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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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  #1  
Old 07-10-2011
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Sailing poorly upwind

So I'm by no means a great sailor. I don't know much or think about sail shape, I've never raced and don't particularly care too. But like most people, I pay attention to the boats around me and note how I'm doing in comparison. Usually I judge myself to be sailing just fine (meaning that I expect most boats to pass my Contessa 26 and when I match a C&C 25 or Catalina 30 I think "not bad").

But yesterday was bad. It was a bit gusty so I had opted for full main only (some other boats had the same, some had full rigs, many had a reef and a working Jib). My upwind performance was terrible with the biggest problem being my heading to the wind. I was tacking >100 degrees (perhaps ~115 on average) and nearly every boat that I could judge was sailing closer to the wind than myself. To the best that I could figure, the problem is that my leach and main in general just wasn't taught, it was typically flapping and even with lots of tension on the main sheet it never appeared taught. The main just appeared to be spilling a ton of air.

So I guess I'm asking what this indicates. First, my sails are original (1979) so I'm perfectly willing to believe they are stretched out if that's the most likely answer. But I'm also not sure I have the main adjusted properly. For example I've never adjusted leach line.

Any suggestions?
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Old 07-10-2011
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Where to start? There are a few threads on sail adjustment for higher winds.
You may not be racing but sailing knowledgably and well is better even for cruisers.
Generally you will go to windward better with the jib providing most of the power, and the main adding to this and balancing the boat. The jib size is appropriate for the wind speed and the main adjusted in various ways including reefing.
If your main leech was spilling wind despite the mainsheet being tight that suggests you had the traveller to windward rather than leeward.
The nett effect of having main only going upwind is that the centre of effort moves back so that gives a tendency for the boat to round up into the wind countered to doubt by your using too much rudder. To understand this imagine pushing sideways on the stern of the boat versus the bow. A balanced sail plan is the same as pushing more or less amidships so neither end turns. That requires very little helm which is faster.
You may have been sailing a bit off the wind but that would make the problem worse.
I wouldn't take too much notice of what others are doing - some being right some wrong, until you have built up a knowledge of what how and why to do things.
That will add to your enjoyment and confidence. Doesn't mean to say you spend all day tweaking the sails for the last 1/10th of a knot but does mean that when inevitably the wind gets up and you have to sail to windward you can handle it.
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Old 07-10-2011
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your asking a lot for sails of that age. They were gone 20 years ago. You need to flatten the main in higher wind ranges. Halyard, outhaul, then boom vang to flatten the leach. All that being said if the sail is shot, most likely, you won't be able to get it flat anymore and the draft will have moved back in the sail. It won't be able to do much more than drive you sideways.
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Old 07-10-2011
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If your boat is a masthead rig I think it would not sail well with the main only from what I understand . It takes a pretty good wind to move my boat with the main only and I've a fin keel.. jus sayin...
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Old 07-10-2011
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Old 07-10-2011
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As Chris said, try playing with the traveller. It is too often neglected, and can have a huge effect.
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Old 07-10-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asdf38 View Post
So I'm by no means a great sailor. I don't know much or think about sail shape, I've never raced and don't particularly care too. But like most people, I pay attention to the boats around me and note how I'm doing in comparison. Usually I judge myself to be sailing just fine (meaning that I expect most boats to pass my Contessa 26 and when I match a C&C 25 or Catalina 30 I think "not bad").

But yesterday was bad. It was a bit gusty so I had opted for full main only (some other boats had the same, some had full rigs, many had a reef and a working Jib). My upwind performance was terrible with the biggest problem being my heading to the wind. I was tacking >100 degrees (perhaps ~115 on average) and nearly every boat that I could judge was sailing closer to the wind than myself. To the best that I could figure, the problem is that my leach and main in general just wasn't taught, it was typically flapping and even with lots of tension on the main sheet it never appeared taught. The main just appeared to be spilling a ton of air.

So I guess I'm asking what this indicates. First, my sails are original (1979) so I'm perfectly willing to believe they are stretched out if that's the most likely answer. But I'm also not sure I have the main adjusted properly. For example I've never adjusted leach line.

Any suggestions?

You're not going to be able to sail as close to the wind without a jib.

The flapping may be fixed with a leech line adjustment. Although, it could very well be that the sail is too stretched out. If the material is in good shape, a sail loft might re-cut it for you. A dockmate just bought a new main for his catalina 25 for $600ish.
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Old 07-11-2011
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Not a racing sailor myself but agree with the general consensus that the Jib is best for upwind sailing.
My Centaur has a furling jib so not great reefed beyond a few turns. I pull it as tight as it will go and she tacks through 110 or there abouts, generally need to be running above 3 kns or she stalls.
The main is roller boom reefing so not great when reefed either. Upwind its just to keep lee helm at bay. Still I,m happy to get out there and keep her moving in the right direction.
Its reported that the Centaur designer Laurent Giles recommends the Iron Main for progress to windward, and, unless I,m just messing around, I tend to press the start button.
Safe sailing
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Old 07-11-2011
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I totally understand that you are not interested in racing, but if you intend to sail at all, then you should care about sail shape. It's like saying "I'm interested in driving a car, but I'm not interested in ever changing the oil" and then complaining when the engine fails on you.

Nevermind the condition or age of your sails. As was said previously, if you have a masthead rig, and you're sailing on main only, the "center of effort" (where the wind is pushing against) is aft. CoE aft, creates bad weather helm, and reduces your ability to point. If you only want to use one sail, use the jib alone.

But really, a reefed main and a small jib in stronger breezes will give you the best helm balance and control. Then comes all of that fine-tuning stuff like tugging on the corners of the sails to flatten them or change their shape.

Hey, for what it's worth, I didn't know this a year ago. I went out in a stiff breeze, with main only any my weather helm was so bad that the boat just kept auto-tacking on me until I was nearly blown ashore.
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Old 07-11-2011
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Let's take the comparison of the car again. The sails are your motors, and when a motor is worn there is a loss of power. No matter what lack of knowledge you have of trim. Worn sails aren't going to give you the power you need. Just like a worn motor will not pull that load uphill. Sailing to windward is uphill...........i2f
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