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Old 09-03-2007
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Lee helm / backstay

I have a Buccaneer 210 that wont sail upwind and has what can only be described as lee helm. It sails upwind poorly if at all and the rudder is at full travel to the upwind side to hold course, as the wind picks up the boat turns downwind on its own with some scary heeling! I’ve experimented with sail trim and it helps but not enough. Here’s some links to the dimensions and rigging:

interactivejones.com/buccden/files/bucc210_spec_01.doc

interactivejones.com/buccden/files/buccman_02.doc

There’s no mention of proper mast rake but there seems to be very little if any. The manual suggests 12” of slack in the forestay at chest height. At this tension the forestay wags in the wind, could this be correct? Yesterday I lengthened the forestay to about the safe limit of the turnbuckle and tightened the backstay as far as it would go. This leaves about 3” of slack in the forestay and maybe 2” of rake at the top of the mast. It’s better but still takes full rudder to hold course. This was in +\- 15 knots with the main reefed and about a 65% jib. Full sails in lighter wind are essentially the same. If I have to modify the backstay to get enough rake I’m considering adding a block and tackle to allow adjustments. Will this help? How do I determine the safe limits of adding tension?
This is my first experience in a keelboat so learning to sail seems appropriate, should this be in gear and maintenance?

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 09-03-2007
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Get the mast straight up and down for now.

Your problem: I think you're sheeting in too hard on your main and jib.

Here is a trick for trimming:

Jib: ease the sheet (relax the lines) until the sail just begins to loose shape and flap a tad, then bring it back in slightly and you'll be good. If you have telltales, that makes it a little more easy and complicated all at the same time.

Main: ease the sheet until you notice a little bubble forming on the front seam of the sail like the wind is blowing back the wrong way on it. This is the point where it would start to luff (or flap) if you let it out anymore. then draw in the sheet just a smidge to where the sail forms that nice curve again, and just a hair more for measure. If you have telltales along the trailing edge of the mainsail, they will fly straight out at this point.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Thanks, Lancer. I'll give it a try. Everything I've read is boom on centerline and sheet in hard for upwind. Will this help give more power to the main?
What about the telltails on the Jib, all back?
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Old 09-03-2007
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I called a friend about your tension. He said to get your mast straight and simply use a tensioning tool to make everything snug. He also said to make sure you're not "bagging" your sail by using too little outhaul tension or too much cunningham, as well as snug down your boom vang.

Start with 165 lbs of pressure on each wire, then take your upper shrouds to 10% of breaking strength (check with some place like west marine on your line strengths) and the diagonals to 15%. Then put your stays up to 10% on each one, fore and back. this lets you now tune to 15% on the back if you want that 1 to 2" of rake, but Jim says "just get it straight until you want to race it".
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Old 09-03-2007
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As far as I know, you can only power up the sail (over trim) it so much until it looses its curve that produces the lift to move you forward, then all you get is a 650 sq ft weathervane.

Telltales on the jib require a little bit of know-how on how to use, much more so than on the trailing edge of the main, IMHO. That is why I said it is easy and hard at the same time, because once I thought I knew how to read the main, along comes the jib and they lift at different points, some fly backwards, some point down, and it all means something. If you can get them to all point back without more than sheet tension changes, you're in good.

As far as the boom to centerline, do some reading up on the post here about how to use the traveller, it explains more than I would be able to about upwind sailing and wind speed.

For me, when I was (and I STILL am) learning to sail, I stuck to the KISS principal and just kept the traveller on the centerline and practiced on things like trimming in and out to watch the telltales change. It is a neat feeling to be able to lock in the sheets to cam cleats and just hang out while the boat sails itself on a good balance after you learn how not to fiddle too much and get a quick, good trim.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Lancer has some good points - set the rig up and tension it reasonably, then experiment with your sail settings to see what you can do.

But the unfortunate part of your plight is that, I'm sorry to tell you that your boat will never sail particularly well, esp upwind. It's simply not an inspired design. (I'm trying to be kind here)
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Old 09-04-2007
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Yea, I know it’s more like a truck than a racer but trucks go uphill. I think I should at least be able to tack into the wind and sail without the helm hard over.
There's no way I can get that kind of tension with what I have, so I'm thinking a swage less fitting to shorten the backstay until I have enough adjustment.
So far I'm into this for couple of months of back slip fees, a lot of elbow grease and some new halyard line. GF and I have had a great time so far and consider this as a trainer before spending a lot of money. I figure if we can become at least proficient with this, a real boat should be all gravy. Soon I'll be starting trouble by asking what a "real" boat is!

Thanks again,
Mike
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Old 09-04-2007
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In all probability what you're experiencing is SLIP rather than lee helm. .... it feels the same on the rudder but the causes are different. Excessive slip is caused by a too loose a forestay (backstay) wherein the luff of the jib falls off extremely to leeward with the result that the draft in the jib goes toooooo far aft and too too too full.

For a 210 a sailmaker will cut approximately 4-6 inches of 'luff hollow' into the luff section .... so that the 'normal' sag of the forestay under load *matches* the curve cut into the luff of the jib. If the forestay sag is greater than what the forestay normally sags off to leeward at normal headstay(backstay) tension: .... draft aft, too full draft, excessive heel, cant point up, dead slow, always seem to be 'overpowered', lots of very adverse helm pressure ... and the boat will be rapidly skidding off to leeward - and the pressure on the rudder will feel like 'lee-helm' as the rudder attempts to counteract the skid. Hint: look at the wake of the boat .... the wake is probably coming out the stern at a very noticable angle to the boat's centerline; If so the boat is SKIDDING off to leeward.

Rx: tighten the backstay as taught as you can stand it or dare and see what happens ... but dont 'overtighten' the jib sheet with a winch or that too will cause excess forestay sag.

More precisely .... take the jib/genoa OFF the boat and lay it on
"FLAT" (clean) ground. Make an accordian fold about 24" back from the luff and again 36" back from the luff - this is so that the luff section of the sail is absolutely FLAT on the ground, the accordian pleat will allow the sail's luff to be FLAT and unwrinkled on the FLAT ground. Pull tight from the head and tack and then remove any wrinkles in the sail near the luff. At this point you will observe that the leading edge of the luff section has a curve to it .... called 'luff hollow' and is what the sailmaker cut away from the luff to compensate for expected luff sag under normal rig tension and normal sailing conditions (at ~15 kts). Measure the amount of 'hollow' to the luff and REMEMBER the shape ---- and if what you 'remember' that is cut away (hollow) does not match what you see when the boat is sailing in ~15kts.,----------- if that 'hollow' that you SEE when sailing is GREATER than what to saw/remember when the sail was FLAT on the ground .... TIGHTEN the backstay until what you saw approximately matches what you SEE. At that point of matching the sags and hollows, you should have no more apparent lee-helm.

Sometimes (and depending on the actual jib set-up and design) you will need to add MORE jib halyard tension to help with this condition, **especially if the jib doesn't use any hanks that attach to the forestay** .... in that case (a small wire cable or small three strand dacron rope in a sleeve at the luff) you have to add significant halyard tension to the jib/genoa ... as the jib luff (wire or 3-strand) in the luff takes ALL the tension (and the forestay goes slack when you do). All depends if the jib attaches with hanks OR has is own wire or 3-strand luff rope to support ALL the loading.

Short answer: tighten hell out of the backstay and see what happens. If the jib doesn't attach to the forestay with hanks, tighten hell out of the jib halyard too.

hope this helps.
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