Join Date: Sep 2006
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Before I answer the running off question, I just want to mention one thing about heaving to under main alone: the technique is to sheet the main in hard, then SLOWLY put the helm down to avoid a luff. In other words, do not let the boat tack. The boat will lose way, then stall. The main will then stay full without luffing and the boat will ride steady.
Heaving to with some sail up is a tactic that only works if the boat will bear having sail up. And, like I mentioned, if I can keep sail up, I'd rather be sailing. There comes a point, though, when the boat becomes over pressed, where you just can't keep sail up anymore because it's too tough on the sail(s) and rig. Believe me, you will know when that point comes. At that time the boat will ride easier with no sail up at all (the 34 certainly does). The wind in the rig will be enough to steady the boat.
Most modern designs (excludes full keels), including the 34, will lie ahull beam on or slightly closer (helm down). It's fairly comfortable. But, if the wind and seas continue to increase, even this position can become ugly. Seas start to break heavily and the boat starts to get knocked down occasionally. That's when I usually decide to run off. This only works, of course, if you have plenty of sea room. This tactic returns control of the boat to you. If you don't have sea room, or the seas become too large to maintain control while running off, it's time for a Jordan series drogue or some other stern set means of radically slowing the boat down to prevent being overwhelmed. I'm not a fan of anything that proposes to keep the bow of a modern design into the wind, but that's only my opinion.
We lay ahull once for 12 hours in darkness with the 34 in 40+ knots of wind and 20 ft. seas. We might have been able to sail (destination was a close reach), but it would have been a battle. We were beat and we were able to get some good sleep this way. In the morning, the wind eased a bit and we resumed under reefed main and stays'l.
I have had to run off under bare poles once in another boat, but never in the 34. On that occasion, north of New Zealand, we did five knots under bare poles, plenty of speed to maintain control. I am sure the 34 would handle similarly.
Again, conditions that require running off or drogues, etc. are rare in the experience of most cruisers who don't sail routinely in high latitudes. Hope this helps.