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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related) > Weather helm question
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Topic Review (Newest First)
03-17-2013 07:40 PM
Caridea
Re: Weather helm question

Noob here. I have some limited monohull experience and too much free time.
Nobody seems to bring up weather helm as 3-D problem. When a boat is not heeled there is center of effort fore and aft of the crafts center of lateral effort (jib & main). That's the calculation everybody can figure out and is on the first couple pages of a sailing book. Too much resistance on the jib and the nose points away from the wind, more wind on the mainsail the nose points into the wind. Classic weather vane analogy, once a boat is moving that formula is less worthy. Why is the boat moving forward in the first place?

Think pinwheel or maple seed. You blow on a pinwheel and the “sails” rotate around a fixed point. If you took a pinwheel and removed all but one blade you would have a sailboat that spins around a fixed point, a maple leaf.

Underneath each boat somewhere around the keel is the center of gravity, maybe called something else. This is the fixed point that if you could mount an axel through (there might not even be boat there, think boomerang) it would spin around like a pinwheel with one blade, spinning faster as the wind picked up.

Upright boats don't spin around this point in water because the buoyancy of water in front of center of gravity (the bow half or forward section) prevents the bow from going under and the keel also keeps the boat from flipping end over. Actually modeled this keel-sail system with no hull. The wind energy spent trying to spin the boat is given up in heel, slide, and finally, forward motion. Does your boat seem to want to submarine more often at higher speeds?

When a boat is moving it is due to wind, more wind then boat heels. If a boat’s sail rig is trimmed for max lifting efficiency then as the boat heels it is continuing to generate forward spin. Heel the boat a full 80 degrees or so the craft is almost on its side. The sail still has some lifting force and resistance. If the sail is balanced according to the books, it will neither have weather or lee helm, if the sail rig is trimmed poorly, the craft will just sit there at 80 degrees and slowdown, stalled sails, resisting wind, sliding. If the sails are still lifting, then forward rotation continues, only, the center of gravity of the boat is no longer under the sails, but STILL on the opposite side of the sails by the keel, maybe even close to breaking surface of the water. The boat WANTS to spin around the center of gravity. The farther the center of gravity is from the sails center of effort, the more spinning it must do. Front half of the craft is no longer being rotated down INTO the water; it is being rotated to the horizon, the source of the wind, the air. Adding to the chaos, the keel no longer dampens the boat rotation port and starboard; in terms of resistance it has become nearly invisible, and is doing very little of its original job of keeping a boat going straight and preventing sideways motion, only trying to bring the mast back to an upright position if it is weighted, or give you a platform to stand on to upright it manually. To make matters worse your rudder has now become an elevator, pointing your bow up out of the water or down into the water.

Every point so violently to weather that you actually end up spinning completely around to your original course?
03-17-2013 07:37 PM
smurphny
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by jobberone View Post
LOL. Well I've not done that yet but I've come to understand why you jib slowly. :O

We're looking at purchasing a 38-40 foot cat vs a 40-44 foot monohull. I'm leaning towards the latter and looking at some IPs. I like the livability of the cat and the sailing of the mono.

We did discover the Admiral does not get seasick easily and she loves to sail. In fact she is probably going to be a better sailor than I am. So I have a partner. She also happens to be the greatest wife a man could ask for.
Has to be about 25 years ago now. I took 2 of my cousins out in the Lightning I had at that time. The wind picked up and was puffing 35 knot gusts by the time we were headed back in. I got a little too close on the run back in and wham. Luckily everyone had their heads down. The boom became detached and flailed around wildly until I could get the sail down. My passengers were scared S$%^less and for some reason, never sailed with me again....don't know why
03-17-2013 06:48 PM
SchockT
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Look at the tiller position in that pic .... a wee bit to windward but quite near centerline - balanced helm!!!!! Also, look to see that he's dragging his boom in the water !!!!!
LOL! Well, that doesn't look to me like Lee, weather, or balanced helm. That looks to me like NO helm! That guy got slammed and he is just riding it out! I wouldn't hold that picture out as a good example of sailing well!
03-17-2013 04:08 PM
outbound
Re: Weather helm question

Rich ?How would you get out of that mess. ?What would you do in what order.

Appreciate your point about in boom furlers. Always have a flat main when reefed? How do you compensate for no chord in the main that when you want power to cut through chop.
03-17-2013 03:30 PM
jobberone
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by smurphny View Post
Good advice. If you can get into something like a Bluejay or a Lightning...something with a headsail and a real centerboard/keel, it will be very instructive as to how any larger boat will handle. Sailing a boat like these in an area protected from large waves but in winds 20-30 knots will really make you aware of the things to do and not to do, such as ripping the gooseneck right off in an unintentional jibe. Don't ask me how I know.:-)

LOL. Well I've not done that yet but I've come to understand why you jib slowly. :O

We're looking at purchasing a 38-40 foot cat vs a 40-44 foot monohull. I'm leaning towards the latter and looking at some IPs. I like the livability of the cat and the sailing of the mono.

We did discover the Admiral does not get seasick easily and she loves to sail. In fact she is probably going to be a better sailor than I am. So I have a partner. She also happens to be the greatest wife a man could ask for.
03-17-2013 01:18 PM
smurphny
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
With no disrespect intended, controlling some boats to not increase weather helm at greater heel angles is perhaps a long process based on the continual accumulation of more experience and expertise. Being 'new' your learning curve will be quite high, especially on a 'cranky' boat that develops more helm as its 'goes over'. The natural tendency for 'newbies' is to luff up during overwhelming wind conditions ... losing all sail flow and resulting in shaking and fluttering ... and slowing down of the boat. Just continue your 'learning curve' by taking this all one-step at a time, such as using a full set of tell tales on the sails, get lots of 'sail trim', etc. books and articles, etc.
To rapidly accelerate the learning curve, consider to get yourself an inexpensive and disposable small lightweight and 'fast acting' sloop rigged sailing dinghy to 'practice' on. Most 'pilots' usually dont 'start' by flying a 747 but rather begin in small aircraft because of their 'rapid response', etc. Novice and beginning skiers dont learn much by jumping off of cliffs, they usually start on the 'bunny hill'. And, no matter the boat size, keep 'testing' your rapidly increasing expertise in higher and higher wind ranges until you master and become 'comfortable' ... keep going out in increasingly 'uncomfortable' conditions until you do become comfortable and do master the hundreds of options that lead to safety & control, etc. .... until you become supremely confident in yourself.
Normally, if you dont do such a forced learning program, youll possibly wind up with a 'floating dockside condominium' that rarely goes out even in 'moderate conditions'.

A good place to start, and which applies to all sailboats would be very simple and straight forward & elemental 'entry level' how-to book such as: Sail Trim Chart and Sail Trim Guide
.... just remember that sailing is a continual skill learning process that will never end.

Welcome to the 'addiction' and do expect that this addiction will deepen as you progress along that learning curve, albeit somewhat of a high learning curve at first.
Read all you possibly can, then DO, and then read again. Mastery comes from 'doing'. ;-)
Good advice. If you can get into something like a Bluejay or a Lightning...something with a headsail and a real centerboard/keel, it will be very instructive as to how any larger boat will handle. Sailing a boat like these in an area protected from large waves but in winds 20-30 knots will really make you aware of the things to do and not to do, such as ripping the gooseneck right off in an unintentional jibe. Don't ask me how I know.:-)
03-17-2013 12:24 PM
jobberone
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
With no disrespect intended, controlling some boats to not increase weather helm at greater heel angles is perhaps a long process based on the continual accumulation of more experience and expertise. Being 'new' your learning curve will be quite high, especially on a 'cranky' boat that develops more helm as its 'goes over'. The natural tendency for 'newbies' is to luff up during overwhelming wind conditions ... losing all sail flow and resulting in shaking and fluttering ... and slowing down of the boat. Just continue your 'learning curve' by taking this all one-step at a time, such as using a full set of tell tales on the sails, get lots of 'sail trim', etc. books and articles, etc.
To rapidly accelerate the learning curve, consider to get yourself an inexpensive and disposable small lightweight and 'fast acting' sloop rigged sailing dinghy to 'practice' on. Most 'pilots' usually dont 'start' by flying a 747 but rather begin in small aircraft because of their 'rapid response', etc. Novice and beginning skiers dont learn much by jumping off of cliffs, they usually start on the 'bunny hill'. And, no matter the boat size, keep 'testing' your rapidly increasing expertise in higher and higher wind ranges until you master and become 'comfortable' ... keep going out in increasingly 'uncomfortable' conditions until you do become comfortable and do master the hundreds of options that lead to safety & control, etc. .... until you become supremely confident in yourself.
Normally, if you dont do such a forced learning program, youll possibly wind up with a 'floating dockside condominium' that rarely goes out even in 'moderate conditions'.

A good place to start, and which applies to all sailboats would be very simple and straight forward & elemental 'entry level' how-to book such as: Sail Trim Chart and Sail Trim Guide
.... just remember that sailing is a continual skill learning process that will never end.

Welcome to the 'addiction' and do expect that this addiction will deepen as you progress along that learning curve, albeit somewhat of a high learning curve at first.
Read all you possibly can, then DO, and then read again. Mastery comes from 'doing'. ;-)

Thanks for the response. I have no problem with saying I'm not a sailor yet. I'll try to follow your advice. Right now I need time on the water. Lots of it.
03-14-2013 03:04 PM
RichH
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by jobberone View Post
I'm new to this so here's a chance for me to learn. I thought that boats could be over-powered by the wind if you had too much sail up. The stanchions get near the water, the LWL is now shortened, and there is so much weather helm the rudder can no longer control the boat. This generally requires a heave to and reefing in the sails.

I was in a Bavaria 44 today with sustained winds of 15+ and gusts to 20-25. With full sails up inc a jib I was unable to steer the boat once pointing into the wind and stalling. Reefing in the sails fixed the problem for awhile until the wind increased again requiring more reefing.

So what else could I have done and are there really mast tweeks yade that would have eliminated the problem? The standing rigging was surveyed a few months ago.
With no disrespect intended, controlling some boats to not increase weather helm at greater heel angles is perhaps a long process based on the continual accumulation of more experience and expertise. Being 'new' your learning curve will be quite high, especially on a 'cranky' boat that develops more helm as its 'goes over'. The natural tendency for 'newbies' is to luff up during overwhelming wind conditions ... losing all sail flow and resulting in shaking and fluttering ... and slowing down of the boat. Just continue your 'learning curve' by taking this all one-step at a time, such as using a full set of tell tales on the sails, get lots of 'sail trim', etc. books and articles, etc.
To rapidly accelerate the learning curve, consider to get yourself an inexpensive and disposable small lightweight and 'fast acting' sloop rigged sailing dinghy to 'practice' on. Most 'pilots' usually dont 'start' by flying a 747 but rather begin in small aircraft because of their 'rapid response', etc. Novice and beginning skiers dont learn much by jumping off of cliffs, they usually start on the 'bunny hill'. And, no matter the boat size, keep 'testing' your rapidly increasing expertise in higher and higher wind ranges until you master and become 'comfortable' ... keep going out in increasingly 'uncomfortable' conditions until you do become comfortable and do master the hundreds of options that lead to safety & control, etc. .... until you become supremely confident in yourself.
Normally, if you dont do such a forced learning program, youll possibly wind up with a 'floating dockside condominium' that rarely goes out even in 'moderate conditions'.

A good place to start, and which applies to all sailboats would be very simple and straight forward & elemental 'entry level' how-to book such as: Sail Trim Chart and Sail Trim Guide
.... just remember that sailing is a continual skill learning process that will never end.

Welcome to the 'addiction' and do expect that this addiction will deepen as you progress along that learning curve, albeit somewhat of a high learning curve at first.
Read all you possibly can, then DO, and then read again. Mastery comes from 'doing'. ;-)
03-14-2013 02:15 PM
smurphny
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Look at the tiller position in that pic .... a wee bit to windward but quite near centerline - balanced helm!!!!! Also, look to see that he's dragging his boom in the water !!!!!
Yes, I did notice that but thought the rudder was probably being used as just something to hold onto at that point, doing essentially nothing significant. The fact that the boom is being buried probably supports what you and I are saying: he's being slipped leeward, probably mostly because the boat is past the point of rounding up, pushed mostly by that blown jib which appears uncontrollable and useless at that point. The guys look as if they are at the point of aw $%^T, just holding on.
03-14-2013 02:54 AM
RichH
Re: Weather helm question

Quote:
Originally Posted by TakeFive View Post

...are you serious that the helm is appropriately balanced, you're in for a world of hurt, right?
Well first of all, this guy in that pic is dragging his boom and clew section through the water, so he's pinned from 'rounding up' and his only 'out' from 'anything' is to bear off and go down ... and then try to keep the boat directly 'under' the mast when he drastically accelerates. :-o

Most times and no matter how far a boat is heeled over (and not skidding off to the lee) if the helm can be held 'easily' to no more than 2-3° off of the centerline to control a straight course; there in no weather helm nor lee helm - perfect !!!!! The BIG planing hull sailboats do this all the time and as a matter of course - ILYA Scows, the Ozzie skiffs, ... as well as most 'symmetric hulled' boats, etc. You can sail such boats over onto their beam ends --- and usually never feel any change in the rudder pressure ... all depending if the boat and sail 'shaping' and sail trim are set up well !!!!!!!

First, The question of rudder ventilation is important, especially on rudder systems that aren't flooded or totally submerged - such as stern hung rudders. Such a rudder with its top out of the water and held turned at wide angles against the apparent oncoming flow can easily 'ventilate'; if not held over beyond those few degrees usually wont ventilate. Have a LOT of adverse helm on such a rudder ... and expect a 'pirouette' when the rudder loses 'bite'.
Obviously in those conditions such a boat should be steered by sail shape as well as by trim (ie. slightly hooking up the leech by aggressive mainsheet pressure, or unloading the mainsheet to 'trip' the leech a bit, etc. etc. etc.) so as to get CORRECT rudder/helm pressure. What I mean by correct helm pressure is when I completely let go of the helm the boat, the boat VERY SLOWLY heads up ... and you usually get that when the boat needs no more than 2-3° of rudder offset to hold a dead straight course when on a hard beat.
FWIW - On the newer maxi-boats, etc. its good to see the acceptance of twin submerged rudders ... the big ILYA scows and 'skimming dish' hulls have been doing such for almost 120 years to prevent ventilation. Such however doesnt totally prevent rudder ventilation, just lowers the possibility, .... so does not having large or undue amounts of weather or lee helm which require dragging the rudder through the water sideways to keep a course !!!!!!!

Second. If the mast is properly raked, and the sails are correctly raised, most weather or lee helm problems will be sail SHAPE problems --- most times weather helm is because the position of where the maximum draft occurs is all WRONG - too far aft in the sail; or, the leeches are hooked up to weather or are tripped, etc. .... all sail SHAPE problems that lead to dynamic imbalance ... and should be corrected long before you get down to 'trimming' errors. You change the Position of Max. draft - POMD, fore or aft in a sail by adjusting halyard or cunningham tension ... doing so will change the DYNAMIC CE of the sails.
Additionally, Skidding to leeward problems are usually rig tension (backstay tension) error problems - a skid can 'feel' exactly like a weather helm problem; and, only your stern turbulence wake can tell you the difference between the two.

As far that pic ... that tiller is held certainly along near the centerline by just a very few degrees offset (not much danger of the rudder ventilating, .... yet) which kind of indicates not much in 'helm problems'. The helmsman 'looks comfortable' (but, he really should be using his FINGERTIPS on that tiller instead of his whole hand - Id feel better and know more about his adverse 'helm pressure' if he did have any). Other than being pinned from turning into the wind by that dragging mainsail boom, and forgot to move the fairlead car forward for the jib when he went onto a reach, Id say he's doing a good job for being overcanvassed for the current wind speed .... and as from what I can see as his 'helm balance'.

I think to better clarify 'my' approach to reefing and 'weather helm' is I usually dont care how far the boat goes over ... as long as I dont develop adverse helm pressure in doing so. If I do develop adverse pressure then Im first going to look at the stern wake to look to see if its a skid; and if not, then secondly look for the usual sail SHAPE error thats causing weather helm (and its usually mainsail halyard/cunningham tension OR jib halyard tension or a fairlead error ... or forestay/backstay tension if Im skidding) .... I do prefer to sail symmetric hull forms; my 'sport boats' are ILYA Scows and my crab-crusher is a "Perry boat" ... and they all 'love' to be sailed over on their 'ears'.

I most humbly think that 'the bulk' of all the weather helm & Lee helm problems is simply because 'sailing books', etc. etc. usually totally avoid or entirely omit how to SHAPE a sail to obtain the best DYNAMIC combined CE vs. CLR of a boat. That, plus the usage of 'furlers', especially in-mast and in-boom furlers ... where just about all you can do is make those white triangular things 'bigger or smaller' and which leave one with almost zilch possibility of shape control.

hope this helps. Sorry for being so long-winded.
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