terminology question(s)... - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 03-07-2007
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terminology question(s)...

Not sure if I should post this in LEarning To Sail or here - anyway, I'm a newbie and have been reading "The Complete Sailor" by Seidman - love it but as many questions that are answered, I get more questions

I keep seeing the phrase "weather helm" - what is that?
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Old 03-07-2007
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Weather Helm - is the boats tendency (undersail) to want to "round-up" or turn into the wind. i.e. turn to weather.
Lee Helm - would describe the opposite tendency, for the boat to want to turn to leeward away from the wind.
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Tendency of a boat to turn into the wind even when the rudder is centered - easily countered by wedging a heavy object against the tiller/wheel - see "crew".
Some consider it a safety tendency
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Cool Weather Helm

Put most simply- When most boats are close-hauled or close reaching, they exhibit a tendancy to turn toward the wind. Reducing weather helm relieves that tendency and the "driver's" (PIC) work load.
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Old 03-07-2007
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I might add that some weather helm is a good thing - during a stiff blow, if equipment or helmsman shall cease to function properly, the boat will steer itself into the wind, luffing the sails.
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Got it - thanks!
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Old 03-07-2007
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As described above, weather helm is the tendency for a boat to round up into the wind if the tiller is released. On a boat under sail, with the appropriate weather helm you will find the tiller is being held a few degrees off-centerline to weather. In extreme conditions, or with a poorly balanced boat, the pressure on the tiller can be considerable and it can occasionally overpower the helmsman, causing the above mentioned "roundups".

Extreme (excessive) weather helm can be due to poor sail trim, an unbalanced rudder, the wrong mast position or simply bad design.

Some weather helm is desirable for two main reasons. As a safety concern the weather helm means that if someone lets go of the tiller the boat will round up, slow down and possibly auto tack and heave-to, much safer than lee helm which would cause the boat to bear away and possibly go into an uncontrolled gybe.

Also the 5 or so degrees of rudder angle that results helps to combat leeway and improve gains to weather.

Too much rudder angle just acts as a brake, slowing the boat and exerting excessive forces on the tiller/wheel. The rudder can actually cavitate or stall and - once again - you'll find yourself rounding up...

If you find yourself "fighting the tiller" due to these forces, try easing the traveller to leeward until the pressure eases off.

Last edited by Faster; 03-07-2007 at 12:16 PM.
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A small amount of weather helm is a good thing, as it helps the boat's rudder generate lift, as well as causes the boat to head into the wind if the tiller is released. Any more than a few degrees of weather helm is a bad thing, since it causes the rudder to act as a brake...and slows the boat a good deal.

Lee helm is generally a bad thing. It doesn't generate lift, and if the rudder is let go, the boat will head downwind and if the reason the tiller has been let go is that you've fallen overboard, the boat will continue to sail away from you, instead of going into irons and stopping.
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As you spend more time in the boat you will begin to desire ways to reduce excessive weather helm at different wind speeds (since its not very nice to be sailing around with your rudder turned 10 or so degrees trying to balance out the unbalanced boat). Weather helm is created when the sailplan's center of effort is too far back with respect to the keel. Just think...the forces are pushing on the back of the boat and pivoting it into the wind. You can modify the sail plan you are carrying (for instance, dropping the traveler as described above or even putting a reef in the main if that doesn't do it). This will move the center of effort of the sailplan forward a bit and reduce the pivoting force on the back of boat. This article describes how you can do the same thing without changing the amount of sail carried by reducing the backward tilt of the mast. For cruising, its easier to just drop the traveler or put a reef in the main

http://www.jsalis.org/Lessons/Boathandling_Tuning.html
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Wow - lots of great info - thanks all!
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