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Old 09-14-2013
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Dinghy helm issues

I've got some issues with the helm of my small dinghy.

First issue - has anyone found that their rudder lets go when running dead square? Mine likes to do that and it's pretty disconcerting when it's windy, especially with the spinnaker up.

I've had it happen whilst coming into a confined boat harbour dead square (no spinnaker) in 20 knots of wind with idiots in motor launches coming past at full-throttle. Not really an ideal place to have to 'roll steer' the boat to say the least.

I've tried different rudder blades but it just keeps doing it. Any thoughts?

Second issue - upwind the helm is really heavy. Even if I get a 5 degree heel on the boat I'm immediately struggling to steer - often I have to throw the mainsheet at my crew so I can grab the tiller with both hands. The boat doesn't seem to have weather or lee helm, it's just heavy and the second it heels the boat rounds up & I can't stop it. Given I sail on a river where it's really gusty, even the best sailors can't keep their boats dead flat all the time. I really don't believe it should be that heavy but I can't figure out what's going on. I've checked the mast rake & it seems fine (and it doesn't improve or worsen if I change the mast rake) & I've checked that the centreboard & rudder line up (which they do).

We came extremely close to running up the back of a moored yacht recently (15-20 knots) because of this. I was flat hiking but the second the boat got a tiny heel it just went out of control rounding up straight for the yacht. I ended up with both hands hauling on the tiller extension & flat hiking with one foot under the hiking straps & the other foot under the tiller so I could use the strength in my leg as well as my arms to stop us hitting the yacht. It worked but was extremely close. I really shouldn't have to resort to steering with both hands & my foot should I? That just seems pretty ridiculous to me.

I am trying to get stronger but I also don't believe I should have to be a tank to steer a small dinghy. I have no clue what is going on in either case so some thoughts/tips would be much appreciated.

Last edited by black_roses1; 09-14-2013 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 09-15-2013
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

What kind of dinghy is it?
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

It's a two crew, single trapeze, symetric spinnaker boat. It's an Australian class so probably no-one will have heard of it.
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

I would say that you have weather helm in the conditions described.

Running down wind.
without spinnaker running into harbour. I would suggest that the wake and waves created by the powerboats are knocking you off course onto more of a broad reach, you react with the tiller to bring it back on course but weather helm pushes you up... more helm and eventually the rudder stalls leaving no control.
the answer is to use less helm, you don't want to put the brakes on with the rudder. don't fight it. Let the boat round up and keep the speed up then bear away slowly.
running down wind with spinnaker up. here if you are reaching a large part of the spinnaker and the main is giving you weather helm. There is lots of lessons on downwind sail trim which perhaps others can provide a link to. as before don't try to fight the weather helm with the tiller. Keep the speed up so the rudder doesn't stall. You need to keep the boat flat with both crew weight and effective sail trim.
Upwind.
you need to keep the boat flat in those gusty conditions. Do this with crew weight and actively depowering the rig in the gusts.once again keep the boat speed up so the rudder doesn't stall. you need to have sail trim that gives you the power needed for the lulls but you need to actively depowering in the gusts. this will predominantly be achieved by dropping the main down on the traveller and then getting it quickly back up as the gust speed drops.

I am sure you can find more comprehensive answer from others and in other threads.
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by black_roses1 View Post
It's a two crew, single trapeze, symetric spinnaker boat. It's an Australian class so probably no-one will have heard of it.
Why not? This is an international forum
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

Is it a 125
does this help?
Australian 125 Sailing Dinghy - National Association
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Old 09-15-2013
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

Ok sorry I thought it was a US forum from looking at other posters locations. Yes it's a 125.

I don't know if I do have weather helm, when the boat is flat & close hauled if I let go of the tiller the boat stays straight & then slowly alters course. It doesn't automatically round up.

Reaching with the kite I'm fine, I don't seem to have helming issues then.

Running downwind I'll try using less helm next time & see if that helps.

Upwind I'm doing my best to keep the boat flat. Any tips for conditions where it will go from 5 knots to a 18-20 knot bullet & then back to five knots again in a matter of minutes? That's when I'm struggling with keeping the boat flat. Crew has to move from the middle of the boat to the wire in a matter of seconds & generally can't do it in time to stop the boat heeling - by then it's too late & the rudder has loaded up so much that I've already lost control. I'm only 55kgs so me flat hiking doesn't make much difference. I already work the vang but I'll try & work the main even harder & see if that helps.
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

Over on the left edge of the web site you linked is a discussion forum. Have you posed your questions there? Seems to me you'll get the best answers there. Failing that, it sounds to me your mainsail is mis-shaped or blown out, drawing far more in the gusts than you want. If you can flatten the main (tighten the outhaul, cunningham, etc) to depower it the results may be in your favor.
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Re: Dinghy helm issues

5 to 18/20 knots that's tough, and hard work for you and the crew.
I've sailed these dinghies as crew many years ago at club level and only over the period of one season. But we had success at that level and managed to be up with the young guns at state championship level. It's most important to keep the boat flat going upwind. this will require you and crew being quite dynamic with your body weight. Look ahead, look for the wind on the water and get your weight out and crew on the wire as the gust hits.
Are you racing your 125? what can you do to learn from the other crews? watch what they do and talk to them as we'll.
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