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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 04-24-2012
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Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

I've done quite a bit of sailing. All book and experience learned. Always had boat parts to to buy or maintenance to do. I have always found sailing lessons beyond my buget constraints. I know they would be worth the investment though, maybe in the future.
So my question. Is there a good and safe way to drop a main with the wind on a stern quarter or dead astern? I have always cracked off and brought the wind at least a beam, usually onto a beat. Once though I found myself over sailed in huge seas and and strong wind, really huge, really strong, off Big Sur. Had a hell of a time and scared my wife and I to death running in those swells with main up, even though deeply reefed. We should have had up a storm jib, but was under main alone. Taking the jib down was a harrowing experience in itself. I was too scared to bring it beam to the swells, let alone nose in to them even if we could have. I know I shouldn't have been where I was with the main up, and hopefully never will again. I do sail by the mantra, if you are thinking about reefing, you should already have done it.
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

Sounds like you did the best you could under bad circumstances. You can't drop the main unless it is luffing. That means you really need to be on a beam reach or higher. If you have slides rather than a rope it should drop on its own or with a good tug. If your halyard is on the mast you could uncleat it and then head back to the helm so your wife does not have to be at the helm in a beam sea with the sail on top of her.
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

It's a tough situation to be in. I think you learned the lesson....get the sail down before it gets interesting. Something most of us learned the hard way

My favorite "downwind" story is sailing towards Newport RI under spinnaker to get a closer look at Americas Cup boats practicing. The closer we get the more "fun" it is. By the time we are passed Beavertail it was "way too much fun" and past time to take down the shute. Too late now...

Something got fubar'd (don't remember what) but we plowed onward on a comically overpowered Catalina 27 with me tethered to a pounding foredeck pulling desperately down on a sail that would not co-operate.

Never again. We did get it down, but for a while it seemed there where two options. Cut it loose or head for Nova Scotia.
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

After an hour of struggle off Point Hudson to down the gaff main in 40 knots ( couldn't come about because of insecure cargo) a gust took it up again while I reached for gaskets(in spite of lazy jacks) All over again but learned a lot. Continued on to Victoria with staysail in 65 knts of winter gale. Great run but for the many large logs in the surf .
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

Thanks for the replies. I didn't think there was a way to drop the main without bringing her into the wind. Since reefing seldom drops hull speed and usually increases SOG, there is no reason not to reef as soon as the notion crosses your mind. Easier to shake out a reef than put one in, IMHO, and practice, practice, practice. The more often you reef, the more second nature it becomes.
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

In lighter conditions, is it possible to go dead downwind, center the boom, and lower the main?
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

Yeah, if the main's not too big, slides not to draggy and wind pretty light.

Otherwise "no".
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

No clear answer for that one, and it varies with boat, equipment and conditions. I'd try a broad reach to increase speed, and on steepest wave I can find, surf, turn dead down, sheet in main completely and release halyard surfing down wave. If you have a strong motor, full power will help! Oh, and don't try this without lazy jacks! A full genoa should help powering you down waves until main comes down fully. Then furl genoa as required. If it's too windy to do this, you shouldn't have waited so long! No furler or lazy jacks? You did the best you could. Best to take down genoa on shadow of main and then do upwind maneuver to take down main.
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Len View Post
After an hour of struggle off Point Hudson to down the gaff main in 40 knots ( couldn't come about because of insecure cargo) a gust took it up again while I reached for gaskets(in spite of lazy jacks) All over again but learned a lot. Continued on to Victoria with staysail in 65 knts of winter gale. Great run but for the many large logs in the surf .
So, if I understand you correctly (and please correct me if I'm wrong), you voluntarily chose to cross JDFuca from Pt. Townsend to Victoria knowing the wind was blowing 40-60K, with "insecure cargo" on deck? Why?
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Old 04-24-2012
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Re: Dropping the Main Running Down Wind

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barquito View Post
In lighter conditions, is it possible to go dead downwind, center the boom, and lower the main?
Short answer is yes.

Also, I sometimes will start the engine (producing apparent or apparently no wind) and continue heading "downwind" in light air to lower the main.
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