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post #1 of 17 Old 08-31-2013 Thread Starter
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Weather Helm

I sailed about 20 miles today from Point Orient NY to Clinton Ct.

Boat is a Bristol 32, cutaway full keel, center board.
Barn door rudder.
BRISTOL 32 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com

Wheel model
Center board stuck up.
Rigging recently replaced due to a dismasting a few years ago.
Crisp full battened main, with lazy jacks
Crips genoa I'm guessing 150
No boom vang
Traveler not really operative.
I was able to get the luff moderately tight but not as tight as I would have liked.
No tells on the main so I had a hard time knowing exactly how to trim it.
The backstay seems very tight.
I'm guessing that the rudder and 3 blade prop are very fouled


Wind was about 10 knots gusting to 13 apparent.
Close hauled to close reaching.

I was surprised at how much weather helm the boat had.
I had to really let out the main to the point where the first foot or so of the luff was luffing before it was reduced enough to be tolerable.

Interestingly if I locked the helm it would track for quite a long time without adjustments with only 3 or 4 degrees of rudder.
Genoa is roller reefing type with two marks. I reefed to the first mark and as expected the weather helm was worse.

I don't have a lot of confidence in whoever did the re-rigging as the mast is particularly noisy at anchor because the internal wires are not captured in any way which seems pretty sloppy to me on a re-rig job.

I haven't check mast rake yet, don't know what it should be.
I don't know if it is tall or short rig.

Maybe their are just so many things out of spec on this boat that they just all add up to the behavior I experienced.

Anyone with one of these beasts that is tuned well? Do you have to reef the main in 15 knots of wind?
Or maybe the helm on this kind of keel and rudder is just very heavy.

The lesson from the Icarus story is not about human failing.
It is a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.
If you have an engineering problem solve it.

Last edited by davidpm; 08-31-2013 at 10:09 PM.
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-31-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

I have no experience with that boat, or with any full keel boat.

But I can tell you that adjusting the rake on my own mast by 4" made a huge difference in weather helm. Factory spec for my boat is 4" rake. First year the rake was 12", and I had huge weather helm. Second year I tightened the forestay down to 8" rake (as far as I could adjust), and it was a little better. Third year I made some turnbuckle modifications inside the furler drum to bring the rake down to 4", and it's very well balanced.

I still get rounding up above 12 kt unless I reef, but I get to hull speed well before that. I have a light boat, so early reefing comes with the territory.

My main point is not to underestimate the importance of proper rake on the handling characteristics of the boat.


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post #3 of 17 Old 08-31-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

I have a Pearson Vanguard which is very close to the Bristol in design. I find that reefing the main in 10-15 knots really helps balance the boat almost perfect.

Samantha Jane
Pearson Vanguard, 1967 #324
Penobscot Bay, Maine

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post #4 of 17 Old 08-31-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

"centerboard stuck UP" --- results in pretty obvious 'high index of suspicion'

Most probably your cause of 'heavy helm' ... the boat was probably skidding off to leewards, and the side forces on the rudder due to the skid are mimicking 'weather helm'.

Next time, or anytime, you have heavy helm, and before you blame 'weather helm' ... FIRST thing to do is to look at the turbulence wake (from keel and rudder) coming off the stern. If that turbulence wake coming off the stern is not almost 'dead straight off the stern', about 4-5 MAXIMUM or less, the boat should be considered to be skidding to leeward.
Causes of a skid: 1. too loose forestay (luff of head sail is operating too far to leewards) 2. in a center-boarder - not enough board down. 3. too much sail up vs. the 'projected' underwater shape.- boat is heeling over too far.

That you added mainsail luff tension (shifts the point of maximum draft forward ... the #1 correction for 'weather helm') and with no positive results .... by elimination, strongly suggests a SKID and NOT a 'weather helm' problem.
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Last edited by RichH; 08-31-2013 at 10:59 PM.
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-31-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

My experience with the Bristol 32, like many boats of that era, was that it did tend to develop a lot of weather helm. But I would also think that the stuck CB would not be helpful. It was not unusual to adjust a partially raised centerboard position as an aide in balancing the helm. But also these were tender boats and pretty much all boats develop more weather helm with heel angle.


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post #6 of 17 Old 09-01-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

A few degrees of helm is not much. If you had significant weather helm it would round up when locked off.
You wouldn't need to reef at that wind speed. = maybe 15-20 knots. A bit of backwinding is not a problem either.
It rather sounds like you have room to play with checking and fixing a few things anyway. Check rake, get centreboard working, traveller stay tension, wools, all these things make a difference and some might be +ve now some _ve.
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-01-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Weather Helm

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Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
My experience with the Bristol 32, like many boats of that era, was that it did tend to develop a lot of weather helm. But I would also think that the stuck CB would not be helpful. It was not unusual to adjust a partially raised centerboard position as an aide in balancing the helm. But also these were tender boats and pretty much all boats develop more weather helm with heel angle.
So at what wind would it be expected to reef the main in this boat if all was setup right? There were just starting some scattered white caps.
Also where would one find the correct rake number?

The lesson from the Icarus story is not about human failing.
It is a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.
If you have an engineering problem solve it.

Last edited by davidpm; 09-01-2013 at 05:34 AM.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-01-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

Boat before current was a CB, had it for 10 years, a Hood design.

Definitely agree with other posters, CB up was the biggest contributor.
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-01-2013
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Re: Weather Helm

Hard to tell anything with the centerboard not fully extended. It's a main component of the boat's design and has the specific function of minimizing slippage. In that boat, it may change the pivot point. Centerboard boats generally need the board down when close hauled. Fifteen knots of wind is enough to have a reef in both main and any large genoa. My 160 genoa is problematic if the wind gets greater than ten knots and is really only useful in light winds.
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post #10 of 17 Old 09-01-2013
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Weather Helm

I was sailing near where you were yesterday (Gardiners Bay) and when close hauled the apparent wind was as high as 24 knots. Not surprising you needed to reef.
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