Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Portland, Oregon
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mainsail roach, battens, weather helm, and mast placement
I am prompted to make this post because of a boat I saw and sailed recently, and am evaluating for possible purchase.
The boat is a Charles Whitholtz Chance 33 design, a semi-custom steel cutter built by Topper Hermanson. Her underbody is full-keel with a cutaway forefoot with a keel-hung rudder, very much like a Cape Dory, except that she has tiller steering with an outboard rudder hung off the transom as well as the keel. The staysail stay is removable, and the owners usually sail her as a sloop, with a 130 headsail, which was how I sailed her.
When sailing close-hauled I expected to be able to get her to track perfectly, like I was able to do when sailing a Cape Dory 33. However, I always had a slight amount of weather helm, regardless of how I trimmed the main and the headsail.
To my surprise, the mainsail was battenless with no roach, which seems a bad idea to me for a full-keel cruising boat. It bothers me that if I replaced the mainsail with a full-batten main with substantial roach, which would be my preference, then it seems to me logically that would increase the weather helm. However, when I searched the Sailnet archives I found that some people disputed that adding roach would increase weather helm, while some agreed.
The questions I am left with about which I would invite enlightenment are:
1. Will replacing the battenless, roachless mainsail with a full-batten main with roach likely increase weather helm?
2. Are there any good reasons for having no battens and no roach on the mainsail of a cruising boat? None of the reasons I have heard seem very persuasive to me.
3. Is a cutter-designed boat, with the mast positioned further aft, inevitably going to have some weather helm when sailed as a sloop.
Thanks for any enlightenment!