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  Topic Review (Newest First)
05-31-2012 09:10 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

Changes in speed due to changes in wetted area are microscopic. These are too small to be detected when sailing in open water even with precision instruments. They cannot be detected by anyone sailing.

Change in waterline length due to heeling sounds good but again this is too small to have any noticeable effect.

Most of the time sailing flatter makes you go faster because the sails are at a more optimal angle and thus producing the maximum amount of forward thrust. Sheeting them in too tight is generally what causes excessive heel.

I should point out that you will never get a simple answer to heeling even if you exclude non-related items. Sometimes (especially when racing) the goal is best track time rather than maximum speed. In other words, I'm here and the marker is there. I want to get around that marker in the least amount of time. That doesn't necessary mean that I can do it by sailing the fastest or by pointing the highest. For a given course with a given wind speed and direction there is going to be an optimum sailing profile. If I'm lucky then that profile is fairly flat and moving away from optimum won't change things much. If I'm unlucky then the profile is sharply peaked and moving away from optimum will make a big difference.

Rules of thumb don't work for boats. A boat will heel to a certain degree based on its stability profile and sail configuration. If you change the sail shape it changes the heeling profile. Again, if conditions are fixed with steady wind and steady course then one particular heeling angle will be optimum but this will not be the same for other boats or boats with different sail plans and will not be the same for different courses, different wind speeds, and different wind directions.

The change in hull performance due to heeling comes almost entirely from the change in canoe shape (the canoe is the part of the boat below the waterline). The rear of my boat is elliptical so heeling has very little effect. However, the bow comes to a vee and when you heel the front becomes asymmetric. On some boats this increases weather helm, on others it causes the boat to crab into the wind. It is changes like this that can effect sailing track and overall efficiency. For example, if the boat turns more into the wind then you have to steer out which makes the rudder lift towards the wind. This can be more efficient than having the boat turn away from the wind and having to correct with rudder because then the rudder is lifting away from the wind which puts more load on the keel.

There is no rule of thumb here though because different hull shapes and different stability profiles and rudder configurations will act differently. Usually when you have a tall, skinny keel it works really well and with great efficiency when you are moving at a normal speed through the water. However, at low speeds these keels may not develop enough lift so sometimes heeling the boat will add some countering force because one side of the vee is pushing more water away than the other. Then too sometimes heeling will change the track angle of the hull and this again can effect the sailing efficiency. This happens because often hulls are not rotationally symmetrical and as you tilt the hull the line of buoyancy will shift left or right. In other words, heeling can sometimes cause the boat to yaw slightly.

One reference was to light puffy conditions. If your sails are heavy and the wind is light and puffy then sometimes what happens is that a puff comes along and fills the sails but then dies off before the boat starts moving and the sails collapse again. Sometimes under these conditions it can help to sit on the downwind side and let the sails sag due to gravity. That way when a puff comes along the sail is already bagged out so the wind has time to begin moving the boat instead of just puffing out the sail. This should be common sense because light wind sails are normally made of very light material so that they fill very easily.

You are basically in the same position as the Wright brothers were in after their first glider model didn't work and they realized that Lilienthal's tables were wrong. They had no choice but to build a wind tunnel and spend hundreds of hours testing airfoil sections.

In the local lake where I've been sailing the wind is too variable because it is blocked and altered by the surrounding trees. Trying to make anything optimal is a waste of time. However, if you have a good open area with steady wind then you can test things yourself just by sailing a fixed course with a stopwatch. Eventually you'll build up a profile of how your boat handles in different conditions. If you are lucky then the profile will be fairly flat and have a lot of tolerance. If the profile is not flat then you pretty much have no choice but to just try things over and over to build up a more detailed profile.
05-19-2012 01:56 AM
Re: optimum heeling angle

Originally Posted by celenoglu View Post
A good rule of thumb is not to heel the boat more than 17degrees.
Depends on the boat. Older designs, with slack bilges, tend to tolerate more heel. Newer designs, with more rounded hull shapes (or even slightly flattened underbodies) tend to sail best more upright. It also depends on the wind strength and boat speed. Limiting wetted surface as much as possible helps more at relatively low boat speeds, but doesn't make nearly as much difference at higher boat speeds (where drag due to turbulence is much more important).
05-18-2012 11:48 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

A good rule of thumb is not to heel the boat more than 17degrees.
05-18-2012 10:35 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

I agree with Jeff that some heel in light air is good, but I also move crew weight forward, near the shrouds, in light air. Heeling the boat to leeward reduces wetted surface, and orienting the boat slightly bow-down, when sailing to windward in light air, lifts the boat's fat stern out of the water slightly, which reduces wetted surface even more. Finally, if the boat is upright in light air, the sails will hang limp, instead of taking the curved, aerodynamic shape that generates driving force. If you can cause the boat to heel to leeward, gravity will cause the sails to hang in that aerodynamic shape, so that any air that moves across the surface of the sails, however slight, will nevertheless drive the boat.
05-18-2012 08:09 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

Originally Posted by Bradhamlet View Post
I was told this happens because you increased the water line length. Is this not what keeps sailboats form going really fast? Length of water line?
On a boat with long overhangs, heeling will increase the LWL, thus increasing theoretical hull speed. However, in light winds one is unlikely to get anywhere near theoretical hull speed. In this case, I think Jeff_H nailed it -- a slight heel will lower wetted surface and thus overall drag.
05-18-2012 07:59 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

I was told this happens because you increased the water line length. Is this not what keeps sailboats form going really fast? Length of water line?
05-18-2012 05:45 PM
Different apparent wind, yields different heel angles.

Your optimal heel angle is dependent many things, but the bottom line is the optimal heel angle is affected by strength and direction of the apparent wind.

In light breeze you want a a slight heel and often actually have to put weight to the leeward to cause the heel when heading up or down wind to keep the sails filled. In heavy air upwind the boat wants to naturally lean, but usually too much so that is why everyone is hiking out on the windward rail. Down wind in heavy air, your typically going near (or greater than) hull speed, so a flat boat is desired.

However, the most simplistic answer is that the optimal angle of heel is that at which you have a balanced or neutral helm. In other words if you let go of the helm, the boat would track short straight for a distance without rounding up or falling off.

05-18-2012 05:30 PM
Re: optimum heeling angle

You probably go faster with small heel angles (+/- 10 to 15 degrees) in light air becuase you have less wetted surface, but will not be faster in a breeze.
05-18-2012 05:22 PM
optimum heeling angle

I have a 22' Oday shoal draft (23"). I go noticeably faster at a slight heel. Why? and how would I determine what heel angle is best, besides just trying different angles which up until now haven't been very precise. I occasionally race and need every advantage I can gather up.

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