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Re: Storm trysail for PS37/Crealock 37
The only problem I see with a third reef is that if it gets used instead of a trysail, it will likely damage a nice cruising sail. Better to have a really heavy sail made for those kinds of conditions. My trysail takes up very little room. It's just not that much canvas. I have never used it for real and hope to never have to:-)
I have found that too much weather helm is mostly caused by poor sail trim, carrying too much sail for the wind speed, and poor rigging adjustment. It's about getting the center of effort of the sail in the right place. Forestay tension and length, Cunningham use, luff and foot tension, twist, etc. all have a lot to do with weather helm problems. In very gusty conditions, I've found that weather helm is going to happen to some extent but the boat should not be rounding up out of control into the wind. If that is happening, there is simply too much sail up for the conditions.
Excellent points. I should keep in mind your point about not using the third reef as a substitute for a trysail. Having said that, the weight of my new mainsail will be the same as the weight that my sail maker proposes for the trysail. I assume the trysail has stronger stitching and reinforcing, but maybe this will be built into the third reef. If the stitching is strong, that final reef will be very sturdy. The sail area will be low (about 60'), so there will be much stress on everything than from a larger area of sail -- but of course in very high winds even that tiny bit of sail will be subject to tremendous forces. I like the boat to be at ease as much as possible (I make changes anytime heel goes over 15 degrees), so I expect to use that third reef quite often in winds far below the point where a trysail would be necessary.
Regarding your comments on trim, you remind me that I must check the headstay tension (mental note: add this to the to-do list). I doubt I'll ever have perfectly trimmed sails. I do try, but there are so many variables that I usually settle for "good enough," especially when not going very far. My first mate thinks I'm anal about sail trim, but I think I'm lazy about it...