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Old 06-07-2010
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Good story & well played. Also some thoughtful responses on this thread -- thanks!

Having been caught in 50kts on a SJ21, I understand how small a boat can feel in those conditions. But the fact your boat made it through undamaged suggests you haven't yet plumbed its limits. We focus on our shortcomings and let the boat do its job. So far, it hasn't let us down.

Where you sail, you may benefit from two reefs in the main -- a shallower one for balancing the sailplan on "steady 18kt" days, and a deep one for storms. The first should be maybe 18" and the second 36" above the boom. A 36" reef on a C22 will remove almost 30% of your mainsail area & substantially lower your center of effort. A well-designed jiffy-reefing system will also severely flatten the mainsail, giving control in gusts while keeping the boat moving and stabilized. We have one deep reef (32"), because the wind here is either ON or OFF. We can reef the main in under 30 seconds, without leaving the cockpit or companionway.

The jib is problematic. C22s employ large Genoas and are balanced for them, but a 150% is frankly a drifter sail. The material and tie points are too light and the CofE too far aft to perform in heavy air. Upwind it will flog, and downwind it is a broach looking for a place to happen. You should be able to find a good, generic used 110% for $150 or so; headsails are pretty flexible moving between boat species, tho you will need inboard sheeting for a blade jib. Another possibility is roller furling; our CDI FF2 has its shortcomings, but we can Make The Jib Go Away in five seconds w/out performing the deadly Foredeck Tango.

For us the sequence is: reef main (15-18kts); furl jib (~25kts). Our boat sails slowly-but-well on reefed main only. Some don't. Once you have balanced your sailplan & matched sail area to windspeed, the boat will take care of itself and you can focus on the bigger danger to our little craft: sea state. Running free is attractive but there is the danger of pooping, broaching, and surfing combined with vastly reduced steering control. You may find taking the waves on the quarter yields more control. Close reaching -- even just a bit above a beam reach -- can be surprisingly comfortable. Our boats don't heave to worth a darn, but they will forereach. We like to point 10 degrees above the beam through the worst blows. It's wet, and it pounds a little, but it allows the boat to sorta "march in place", an important consideration where searoom is lacking. It also keeps the pointy end into the crud, which it's good at. And you always have the option of bearing off. Once you are surfing down a deep heading, it can be hard to head back up.

Finally, I know what it's like to feel as if every job has to be yours. When a gale rips thru, I find myself grabbing for control lines, running forward to dog the hatch, steering with my toes, etc., because my girlfriend lacks experience. We have agreed to teach her two bad-weather jobs that will be strictly hers to do, and we promise to drill until she is automatic and fast. She will furl the jib and secure the companionway. That way, I can focus on the mainsail and steering. We hope as time goes on to invert these roles. But multi-tasking is too much to ask of new crew, so instead we tend to ask nothing of them and do it all ourselves. That is dangerous for everyone.

You did brilliantly, you have a great story to share, you extracted sharp lessons from the day, and I'd sail with you anytime. Thanks for the story, and thanks everyone for responding with constructive and positive critiques.
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