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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.