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Old 03-27-2012
mxracer19 mxracer19 is offline
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What went wrong while sailing downwind?

Hey all,
Most of my questions are gear or DIY related but today I'd like to take a different approach and offer up my recent experiance for others to critique.

I sail a 1977 Bayliner Buccaneer 200. A link to the dimensions is in my signature.

On Sunday a buddy and I went out for a sail on Pensacola Bay. Winds were forecast as northeastern @ 5-10, then southwestern @ 5-10 after noon with a light chop. We made our way southwest around noon for roughly 4 miles, anchored to fish, and weighed anchor around 4. We departed on a reciprocal course but we found that winds were increasing.

Roughly 2 miles across the bay I was having a tough time keeping the boat stable flying wing on wing until at one point we developed a harmonic ocilation (death roll) with the jib to starboard and the main to port with the traveler 80% of the tracklength to port as well. Winds had increased to 10-15 (guestimated at time) and my thinking was that with increased winds, a traveler well to port would allow the mainsheet to pull more downwards, thus decreasing draught in the main to depower. When the ocilation began I recognized the pattern and sheeted in to prepare to gybe onto a port tack broad reach. Upon gybing, I recognized the error I made in not adjusting the traveler fast enough. We ended up with a backwinded main while sailing downwind. This configuration almost resulted in a broach as the main presented excess sail area perpendicular to the wind. The boom crossed the deck with enough speed to tell me winds had picked up above 15 knots and looking behind us I noticed the bay was beginning to build towards choppy+ conditions.

At this point the decision was made to drop jib and sail under main alone. Having only logged roughly 50 miles in this boat locally around the bay I realized then that my boat sails with much more control under jib alone - a discovery I won't forget. However at this time the boat was stable and with following "bays" (read "seas") I decided to continue the remaining 3.5 miles under main alone. The next 40 minutes were spent riding wave after small wave across the bay until rounding the point on the SE side of NAS Pensacola at which time the fetch went from 3.5 miles to 0.5 miles and wave action calmed significantly. At that point the jib was raised and the main dropped and we continued under headsail until we got back to the dock.

Upon looking up the weather records for the day I found that winds were hovering in the 8 kt range all day - except for a period from 4pm-5pm where speeds increased to 18 kts - right when we were making our transit across the bay.

I learned a considerable amount that day. One of the questions I have regards sailtrim: On a deep broad reach, to depower the sail do I want to loosen lines to allow the sail to billow, or tighten everything down to reduce draught?

For the majority of the sail back I felt a shade out of my comfort zone. I feel like this is a good thing because I learned a fair amount about my boat and how it handles. On one hand I learned that I think myself a better sailor than I actually am. On the other...I brought my boat back in one piece through conditions I'd never been in before, with all hands and gear, with minimum damage to my pride (said damage coming in the form of "style points" and the potential for damage from a hard gybe). Lastly, I reconfirmed someone else's statement: "It's usually not the bad situation that gets you...it's how you react to it that determines the outcome." I realized that I need more practice.

For what it's worth,
Matt
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-S/V Far Niente


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