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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 08-26-2008
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avoiding a knock down when doing a u-turn

Today I was out sailing in about 12-15 knot winds with my 13 yr old in our 15 foot boat. This is as windy as I have sailed in my 5 weeks experience I have gathered. I had reefed the main but was running our only jenny, which is about 130% I would guess. Anyways, we were doing quite nicely tacking for a while. When we decided to turn back I was on a tack with the boom close hauled to the starboard. I decided to do a turn about 150 degrees to starboard which would keep the boom on the starboard side thru the turn avoiding a jibe. Since we would be turning the boat broadside thru the wind, i figured I would play out the main sheet while turning to avoid getting knocked down.

Well, I didn't get knocked down but we must have been heeled over 50 degrees during the turn, even with the main sail out somewhere around 45 degrees.

How should I have made the turn? Should I have made one more tack and done a jibe? Or some other way?

Thanks, Eric
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Old 08-26-2008
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Eric,

It's a bit hard to follow, but from your description, it sounds like you were close hauled on port tack (with boom to starboard), and then decided to reverse course by bearing away to a broad reach or run? If so, you did well to ease the mainsail out during the turn. But you didn't mention easing the genoa. If you neglected to ease the genoa, it's possible that it was the source of your knockdown. If it remained sheeted flat for close-hauled sailing, it would present a lot of surface area to the now-perpendicular wind.

Remember that whenever you make a course change under sail, you must do one of two things: Either you must change the trim of all the sails, or you must alter the direction that the wind is coming from such that the apparent wind remains constant. Since so few of us have command over the wind and seas, we are left with little choice but to change the trim of our sails.

It sounds to me like you're getting the hang of this concept pretty quickly. I'll bet that was a fun ride for your 13-year old!
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Old 08-26-2008
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I have a little trouble understanding what you've said, but it sounds like you were on a starboard tack close reach, and tacked onto a port tack beam reach to get back home (meaning the wind was from the starboard side, and you were tacking to put it on the port side, with the boom then out to starboard, and broad-reach home?)

if so, and you still got knocked down with reefed main, I can only guess that the main was still not eased enough to avoid the side-pressure from the wind. If you're doing a "reach-to- reach" jibe, then you need the jib to be the predominant sail on the new tack, meaning trimmed in before the main--it will pull you forward, and not over sideways.

As I said, this is a guess based on what you said. But I'd guess you should've eased the main more, and trimmed the jib earlier, than you did. The jib will head you back off the wind. The main, if overtrimmed, will heel you without giving you much forward impulsion.

You won't really know until you try it again in the same conditions. In the meantime, you're asking the right questions. And if you feel you may have made a mistake, join the crowd and have a beer. Lots of us have gotten this boat-balancing question wrong in a stiff breeze. It depends on the weather, the boat, and the situation.
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What the two of you describe is correct. I did not ease the jib, so perhaps that is where the mistake was made. I have notice that while sailing, many times many things need to be done at once. I do try to plan ahead when making decisions but I guess I figured easing the main would get me thru the turn safely (as it has in lesser winds in the past). next time I will ease the jib as well before the turn.

It all happened quite quickly, so it was over in 3 seconds since I kept the turn going. The healing was enough to get water over the rail into the cockpit, but only a couple of quarts. My sons eyes got as big as saucers but 2 seconds later after it was over he had quite a smile on his face so it's all good. He had a nice storey for his mother when we got home too. I am just trying to learn a little here.

While I have your attention, I have another question. When running, how can I depower the main sail in a big gust? For example, if beating, I can ease the main or turn into the wind, but when on a downwind reach (lets say with the wind at a rear corner), if things get crazy, what can be done? It seams to me both easing or hauling in the main sheet will have little effect. I always feel uneasy on a run for some reason. (like I have little control).

Thanks, Eric
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Old 08-26-2008
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It's tough to depower the main on a dead run, but it's possible to a degree by sheeting the main IN and presenting less area to the breeze. This can be difficult to do if it's windy, and is inherently a bit risky because your are putting yourself closer to an accidental jibe.

If you find yourself overpowered on the run, you're best to come up onto a reach and reef (if you haven't done so already) or douse the main and then run on the headsail alone. Hopefully you'll have the sea room to do so.
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Old 08-27-2008
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That's right. It is tricky to depower the main when sailing off the wind. It's good that you've noticed this, Eric.

When sailing upwind, we are more apt to recognize that the wind is building and we are overpowered. Sailing well off the wind, a building breeze is more likely to catch us off guard since we are going with it and it all seems fun. But then we begin to feel the boat overpressed, and the wind wants to round us up, and things begin to feel a bit out of control.

Faster described a few techniques for depowering the main if you're caught with too much canvas up. Be sure to rig a preventer (if you don't know what a preventer is yet, search the archives here at Sailnet) before bringing the mainsail in much for depowering. Another way to depower is to ease the vang and let the boom lift up a bit.

But the best way to depower is -- as Faster mentioned -- to reef down the mainsail. You may also need to reduce the size of your headsail if the wind builds enough. Generally though, a bit too much headsail will not be as much of a problem when sailing downwind. It's usually an overcanvassed mainsail that sets the boat squirrelly.
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Thanks. I do know what a preventer is. So it is a good strategy to haul in the main under a windy run and using a preventer to protect from an accidental jibe?

On another subject, is a broach happening any time we are perpendicular to the wind with the sails close hauled (for example when making a mistake similar to mine above) or is a broach happening when the boat accidentally rounds up due to being overpowered by wind and/or waves?

What is the technical difference between rounding up due to weatherhelm and a broach due to weatherhelm?

Thanks for all the help. Eric

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Originally Posted by AllThumbs View Post
Thanks. I do know what a preventer is. So it is a good strategy to haul in the main under a windy run and using a preventer to protect from an accidental jibe?
I wouldn't necessarily call it a good strategy. At best, it's a temporary strategy. If the wind is building or is already overpowering the boat, best to reef that main. When in doubt, reef. It's easier to do it earlier than later.

I normally only employ the "over-trim-the-main" strategy in moderate conditions when I want to slow the boat down (like when approaching a dock under sail from upwind, or waiting for another boat to catch-up, or trying to avoid crossing a start line early). It can be dicey to employ it for very long in heavy air -- even with a preventer rigged -- when the best solution is to reef.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllThumbs View Post
On another subject, is a broach happening any time we are perpendicular to the wind with the sails close hauled (for example when making a mistake similar to mine above) or is a broach happening when the boat accidentally rounds up due to being overpowered by wind and/or waves?

What is the technical difference between rounding up due to weatherhelm and a broach due to weatherhelm?

Thanks for all the help. Eric
Rounding up occurs when the center of effort on the sails shifts too far aft or outboard, usually when the mainsail is overpowering the helm. A little rounding up is normal when sailing upwind in puffy conditions -- it's the natural tendency of the boat. But severe rounding up is generally undesirable, especially on a downwind leg -- it slows the boat and can put it into a squirrelly oscillation, and can even result in a collision if another boat is nearby. But rounding up does not always result in a broach.

Broaching is when the boat goes so far over on its side that it loses rudder control. A broach most often occurs during a round-up, but it can also occur when bearing away if the sails are not sufficiently eased (like your situation above, although it sounds like you didn't have a drastic or full broach).

If you poke around a bit, you can find lots of photos of wild broaches, and most of them show racing boats that broached under spinnaker. Usually these broaches result from the overcanvassed boat first rounding up in a puff, at which point the forces on the huge spinnaker are no longer pulling the boat downwind, but instead are inducing excessive heal. It can be wild and scary, especially if the boat oscillates. Good to avoid.

In short:

Rounding up a bit at times -- not so bad.

Rounding up a lot, almost losing control -- Undesirable, re-trim sails or reduce sail area.

Broaching and losing rudder control -- to be avoided. If this is happening too often, maybe get a more experienced sailor to come out with you on a blustery day for a few pointers.
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As always, John, well said!
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Old 08-28-2008
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As always, thanks for the info.

I have not had the boat round up or broach yet. I have always had good rudder control. Acording to the PO, my boats original rudder and tiller was lost by the careless owner before him (21 yr old kid who had inherited the boat and never sailed it, but managed to lose the rudder some how). The new rudder seems to be home made and is fairly large. Maybe 3 feet deep and 11" wide. The only time it hasn't controlled the boat is when the boat is stopped due to no wind at all (I learned already that if there is no wind, it's no fun - kind of like being on a motor boat with no gas. I don't really like to paddle a 600 lbs boat that much. - oh and as soon as you drop the sails to paddle home, the wind seems to pickup, just long enough for you to get the sails back up, then it's gone again).

In any event, I am having a blast learning to tame this thing. I think one more summer and I will be looking for something bigger.

If I can think of any more questions, I will ask.

Eric
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