to turn the boat as close to wind as possible?

      So QUESTION #2 would then be: if the above is correct, is the correct procedure to turn the boat as follows:

      Repeat until desired direction of boat has been accomplished or it’s the best the boat can do:
      • Move tiller slightly to turn boat toward desired direction.
      • If boat is unable to turn any closer to wind, that’s the best boat can do.
      • If boat is able to turn closer to the wind, trim the sails as needed.
    • Engineer_sailor (Josh): We sail the tall rig fun keel version of the Cat 27.

      As rules of thumb:
      • 0-15 knots: Main and Jib
      • 15-20 knots: Main with reefed Jib (30% reefed)
      • 20-25 knots: Main only
      • 25+ knots: reefed Main

      Wow this great! Thanks! Some questions though:
      1. When you say “15-20 knots” are you speaking of the wind gusts, or the wind speed when there isn’t a gust?

        Earlier this week tomorrow’s forecast stated the following: “NW winds 10 to 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots.” In this situation, do you pay attention to the normal wind speed and do full main and full jib, or do you reef the sails because of the speed of the gusts?

      2. We don’t have the tall rig – just the standard C27 rig. The tall rig, if I remember correctly, has much more sail area than the standard rig. In your opinion, because of the extra sail area, do you think the standard rig rules of thumb might be slightly relaxed compared to the tall rig?

        For the standard rig, what are your thoughts on the following rules of thumb? :
        • 00-15 knots: full Main and full Jib
        • 15-20 knots: full Main with reefed Jib (30% reefed)
        • 20-25 knots: reefed Main with reefed Jib (30% reefed)
        • 25-30 knots: Main only
        • 30++ knots: reefed Main

        And, finally, do you have the roller furling type jib? If not, how would this affect the above numbers?

    • Engineer_sailor (Josh): Our jib which is probably 100%-105%, can easily over power the main's windward force. If it gets backwinded, you may have to do a complete turn.

      Question: I guess I don’t quite follow when this could happen. Would this be when you’re on a broad reach and, because of the force from the jib, cannot go windward enough to stay on a broad reach?


    • Davidpm: If you have only been out a few times, and usually with light wind, 20 knots is going to be scary. It is amazing how quickly you get used to it however. If you have a third reef in your main that C27 can take quite a bit.

    • Jim’s CAL: As you have learned, if you wait for the perfect day with moderate winds and sun, you aren't going to sail much. Days with small craft advisories can be among the best sailing days, as long as you know how to handle the higher winds.

    • svHyLyte: In the conditions you described you probably didn't need to reef the sail. As noted by others, above, next time start with the Main, only, reefed if necessary.

    • miataPaul: I am a little confused, I thought small craft advisories meant, we advise that you take your sailboat out because there will be good wind, and not many power boats. It means you’re not supposed to go out? Yes, reef and you will be fine.

    • bristol299Bob: Lots of good advice here (as always on sailnet). In addition to all that, I'd like to encourage you to get out there in conditions that push your comfort zone a bit.

      You will certainly be safe on your boat in and SCA with main and jib up. So if there is an SCA in effect don't call off your day on the water. Instead, put in a reef (or two) in the main. Do it at the dock before you cast off. Use a smaller jib if you have one. Push yourself and your boat a bit. Learn what feels right (for your boat and crew) in various conditions.

      You'll be amazed at how soon you will feel comfortable in conditions that used to be a non-starter for you.

    • ccRiders (John): If we didn't sail in SCAs we wouldn't sail. While the comfort factor goes to hell, the sailing can be pretty good.

    • Engineer_sailor: We sail out of Rock Creek on our Cat 27. Your observation about the local forecast is correct varying between light/variable and small craft advisory. Your Cat 27 isn't a small craft and can easily handle advisory conditions which are often some of the best sailing days. Pay attention to the weather radar but usually we just head out and deal with the conditions within reason.

      Comment and Questions to Engineer_sailor:

      1. We’re in Rock Creek too! Are you by any chance docked at the Oak Harbor Marina?

      2. That’s interesting that you say that the C27 is not a small craft. I did not realize that. Last weekend there were lots of small power boats out during the small craft advisory: many around 15 to 30 foot or so. This is a dumb question but I just want confirmation: when these small power boats go through the water they don’t seem to bob up and down as much as us—they actually appear more stable going through the water than we do. Now for my dumb question: just because they appear more stable does not mean they are safer to be in during a SCA than a C27, does it? (I mean we have the regular C27 fin keel which I think is about 3,000 pounds to keep us from capsizing.) My sweetheart that I own the boat with was saying it was safer for the jet skiers who were out last Sunday during the SCA than it was for us?

      3. As far as paying attention to the weather: Last Sunday all day they were calling for “possible thunderstorms” which is another reason why we kept going back and forth and staying close to the mouth of Rock Creek the entire day (in addition to the SCA). And, sure enough, it turned out we not only didn’t get any thunderstorms, nor did we get any rain, but the wind and wave conditions calmed considerably after 4 pm when the weather forecast was predicting things to get much worse. The same exact thing happened when we sailed on 5/31/2014; they were calling for a SCA later in the day and sure enough things calmed considerably the rest of the day with the opposite happening.

        All this week tomorrow (Saturday 6/14/2014) looked absolutely gorgeous for sailing weather: during the week they were calling for winds 10-15 knots, waves 1 to 2 feet, no thunderstorms, and no SCA. Sure enough today, Friday, the day before what appeared to be a perfect sailing day all week, the forecast has been updated to say: “Small Craft Advisory in effect from late tonight through Saturday afternoon. NW winds 10 to 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots. Waves 2 to 3 feet.” It’s enough to make one feel like pulling all one’s hair out! And Sunday we’ll be with my Dad for Father’s Day so we can’t go Sunday.

        For four years now we have wanted to take a trip to Annapolis but there seems to always be “possible thunderstorms” or SCAs in the weather forecast. So what is your personal feeling about when the forecast states “possible thunderstorms”? Is that a day you stay close to the mouth of Rock Creek all day in case this happens? In your opinion, approximately how long would sailing from Rock Creek to Annapolis take?
    • Engineer_sailor: We sail the tall rig fun keel version of the Cat 27.

      Question to Engineer_sailor: We have the standard rig C27 with fin keel. What is a fun keel? Also, since your sail area is much larger than ours, would this mean that you would need to be even more cautious when SCAs and thunderstorms are forecast?
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