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post #1 of 4 Old 12-19-2009 Thread Starter
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Term defintions and clarification

I have been poking about on these forums for some time and have run across a couple of terms that seem to be used with regularity, but I have yet to find a good definition of what they mean. Could someone tell me, or point me to where I can find out.

The first is “weather helm.” Is this how much force is required to keep the boat on course while heeling? Can you trim it out with sail adjustments or do some boat designs just have it and some don’t?

I have seen several posts describing a boat as “tender.” I am really not sure if it means tender to the touch so be careful or it is tender so one has to be aggressive while sailing.

The next one is “points well.” Is this a description of tiller effectiveness?

“Firms up” does this mean it only heels so far?

Thank you in advance for getting a beginner on the right course.
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post #2 of 4 Old 12-19-2009
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Weather helm - is the tendency of a boat to turn up into the wind if the tiller or wheel is let go. It's a function of balance and design and it's considered safer for a boat to have weather helm, as if left unattended suddenly it will come up into the wind and slow/stop or at worst autotack and end up "hove to" with the jib backwinded. A boat that exhibits lee helm will bear away and likely into an uncontrolled jibe if the helmsman lets go.

However, excessive weather helm forces the driver to hold an extreme rudder angle to combat it and maintain a course.. this leads to drag, slowing the boat down and fatigue for the poor person fighting this load all the time. Boats with balanced rudders will be easier to handle than those without. Carrying enough weather helm to require a 5-10 degree rudder angle is often said to help a boat's ability to get upwind.

A Tender boat is one that heels (leans over) easily with relatively little breeze.. this is a function of the hull form and the amount of ballast. Some boats with rounded sections but decent ballast will heel easily at first, but "firm up" as the righting arm of the ballast comes into play.

A boat that "points well" is able to maintain speed and power at a closer angle to the true wind, and therefore will theoretically get to an upwind destination sooner than a boat that doesn't point so well. Pure pointing angle, though, like so many scenarios in sailing is only part of the picture.

I've probably given you more terms to wonder about, so keep 'em coming!!


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Last edited by Faster; 12-19-2009 at 04:05 PM.
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post #3 of 4 Old 12-19-2009 Thread Starter
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Thanks Faster,

The concepts are now crystal clear.
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post #4 of 4 Old 12-19-2009
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I can't improve upon Faster's explanation above. I will just point out that a dinghy is often referred to as a tender. The term you asked about usually means 'tippyness'; the more 'tippy' (or heel) the tenderer.
There is also something called 'meat tenderizer' which might come up in a discussion on relieving jellyfish stings

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