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  #1  
Old 07-03-2007
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Gusts While Sailing

I was sailing a few weeks back and there was a steady 9kt wind however the gusts were about 15-20kts. When the gusts hit the sails the boat started to heal quite a bit. What is the correct procedure? Do you let the main sail out more and furl some of the head sail?
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Saurav16-

It depends on what kind of boat you're on. On most monohulls, you just ease the main sheet for the gusts. On a multihull, you'd actually reef the sails to suit the gusts... on a monohull, you reef the sails for the average wind speeds, and let the main out and heel the boat a bit to handle the gusts.
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Yeah it is a catalina 27 (mono hull). So I should let out the main sheet for gusts? And for strong winds reef the sail via cunningham and adjust the outhaul?
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Saurav-

Yes, ease the main sheet for the gusts.

Also, the cunningham isn't used for reefing the sail generally... it is used for flattening the main sail, as is tightening the outhaul... both help to de-power the main sail... of course, if your sails are older and blown out... neither will have much of an effect. If you've already reefed the saiil and need to de-power it.. you can tighten up on the halyard and the reefing line to help flatten the sail.
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Ah i c I have to read up about reefing then. At what wind speeds should you reef the sail?
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It depends on the boat. Smaller boats generally have to reef earlier than larger boats.
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I like the saying "if you're thinking about reefing, you probably should have done so already". Reefing can take a little time - especially if short-handed - so you should plan ahead. If the wind isn't getting as big as you thought, then letting out the reef is actually pretty quick.

-Dave
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You should reef any time you start to suspect that things could get out of control. If you get a gust or two that are little pushy your probably ok. If your getting pushed pretty far over, If you find your getting headed up, then having to fall back into the after ever gust. you should have already had a reef. It will make you a faster and safer sailor. A good pratice would be to reef your sail any time there is some good wind blowing. Then when you get out there, if your not moving worth a darn, you can shake the reef. This will give you a lot of quick pratice. Later when you need to reef on the quick you'll be ready.
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For sailing in consistently stronger winds, you definitely need to learn how to reef and depower the sails. For the day you describe - generally 9 kts with occasional higher gusts - you just need to "dump" the main using the mainsheet or traveler until the gust passes.
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One thing that you should realize, is that many boats, properly reefed in heavier weather will sail faster and much more comfortably than if not reefed.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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