Learning to sail
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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Severe lee helm in light wind on Hobie One 14 - why?
I'm just beginning to learn to sail. A few weeks ago, I completed a 12 hour sailing class with mostly Sunfish sailing, which was pretty easy and confidence-inspiring. The last day, the instructor showed us how to rig a Hobie One 14 (monohull, regular mailsail+jib rigging) and we sailed it around a bit.
This afternoon, my girlfriend and I rented the same Hobie to sail on a small lake. However, our confidence was blown away when we realized we couldn't tack, and in fact had difficulty holding a beam reach. The tiller required a substantial angle just to hold a reach, and when trying to turn slightly into the wind, even holding the tiller hard over, it would just refuse to turn. So, we lamely zig-zagged a while trying to figure out what was going wrong, until we ran out of room and got stuck on the rocks on the lee of the lake. Our demise was accelerated somewhat when we accidentally popped the rudder out of its gudgeons while fiddling with it to see if there was something wrong with it.
It felt pretty bad having to concede defeat and have the park ranger tow us back to the dock; but even more so, I'm totally confused by what happened. None of the staff on duty at the lake were sailors, so they weren't able to explain it. So I thought I'd give this forum a try...
The wind was pretty light, about 6 or 7 knots, with occasional gusts. In retrospect, we may not have rigged the downhaul line correctly. We also forgot to insert the battens into our sail, but we thought it should be OK without them. Other than the roach flapping, the sails seemed to fill with air in the proper way. I'm pretty sure everything else, the rudder and the jib, was correct. One annoyance was that the drain plug was missing, so we took on a small amount of water in the cockpit. We checked the centerboard line, and it seemed to be extended correctly. We checked the rudder afterwards, and I'm pretty sure we had installed it correctly.
I'm totally at a loss about what happened. My best guess is that we had incorrectly rigged our mailsail some sort of way to introduce excessive lee helm. It also seems like low wind was a contributor, because whenever we got a good gust, things seemed to work a little better. Can anyone help explain this, or have any ideas what we might have done wrong?