Beneteau 361 wheather helm - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 9 Old 07-30-2003 Thread Starter
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

I just returned from a month long bareboat charter in the BVI. We had a Beneteau 361.

During this month there were many things that progresively irritated us about the boat, but my question is this:

I found a tremendous amount of wheather helm no matter how I tried to trim the sails. Sometimes even with a double reef in the main (we had a partially battened main with lazy jack system and genoa probably about a 120 - 130%) we had to let the mainsheet out to the point of almost luffing (sometimes even luffing in puffs) to overcome this effect. The winds were mostly 20 - 25 knts which surprized us for this time of year.

Anyway my question is regarding the wheather helm. Is that normal? Is it a known problem with this boat, or should I take a course on sailtrim??

Magnus Murphy
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post #2 of 9 Old 07-30-2003
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

A whole month - way to go!

I just returned from a 10-day and had a rather baggy mainsail (slab reefing, partial batten). I noticed a lot of weather helm in gusts (yes, it was blowing pretty well for a while there), even when reefed.

Maybe the experienced sailors will let us off the hook, and confirm that it was blown-out sails that was our problem.

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post #3 of 9 Old 07-30-2003
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

A little bit of weather helm is good – a lot is bad.

Sounds like the mast needs to be raked back slightly.

Too bad you couldn’t have taken a boat mechanic (from the charter company) onboard for a sail on the first day to let him/he see the problem first hand.
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post #4 of 9 Old 07-30-2003
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

The boat''s excessive weather helm was either your fault, or the boat''s fault.

If the problem was caused by improper tuning of the rig, then the whole rig needs to be adjusted more forward, not aft. The objective is to move the center of effort of the sailplan forward, so that it is closer to the center of lateral resistance.

The problem also could have been caused by carrying too much mainsail area for the windstrength, or by carrying too much combined sail area for the windstrength. If you had a whole 130% headsail unfurled in 20-25 kt. winds, that was certainly too much headsail. Double-reefing the mainsail would have helped, but if the power generated by the jib alone is excessive, you can drop the mainsail completely, and the boat will still heel excessively and have excessive weather helm.

You said you let the mainsail out until it was completely luffing, and the boat still had excessive weather helm. That means the boat was overpowered when it was sailing on the jib alone. If you had reefed, or perhaps double-reefed, the main and rolled up about a third of the jib, I suspect the boat would have been much better balanced.

I''d like to assure you that it was the boat''s fault, Magnus, but if I had to guess, I''d bet you unfurled too much sail area for the windstrength. 20-25 kts. is a lot of wind for a 130% jib and even a reefed mainsail.
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-30-2003 Thread Starter
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm


I can say that I did notice that the rigging seemed too loose. I''m no expert on rigging, but when on a tack the windward shrouds were completely loose and sagging and even with all the sails dropped there was significant play in the shrouds. I informed the company of this in the beginning but they seemed unconcerned. Since I was not going to be racing I didn''t bother further.

I can see how excessive heeling can induce the problem (thus how too much headsail can be a co-culprit) but I''m not sure if that''s the whole story. I had my two young kids with and tried not to "bury the rail". I did reef the headsail (maybe not enough - as my wife accused me of more than once) as I deemed necessary and sailed with a single or double reef almost the whole month (I mentioned the winds almost never dropped below 20 knts).

The wheather helm mostly became a problem when we sailed North of Tortola in the open ocean. It also once caused some concern when passing close to another boat and the wind choosing that exact moment to puff and causing us to round up very suddenly.

I guess it was a combination of things. I didn''t think about the lax shrouds as a possibility, so that is interesting.

I was wondering also if the ample beam of the boat was a possible cause. Since it is comparable to other boats however that is probably not a cause.

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post #6 of 9 Old 07-31-2003
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

Bene''s, especially the 361 seem to be very light boats for the canvas they carry. They need to be reefed much earlier than 20 knots, otherwise you can get into a dangerous situation like rounding up and too much weather helm (which can put a good deal of stress on the spade rudder). Their underbody, with fin keels and spade rudders also require greater balancing with the sail plan (then a longer modified or full keel).

Thus, "reef early, reef often" is rule the should be followed on these types of boats. There was a very good article on reefing in either CW or BWS recently.

Just my $0.02.

Would also be very interesting and instructive to hear your other comments on the boat. And Duane'' I know he just came back from 10 days on a Jeanneau 37...and had some very interesting things to say. Since these are fairly similar boats from soemwhat close design teams (and the same parent company), might be interesting for you both to post together, or at least make one thread on it.

My best to all

s/v Invictus
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-19-2004
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

Maybe I missed something here but I don''t think anyone mentioned using a traveller to control weather helm. We have a 1974 Cal 2-29 and are able to frequently (close to broad reaching and seas <3 ft)balance her with just the traveller.
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post #8 of 9 Old 12-10-2004
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

I own a 361 with "classic" battened main, and from time to time would experience a similar problem. I spoke with Neil Pryde sails and got some very good advice. First-weather helm is caused by the main. By that I mean that pressure on the main cause the rear of the boat to want to fall off to leward, causing the bow to head up. Think of it as the boat pivoting on the mast and keel. Also the main acts almost like a rudder, and more so as the boat heels and the rudder becomes less effective. So to alleviate weathjer helm as the wind pipes up, reduce the main by using the traveller first, the letting out the mainsheet, then reef. Of course a baggy main only increases the pressure on the main, causing more weather helm. Finally, reducing the jib without reducing the main only increses the weather helm. One more thing, the generous beam of the 361 and similar boats--which adds to its appeal--interior volume--also adds to weather helm because of the greater wetted surface when you heel.
After taking this into account I''ve reduced weather helm and rounding up very considerably, but in a big puff you can still have a problem.
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post #9 of 9 Old 12-10-2004
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Beneteau 361 wheather helm

Sailormon nailed the response to this: even with the main completely luffing, in strong winds, a large headsail will also induce strong heeling and weather-helm. I had this experience on a Cal 31 about a year ago, in 25-30 knot winds in SF bay. I was unfamiliar with the boat, a day-charter. It had a 130 headsail, and I was finding that in about 20 knots of breeze, I couldn''t even come up to a close reach without nearly broaching.

I hove-to to reef at about 22 knots or so, but didn''t take into account that backing a 130 genoa would not be stable. So even hove-to, the boat was laying over and moving fast.

Even with a double reef on the main, as the wind rose to around 30, the boat was still way over-powered. It took me a while to realize that the headsail was the problem.

Nowadays, unless the boat I''m chartering has a blade on the front (rare), I roll it up a bit first before heaving-to. All things considered, less headsail while hove-to is usually smart. And with the boat hove-to and stable, reefing the main is simple and safe. I''m not saying you have to heave-to to reef the main, but if the boat is moving around a lot in a seaway and if you have to go to the mast to reef, it just makes everything a lot easier.

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