Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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ideal wind speed?
I am not sure where you are heading with this but I think that every boat and every skipper will have an ideal wind range and of course they will all be different.
I have sailed heavy offshore boats that only come into their own in winds over 12 knots and are a lark as winds approach 20 knots. I have sailed small open traditional wooden boats and poorly designed cruiser racers that become very scary in winds much over 12 knots.
Dealing with weather varies with each boat as well. On almost any boat flattening the sails is the first step. Tightening halyards, outhauls and vangs pulls flattens the sails and reduces the component to drive that causes boats to heel and make leeway. Dropping the traveller presents a strighter less powerful foil to the wind. Moving the jib sheets aft and inducing mast bend (on a modern bendy rig) flattens the sail, opens the leech and spills air aloft. Mast bend is usually induced by tightening the backstay which helps tighten forestay which also flattens the jib.
On a Gaffer, the runners are tightened to tighten the forestay, and the throat halyard is tightened a lot and the peak halyard is left as it is or slightly tightened. This allows the gaff to sag off to leeward, reducing heel but at the same time reducing ability to point.
As winds build beyond the point that those simple measures work, the solutions will vary pretty widely with the boat. On most rigs the strategy will vary with the wind type. In gusty winds on a masthead rig with a comparatively large jib and small mainsail, occationally flagging the main is not a great loss. It is important to have a lot of vang on in those conditions so that easing the sheet does not ''power up'' the mainsail. This is known as vang sheeting. On a fractional rig, mast bend and changing traveller position is often enough to address gusts. Gaffers have far fewer options.
In solid state breezes or on a long course more permanent measures make sense. Depending on the boat, reefing the mainsail or peeling down to a smaller jib is next step. For cruising purposes, reefing is usually easier than a sail change but again that usually varies with the boat and its gear. At some point boats with roller furling jibs start to furl in some sail area. This is a mixed blessing. Roller furling is a quick and pretty easy way to reduce jib area, but it also powers up the jib, and hooks in the leech over time as the clew pulls toward the foot. This is the opposite of the flat sail and straight leeches that you would like to have in heavier air. Roller furlers are generally good for a 10% reduction in area after which sail shape really deteriorates. Unlike a sail change to a smaller jib, there is no way to tension the luff once a jib is rolled so if you think you will be in heavy going for a long period of time of building conditions, then the change to a smaller headsail is the way to go.
As wind speeds build it is a matter of another reef, a smaller jib, another reef and perhaps no jib or storm jib. Trysail and so on. You eventually outstip the options and get into survival sailing but I think that is al ot more controversial and beyond the real scope of your original question.
In my case, I think an ideal wind speed is between 5 knots and wind speeds approaching 20 knots. Over 20kts things become less leisurely and I need to pay closer attention to what is happening (especially in gusts and confused waves). As winds approach 30 knots she is a bit of a handful but after I get used to being in that much wind (it is a bit like getting into cool water, getting in is the hardest part), I have had some really great sails in this stuff.
This wide wind range is a product of the boat that I own and my experience with her. I have a light weight boat that is easy to adapt to the conditions. She is still fast and controlable even under greatly reduced sail. I have owned her for 12 years and so I am very familiar with her bahavior.
Anyway, good luck fixing your gaff and I hope this was what you had in mind.