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  #1  
Old 09-18-2011
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Wild ride

This was our last race for the year.

Forecast conditions one half hour before the race were for light rain, wind speeds light and variable 10 knots or less, building 5 to 15 as a cold front moved through. Waves less than 1 foot.

The race committee set up a 4 leg long course, 6.5 nm. Run, reach, beat, reach.

In these conditions we decided to go with the main full up and the #1.

We were on a port tack while rounding the second mark, the plan was to harden up into the beat and carry the port tack a while. We were half way around the mark when that cold front hit and all hell broke loose. We got slammed by a 35 knot gust, the boat one length in front of us broached, as did we.

We were in sustained winds of 20 knots plus with gusts in excess of 30 for about 20 minutes. The winds diminished slowly through the rest of the race, by the time we got back to the marina they were under 5 knots.
Watch the video of our ride, and then I have several questions.

Relentless, LSSC - Race 12, 2011.avi - YouTube

One of the first things we should have done, I suppose, was to bring those jib cars back twisting off the jib and depowering it. Putting a reef in the main would have been a good idea, but we had a slight problem there; we didn’t have the topping lift on because it beats the crap out of the sail.

So, what do you guys do with the topping lift? Leave it on, quick on/off system, leave it off?

If during a race you find yourself in a situation where you need to reef the main, what is your sequence of events and how long does it take?

It took us a few minutes to get the boat under control, we reefed in the jib to about 100% and just came up in the gusts, but it took us a bit to get our collective poop in a group; we are a rookie crew after all.

The beat leg is our weakest point overall. We tend to point up as close as possible in an effort to straighten out the leg best we can, but I’m beginning to believe this isn’t the best approach. We can come up to between 30 and 35 degrees, but boat speeds are terrible and I’m thinking we need to fall off some for better speed.

So, on a beat, how close to the wind do you guys come; 30 degrees, 40 degrees, 50 degrees…what...and why?



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Old 09-24-2011
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Treat yourself to a solid vang for Christmas, and forget about the topping lift. It's a safety issue. With a solid vang, you can slab-reef whenever necessary. With a reefed main, you might have been able to work to windward in 20 knots of wind, even with the big genoa.
Determining how high to point is another issue. It is going to vary somewhat based on wind strength & wave conditions. You can figure it out by doing some side-by side practices with another boat, or you can get an instrument package that will show you VMG to windward. One is less expensive than the other...
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Old 09-24-2011
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Appreciate the reply.

We’ve been trying to analyze exactly what we should have done since I posted last, as opposed to what we did.

After we broached we tried to stay close to the wind. Because we had little boat speed (about 3 knots), we really had no apparent wind. All of the true wind we had was in that full up main, keeping us hard over on our ear.

The consensus among the crew is that we should have eased sails and fallen off, built up boat speed to move the apparent wind forward and then came up as close as we could.

Without a rigid vang and no topping lift, reefing the main on the fly in those conditions would have required too many hands (someone has to hold the boom) and been risky at best. With the rigid vang, we could have fallen off, got the boat on its feet, kept wind in the genoa, eased the main, reefed it, trimmed back in and taken off, again building boat speed, moving the apparent forward and coming to wind. Of all the lessons we learned this season, this one was among the most important. Probably the most important lesson is that anything can happen out there.

That rigid vang moved way up on the priority list. The one I am looking at, a 2” tube Garhauer, has the added benefit of a 20:1 purchase over the 4:1 on the soft vang.

We’ve also discovered the concept of VMG. Looking at our tracks, it’s easy to see why we were spending so much time on the beat leg.

Here is a good example:
Wild ride-race-1.jpg
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Old 09-24-2011
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Just remember that 20:1 on the vang is going to be pulling pretty tight on the leech. Your crew gets a tad too crazy & you'll need a new mainsail too.
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Old 09-25-2011
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20:1 is pretty extreme. The most I've seen on boats your size is a 6:1 with a split fine tune making a 12:1.

With a 20:1, a reef in the main, and no baby stay, you're more likely to invert your rig than tear the leech of your main.. of course, both are possible, and neither is desirable. Honestly, talk to a rigger before you do the 20:1.
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Old 09-25-2011
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We are going to pull the mast this year before she goes up on the hard.

Beyond some general maintenance, I thought I would have a rigger inspect the standing rigging. While he’s there, I’ll talk to him about the vang. Need to give him a call this week to see if he wants to inspect with the mast up, down, or both.
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Old 09-25-2011
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Couple of things.

You should be able to use the topping lift... I've never seen a boat where the topping lift had to be removed. I would assume that you are leaving too much slack in the line. The topping lift should be just long enough...set it once, sailing close hauled with the main full on, adjust the topping lift so it is just not holding the boom...just a a few inches fo slack...and you should never need to adjust it again. If you want to raise the boom when the main is lowered, mark the released topping lift position so you can quickly replicate it. It's best to set the topping lift properly, once... and leave it alone. If you shorten the topping lift when lowering the main, then forget to release it after moisting the main and trim the main full on, you run the chance of breaking the boom. A hard vang is a nice tool to have but it isn't needed to replace a topping lift.

As to sailing up wind, you will never sail well upwind with a reefed jib, you are far better off going to a second reef in the main and the full jib, or changing the jib down in size, if you want upwind performance. Reef the main not the jib, otheriwise your ability to point goes to hell..

Also whoever is trimming the main should be using the traveller, letting it down in the gusts. In you video the traveller is not being adjusted, you have have onc situation where the boat is on its side and the traveller is still midships.

When you are going to gybe, the mainsheet trimmer should secure the traveller middship before the gybe, then adjust it down afterwards...that way the traveller doesn't smash across the boat. Also, prior to a gybe in heavy air, trimming the main in at least part way, preferrably fully to midship, would take a lot of the excitment out of the gybe...otherwise you run the risk to break something or someone.
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Last edited by sailingfool; 09-25-2011 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 09-25-2011
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Because there is a good portion of the main that extends aft of the topping lift (about 1/3 to ¾ up the leech), we ran into several problems with it.

In moderate to heavy air the lift would slap against the main, flogging it. If we tightened the lift to minimize this we would either lift the boom, or fight against the vang. Inevitably, someone would forget the lift was snug and try to tighten the vang. You can see the problem this would pose.

In light to moderate air, if the lift was on the weather side of the main there was no problem. If, however, it was on the lee side, often there wasn’t enough air to push the main to the other side of the lift. This resulted in deforming the shape of the main and screwing with the airflow across it.

Of course, the flatter we had to have the main, the more all of this became a problem.

As far as the video goes:
The camera is on a gimbaled mount on the backstay. First, the jug head (that would be me) that started the camera didn’t realize it was set to take pictures at one per second instead of video. Second, this was the second prototype of the mount and I used a bearing. The bearing allowed the camera to swing a little too freely (the third prototype with have a dampener on it). A free swinging camera in heavy air set to take stills blurred most of the shots, so you aren’t seeing everything that happened, only the stills that actually came out.

Granted, the guy working the traveler could have done more to work it in the blows (I’d be hesitant to call them puffs, they deserved a name much more menacing), but I think he was more interested, at the time, in gaining a purchase (in this case, using his butt to gain purchase on a cleat) to keep himself upright and on the boat.

We’ve got much to learn yet, which is why we take the video. We can review it and put it out there so others can do the same. We always appreciate constructive criticism.
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Old 09-25-2011
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Very 'arty' slideshow/video...

What struck me was, given the puffy and generally windy conditions why was the traveler EVER up the track? Unless the puffs were 5 to 35 I can't see why the traveler was so high at times (once above centerline in a wipeout....)

Beating in sustained breezy/puffy conditions for the most part we would have the traveler fully down, vang on unless the boom hit the water, and at that point mainly playing sheet or 'survival pinching' in the puffs. Somewhat less vang as appropriate on the freer legs, but generally traveler down.

Given your topping lift grief I'd agree that a solid vang should be high on the list....
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Old 09-25-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweegs View Post
... Inevitably, someone would forget the lift was snug and try to tighten the vang. You can see the problem this would pose.
.. This resulted in deforming the shape of the main and screwing with the airflow across it....

Of course, the flatter we had to have the main, the more all of this became a problem..
Just understand, none of these issues would occur if you adjust the topping lift properly...just once...and then never touch again for the remainder of your boat ownership. With the lift properly adjusted, the vang can only pull on the main, as it should...and the lift would never restrict trimming the main, as it should not.

I question whether a hard vang makes the topping lift redundant. A hard vang removes the topping lift as an element in your sail trim problems, but if you flake your main sail on the boom, a hard vang does not provide a stable boom for that operation, which a mainsheet trimmed against the topping lift does. On boats I sail with a hard vang and no topping lift, after dropping the mainsail, then the main halyard immediately comes to the aft end of the boom to suffice as a topping lift.

FWIW your problems with the topping lift is just that you haven't got it right.
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Last edited by sailingfool; 09-25-2011 at 12:31 PM.
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