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Ahoy, sehopkins. The marine architect that designed your boat, the marine engineer that built it and the owners of the manufacturing company (who have the liability) know what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with your boat. The Hunter is a good boat. Water
ballast is a valid concept. Some ocean racers use it as does the U.S. Navy. You must use it in the conditions and in the way it was designed to be used.
If you were heeling in a power boat, that would be one thing, but a sail boat is designed to heel.
As regards knockdown, unless you are in severe conditions or are not making the necessary adjustments, you probably won''t have one.
Visualize with me for a moment in your minds eye. You are holding a toy sailboat in
front of you. You are looking at it beam on.
The main sail is running bow to stern on the center line of the boat. Now if you blow on it, the whole sail area is exposed to your breath and the boat starts turning down away from you. The farther it goes, however, the
less sail area you can see, the less area is exposed to be blown. Shortly, the pressure in this reduced exposed area of sail no longer is greater than the effects of ballast
which is resisting the heeling. The boat starts back up, or at worse remains at this point of balance between push and pull, between heeling and righting moments.
Now, the other way to reduce this exposed sail area is to let out the sheet. Visualize
the toy boat upright again just like it was.
Now you ease the sheet, letting the end of the boom go out away from you. The area of the sail that you can see gets narrower and narrower the farther out the boom goes so the
heeling pressure gets less and less.
Probably your heeling problem comes from having your sheets in too hard. Refer to the "Learning To Sail", "Sail Trim For Beginners" message board for a simple technique for sail trim and a couple of drills you can do on the water that will let you feel these effects.
Normally, you will control the angle of your sails to the wind and thus the pressure in them by playing your sheets when you are reaching because you want to stay on your rhumb line or bearing. You will control this angle on a beat with your rudder. On a beat, you will normally have your sheet cleated and
will sail a snake like course as you alternately turn your bow into (luff) the wind for freeing shifts, and away from the wind for headers (unless it is a large header
when you will tack). On a beat you are constantly trying to get up to weather.
The "fisherman''s reef" is simply letting your main sheet out, taking the wind out of the main (depowering). This is a quick and easy fix in a hard puff but is a temporary technique at best. It is better to luff, to
shoot up to wind in a hard puff to depower because it gets you farther up to weather.
Summary: When you get sailing, start with
your foresail. Ease it out just till the luff breaks (wind just gets behind the leading edge) then harden in just till the break disappears. Then do the same with the main. Now maintain that angle on a reach by playing your sheets and on a beat with your tiller.
Finally, when you can no longer control heeling by this method it is time to reduce sail. The force driving your boat will not change because large sail area in light wind = small sail area in hard wind.
Always visualize what you want to have before you start maneuvering. What do I want, what do I have, how do I go from one to
I hope this helps. It helped me immediately when I first got started to get control of a dinghy that was trying to eat me.