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post #1 of 15 Old 09-04-2011 Thread Starter
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How Much Wind is too much Wind

I'm fairly new to sailing in fact this is my first year with my own boat. I have a 1977 Columbia 27 foot sailboat which I believe to be well constructed. I have no idea what the limits of too much wind would be. I'm smart enough to realize that there are many influencing circumstances including seamanship to the answer but in general, how does a sailor know when he needs to put up storm sails or just get the hell off the water. I have sailed in 15 knots of wind with no problem so far but what about 20 or 25 knots. How do you find your threshold without jeopordizing your boat and/or your life.

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post #2 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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IMHP its a combo of wind and sea state as with wind only its pretty easy to have small enough sails to keep the boat comfortable

BUT as the sea state builds its when you start to beat up yourself and the boat and get into conditions that are over your current comfort level or unable to make headway to a safe place

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post #3 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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At my age, I consider winds that exceed the water line length as too much to go out and enough to start getting back in. It is not the boat, but my body that can't take it for very long. So with my 24 ft lwl I find 24 knots too much for enjoyable sailing as by that time the bay water chop will have developed to about 5 feet or so. At that point I would have the second reef in the main and the jib rolled to about 80%, which is the most I can roll up a 120% and still have an okay set, not good enough to close haul it but close reaching is possible. If I wanted to sail in these conditions, I would have a 90% jib reefable to 60% and a storm jib. I also would put a third set of reef points in the main. When the boat is not overpowered, even the chop can be endureable (somewhat).
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post #4 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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My first year with my boat, I mostly sailed in under 15 knot winds until I got comfortable months later. Then, I have sailed in as much as 25 knot winds. The more I sailed the more I learned how to adjust my sails in higher winds. I also became more familiar with my boat. My last trip in 25+ knot winds was in May. I was able to keep my boat going on a broad reach with only a 5 degree heel flying a full main and 110. Too bad this was the day when I overstressed my rudder causing it to snap clean in half. Even though many here would suggest to use two sails, I have found my boat does pretty well running a single sail in high winds. In fact I can get nearly hull speed in higher winds with a full main. As long as I am out on a sailing to nowhere day. If I was trying to maintain a course or hit a destination, it maybe more practical to have a reefed main with my smallest headsail. Problem is, my smallest is a 110 jib, I don't have a storm jib. So I am still trying to determine what my best sail configuration is in higher winds. This all said, I still prefer the under 15 knot wind days especially if I am single handing. The average day here is usually under 15 knot winds anyway.

Bottomline from my experiences, I would say whatever starts to make you feel uncomfortable is probably where you draw the line. That little voice that tells you "maybe I should not be out here" could be correct. Then you can say too much wind for you and your sailing experience but not necessarily the boat. Its like if you are comfortable in 15 knot winds, then you start to feel like its getting easy to sail, try in 20 to 25 knots, see how you do. At first you probably will feel uneasy then after you do it a few times you will get more comfortable. Right now my personal limit is 30 knots, so I try to avoid going out if its over that. For one thing I am not tearing up my boat, next thing putting myself in harms way is not my idea of fun. With my limited experience going out in 30+ knots is just asking for trouble.

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post #5 of 15 Old 09-04-2011 Thread Starter
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How Much Wind is too much Wind

Thanks for the great replies. I am normally a cautious person but when I get on my sailboat I like to push the envelope a little (not necessarily a good thing). I guess my biggest concern is breaking something but I sure don't want to become cocky and too sure of myself. I've done that with other things and the results haven't always been positive.
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post #6 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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The sails and sail area of a particular boat are each configured for a particular wind speed. With a standard rig this will usually be about 15-18. With gusts going somewhat higher say 25 the boat has to be sailed eg by easing the main to cope. It sails faster with less than 20 degrees of heel. If it is heeling more and burying the rail and it cannot be managed easily by sail trim then a reef is required in fact overdue.
The reason being it is easier to reef before conditions get bad, and one should anticipate the wind increasing by being vigilant for approaching squalls, increasing waves and whitecaps in the distance, and by watching the wind speed shown by higher clouds, and by the forecast. Other signs include the behaviour of more windward boats.
The point with reefing is this - a seven knot increase requires a 50% reduction in sail area to maintain the same force on the sails. So if with standard sails your desirable upper limit is 18, for 25 knots you need half the standard sail area and for 32 a quarter. A double reef gives about a 50% reduction.
Many boats don't have third reefs or staysails. They may also have say 130% roler reefing genoas which don't set well cut down by around 2/3 or more. Unless you have a storm jib that suggests around 25 knots or thereabouts as a limit without squeezing more by easing the main. Sure you can and will have to bear off a bit with the waves but since you also have to allow for gusts of maybe 10 knots then roughly in the 25-30 knot ranch you are working pretty hard assuming standard sails and furling jib.
Downwind you can subtract the boat speed from the true wind to get apparent so that is easier.
So I suggest for many boats 25-30 reefed is not a bad limit. More if required with storm sails and the ability to handle it and perhaps as much the need to. If you don't have to there comes a point when the discomfort and risk of damage and scaring the less experienced crew becomes not worth it.
I recall a major coastal race here a while ago when a lot of boats withdrew many suffering some damage in the 30-35 range.
Sure some boats and crew can take more but then they wouldn't be asking would they? I think getting some time in the lower 20s is good training for handling more.
I would also make the point that handling a short period is quite different from say 12 hours.
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post #7 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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First, I would make sure the standing rigging is perfect. It should be changed every 8 to 10 years. I noticed a "fish hook" in my backstay, and changed it. It was only 6 years old, but on close inspection, there were numerous strands that were broken, but didn't curl out. Second, go sailing in progressively higher winds, try 20kts for a few trips, then 25kts, etc., building confidence in you, and your boat at the same time. I've never lost confidence in myself, or my boat, but I have turned back because of the beating I was taking. Fatigue can be your enemy.
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post #8 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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What I've noticed, and I'm learning like you, is that things get exponentially more difficult with wind increases above 15, (as mentioned above). Around 12 knots or less, you can make a lot of mistakes with no harm to you or the boat. Around 20 knots, mistakes might not break stuff, but they can certainly be alarming.

Tacking in 20 knots: fine, usually.
Jibing: rather not do it without a capable crew.
Reefing: Definitely exponentially harder than reefing at 15.

Sailing in a straight line at 20,25, or (I can only guess) 30, is relatively easy if you have the right amount of sail up. It's when you need to fix/change/ things that it can be quite stressful.
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post #9 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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similar thread


This is similar to another thread here:

Here was my reply:


If I am just going out for a pleasant day sail, I will limit the wind speed to 20 kts, 25 max if I have an experienced crew. If the wind is from the south I may go out in higher wind, because there won't be any waves where I am (on the long island side of the long island sound). If the wind is 20 kts, and will be against the tide, I'll stay home for sure. Those conditions create a lot of chop and short steep waves which are just no fun (for me) to sail in.

I can handle more wind, but it's just not fun, and it's hard on the boat and the people. My boat can easily handle 20 kts of wind with a single reef in the main and the headsail (140) rolled up to a 110.

Last night I was crewing on the C&C 34 I race on. We got to the committee boat and the wind was 15-18 kts from the west. Ten minutes later it was 25+ and went north. We reefed down the main, put of the #2 (no #3 on the boat) flattened the sails as much as possible and held on. Upwind was a chore, but downwind was a delight. That was with 5 experienced people and 4 novices. On my boat I would have put the sails away and went home.


Barry Lenoble
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY

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post #10 of 15 Old 09-04-2011
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Your Columbia is a tough little boat, our first boat was an old Columbia 28. The better you get with the boat, the more wind you can handle, but try to stay in the under 30 knots if you can, until you get caught by a big wind. We've been through two Force 10 storms in the Gulf of Mexico in our old Bristol, not on purpose, but we came through it and so would your Columbia.

s/v Paloma, Bristol 29.9, #141
Slipped in Bahia Marina, easy access to Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
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