Heavy weather: mainsail removal - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #1  
Old 03-24-2008
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Heavy weather: mainsail removal

We spent Easter taking friends out on on Port Phillip bay in sometimes nice, sometimes rather nasty weather. The barometer was up and down like a yo-yo the entire weekend - and under storm jib and fully-reefed main at hull speed the boat was manageable but only just..

At one stage, we ran back to St Kilda Marina from the top end of the bay on a broad reach with a front right behind us. Exciting stuff, but it did occur to me a couple of times that we might still have had too much sail up (particularly with guests on board who had never been silaing before) but wasn't sure exactly how to quietly dowse the main downwind without scaring the s$%@ out of them!

Without re-opening a discussion here a while back, I suppose the the options were:

a) Haul 'round to windward with sails flapping.. and noise and flying sheets everywhere? Nah, that's not it.

b) Pull the main in and haul it down with brute force, but, on our boat, hauling the main in with the wind "abaft the beam" makes the helm feel really strange indeed!!. ..Not to mention increasing the risk of an accidental gybe during the operation.

Is there a better way?
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Old 03-24-2008
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Nope, reef before it gets bad or round up into the wind and put up with the noise. Dousing offwind can cause damage to sail, tracks etc.
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Old 03-24-2008
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Old 03-24-2008
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You only need to head up enough so the main is not pressed against your rigging, typically as long as the wind is a bit aforward of the beam and you should be able to drop the main. Trim the jib so it is pulling properly. The main obviously will luff loadly but you should be able to get it down in 20-30 seconds, them trim the boom in and run off...
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Old 03-24-2008
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Thanks for the replies guys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingfool View Post
You only need to head up enough so the main is not pressed against your rigging, typically as long as the wind is a bit aforward of the beam and you should be able to drop the main. Trim the jib so it is pulling properly. The main obviously will luff loadly but you should be able to get it down in 20-30 seconds, them trim the boom in and run off...
SF, this does sound like a plan - there's only one thing wrong with it:

Rather large waves that were safely on the quarter whilst screaming downwind are now broadside on and with the boat madly rolling in the trough (without the stabilising force of the main) standing on the cabin-top to get the main down can be a bruising experience.

EDIT: "Trim the jib" - maybe that's the key I've been missing.. Is that likely to be enough to stop the boat rolling like a mad thing??
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Old 03-25-2008
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If the wind is making up, the only really safe way to douse the main is with the boat headed directly into the wind. If you try to do it off the wind the sail will catch the wind and you run the risk of getting it caught on the rigging.

If a batten gets stuck behind a spreader, you could have a difficult situation to deal with. If there are any little barbs on your shrouds, you run the risk of rips and tears.

If you keep the boat heading directly into the wind, and if you sheet the boom in dead center, the sail will not flap excessively. The noise and turbulence come when the boat is off the wind slightly or the boom is allowed to flop around.
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Old 03-25-2008
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What you need to do is heave-to, drop the main, and return to running downwind.

While running, watch for a wave to break to windward. Turn up into the wind where the wave broke. Set the helm hard a lee, sheet in the main, but leave the storm jib sheeted. With the jib back winded and the helm hard over (hove-to), drop the main. Then, while looking out for breaking waves that could hit you abeam, ease the helm and continue sailing.
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Old 03-25-2008
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Hartley18, I know what you mean by Port Phillip Bay being nasty. I used to sail a Laser out of Black Rock YC and later crewed on a 25ft racing yacht & you get all four seasons in one day . With the shallow water you get a short chop that can be interesting.

My brother used to have a Hartley 16 and from memory the sails were small enough to use brute force to handle. I wonder whether your option B might work. Alternatively have you thought of furling the jib as a first option and then run with the main only?
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Old 03-25-2008
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I concur with the general advice...head to wind OR if you have a good person on the helm, "feather" or luff the jib and let off the main sheet to relieve tension. Basically, you're trying to find a spot just above close-hauled, so you are crabbing forward at about a knot. This is only if you don't want to switch on the engine (or don't have an engine). Head to wind is best, because a gust 10 degrees off could fill the main at just the wrong point.

I've had to do this a few times, and practice makes perfect.

The main only idea is doable depending on conditions and course. From beam to broad reach, it's the equivalent of taking in a reef, really, and if I'm just tooling around in light air, sometimes I'll just put the main up and pretend it's a Nonsuch!
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