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Old 05-16-2013
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handling gusts

When I am about to be hit by a big gust of wind, I have always had a tendency (from dinghy days I suppose) to head in to the wind a bit to spill some air and preventing a big heel. An "old salt" told me that I should actually bear off the wind a bit. Seems the opposite of what I should be doing.

thoughts?
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Old 05-16-2013
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Re: handling gusts

Technically correct advice since increase in wind speed tends to move the apparent wind direction forward ( a "header") but in practice I prefer to head up as you do, keeping her "on her feet" is faster than excessive heel.
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Old 05-16-2013
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Re: handling gusts

On my smaller venture 22 I would ease off the wind a bit as the gust would bring me back up. However on larger 30, 36 and 40 foot boats I just keep course and spill some wind from the main if I need to. I am sure different people handle it differently.
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Old 05-16-2013
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Re: handling gusts

Maybe he thought you were heading off the wind, in which case he'd be right. Heading off going downwind, though it won't cause the sails to luff, will help the boat go faster. This will reduce the apparent wind, making it easier to handle the puff, since it will seem relatively less strong. Heading down in a puff when going downwind also spreads the heeling moment of the sails along the boat's entire length, instead of the beam- so you'll heel less. On a sailboat, what's right always depends upon the way you're pointing and the way the wind is blowing, and it changes all the time.
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Re: handling gusts

In almost all winds, when sailing closehauled, I follow the wind in steering the boat. Whether lifted or headed, or in gusts or lulls, I steer the boat so as to keep the sails in trim and the telltales streaming. The only exception is in an overpowering gust. When a gust is so strong as to be overpowering, then I pinch to windward slightly, because, even though the sails might be fluttering out of trim slightly, it is more important to keep the boat on it's feet than to keep the sails driving at full power.
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Re: handling gusts

I'm with Sailormon.. and will pinch off a puff to avoid excess heeling. On our former 24 foot day racer we used to call this 'survival pinching'.. it can be a bit of a tricky balance - enough to feather off the knock down but still avoid excessive slowing, or worse, an 'autotack'. In really puffy conditions it's often possible to take some pretty big bites to weather this way.
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Old 05-17-2013
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Re: handling gusts

I agree with the feathering, but it takes a lot of feel. When racing larger boats, 44 ft. we'd have the genoa cranked in tight. In a gust we'd head up slightly so our jib would not be luffing but rather would push slightly in the weather direction. Sorta' forcing more air on the leeward side than normal. This would keep us from being pushed over and also push us to windward a bit. You have to anticipate the passing of the gust so you don't "auto tack". We'd also do this in 14 ft racing dinghies. Works best with a pretty flat cut jib.
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Old 05-17-2013
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Re: handling gusts

I think also depends on how big of a puff you're getting hit by (hopefully, you're anticipating it) it's direction (header or lifter) and really what kind of boat. The old "ease-hike-trim" comes back to mind from dingy days as well, but I don't recall doing anything other than maintaining course- even in 420's- in fact, in those- you'd take advantage if you were getting lifted, of course. In our Olson, I'll frequently leave the genoa (or jib) alone and depower with the backstay (which does a more remarkable job than just about any boat I've sailed), and if that's not enough- drop the traveler, then the mainsheet, then hike, then trim back in and ease back off the backstay. If it's expected to do much more, then the jib needs to be eased at the same time- especially if we're racing, and never footing or pinching (unless it's really blowing). Pinching kills our speed- I've learned that on the hard way...
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Re: handling gusts

When a big puff comes, I'll tend to pinch as you do. If I am still experiencing excessive weather helm, I'll then ease the traveller so as to spill air from the main. This allows me to maintain my course. If there is still too much weather helm, I'll then bear away until I have better control, although it can be a challenge steering past the weather helm.
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Re: handling gusts

Last time out I got hit with apparent winds in the 24 to 28 kt range (normal was 16 kts). When a gust hit the boat automatically headed up, and of course heeled.
I should perhaps of let the jib out a bit, my sense is in a puff it generated too much lift and that caused the automatic header.
Just a note, with full sails up the header at some points caused me to almost run out of rudder before I ran out of header. I really should have trimmed out but was enjoying the heel :0
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