Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 15 Old 06-27-2019 Thread Starter
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Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

I'm relatively new to sailing; bought an old (built in 1982, original sail I believe) 14 ft daysailer (Vagabond) three years ago. We've had it out a dozen times or so and generally everything worked as expected. Until...

Last weekend on a warm gusty day my son and I took it out on a small lake near our house (we've been on it many times before). The boat kept getting blown down wind. As much as I tried sailing close-hauled, 45 degrees to upwind, the boat kept getting pushed sideways (or backwards in some cases). At times I was getting it to behave and making progress but overall we were pushed further down wind. The wind was 11 mph on average, with gusts up to 15mph.
The wind was inconsistent with sudden strong gusts and seemed to change directions often. We did not put up the jib, just the mainsail, thinking it would be harder to control with the jib.

Its so hard to tell when you're out there which direction (exactly) the wind is coming from and if you're moving in the direction you want. I will say that other boats on the lake seemed to be moving along fine.

Another issue is that we'd be sailing along fine (close hauled) then the boat would suddenly spin around as if we were tacking. The rudder is full in one direction, but the wind forced us in the other direction. So we'd accept our fate and sail close-hauled in the new direction for a bit.

One more note: The sail is old, worn out, patched, and sewn in MANY places. I'm going to get a new sail before we take it out next year, but for this year I'm stuck with this one.

Why does it not behave as all the sailing diagrams and animations show??
Is there some fundamental sailing technique I'm not understanding?
Is there something wrong with the boat: the sail, the rigging?
Are some gusty days just like that?

Any thoughts or similar experiences are appreciated. We're taking the boat out this weekend with two others and I'm a bit worried.

Joe

Joe

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post #2 of 15 Old 06-27-2019
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Hello,

I am not familiar with your particular boat, but it's probably like many other small boats.

My guess is there is an issue with keel / centerboard / whatever you call the foil under the boat that allows you to sail upwind. If you have a swing keel or centerboard, was it all the way down? If not, there is your problem.

In order for a boat to sail upwind you need to have the foils (keel/centerboard/daggerboard/etc and rudder) working. The wind will try to blow the boat downwind. When the boat is moving through the water the foils work like wings and prevent the boat from sliding sideways (leeway), instead the boat will sail upwind.

To tell which direction the wind is coming from and which direction you are moving requires some simple, basic gear. Best would be a windex at the top of the mast, and a compass mounted some on the boat. If you don't have those (and / or can't get them) then tie some yarn to the spreaders and get a small hand compass. The windex (or yarn) tells you the wind direction, the compass will show you the boat direction.

Good luck and have fun,

Barry
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-27-2019
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Sounds like a combination of tricky winds, blown out sail, novice sailor, and sailing with main alone.
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Thank you for your replies.

The daggerboard was down all the way all the time. Although, I'm wondering if there is a front and back to it. I can't recall if one side is narrower.

I like the idea of the yarn at the top of the mast to help with wind direction.

As far as the boat direction, I wasn't talking about compass direction; we are in view of land 360 degrees, so we know that. I'm referring to if the boat is moving in the direction that it is pointed, how quickly its moving (sometimes it's as though we're standing still even though the sails are full of wind), and if we're sliding downwind (sideways) more than we're moving upwind (diagonally).

As for the possibility of a "blown out sail", could this cause the boat to behave abnormally? I was thinking the boat wouldn't sail as efficiently, but we're not racing so it wasn't a concern. The sail fluttered a lot despite efforts at adjusting the boom angle to keep it full. The sail didn't "feel" like it was tight; and the rigging seemed a bit slack (not taught). That is, the forestay and shrouds had a bit of slack at times when the wind was pushing in a particular direction.

I'm starting to think JimsCAL might be spot on, just not sure what to do different.

How tight should the rigging be? Does it change for different conditions and/or sailing experience desired?

Would having the jib up have helped the situation?

Joe

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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

you need the jib up without the jib you can not keep a balanced sail plan the boat will have weather helm and in gusts will want to round up into the wind and sometimes force you to tack. the jib will keep the bow turning away from the wind. sail upwind with the jib in tight and let the main out in the gusts. gusty wind on lakes are the most difficult to sail on because the wind keeps changing direction ,takes practice.
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

As JimsCal said its a combination of many things, most likely your inexperience.

The jib up generally helps drive the boat to windward. It makes the mainsail work better. Also not having the jib up causes your boat's center of effort to be aft leading weather helm.

When you were pushed to the other side (just guessing here) it was in combination with a gust? The Mainsail gets overpowered causing the boat to heal, round up then tack. Two things you can do to fight this.

Keep your hand on the mainsheet and let it out when the boat starts getting over powered.

When the wind gust hits there is a shift in the apparent wind aftward as the true wind component increases. When the gust hits, ease the tiller just a little bringing the nose of the boat up onto the new apparent wind. You can also go past the new close hauled to pinch a little bit or even a lot to let the excess wind spill out of your sail, keeping you from getting overpowered.

Start by reefing your main and putting up a jib. Find the right sail combination for the wind conditions.

Then play with easing the main and easing the tiller. When you get these techniques down, sailing in gusty conditions can be a lot of fun. You can use these conditions to sail the boat faster than before and get the boat moving to windward even better, rather than a day of frustration.
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Rereading what I posted I forgot to mention when you are pinching up to play the gusts by easing the tiller make sure you come back on the tiller pull it towards you to keep the boat somewhat on the wind. Keep the boat from rounding up and keep it driving forward.

Use the boats heal angle to figure out how much to ease the mainsail and or pinch the boat to windward.

Jordan
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vagabond14 View Post
. As for the possibility of a "blown out sail", could this cause the boat to behave abnormally? I was thinking the boat wouldn't sail as efficiently, but we're not racing so it wasn't a concern.
A sail has a built in shape kind of like an airfoil. By using some of the boat's sail shape controls you can change and tweak the shape for different conditions. When the sail is blown out it no longer represents the shape is supposed to and no longer is able to be reshaped as intended. This would be most apparent in the conditions you were sailing in.

I don't think a new main would have cured your issues the other day though it is a matter of skills and knowledge. A new main would only make you sail slightly faster. My first sailboat had tired old original sails. When I splurged on a new mainsail I thought it was going to make a huge impact on my life and sailing pleasure. The greatest effect was on my bank account.

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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Consider taking an ASA 101 class. My wife just took one and loved it and now understands the difference between leeway and downwind.

Also consider some reading. Annapolis Book of Seamanship is a comprehensive book on sailing.

https://www.amazon.com/Annapolis-Boo...gateway&sr=8-3
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Re: Sailboat Keeps Getting Blown Downwind

Quote:
Originally Posted by overbored View Post
you need the jib up without the jib you can not keep a balanced sail plan the boat will have weather helm and in gusts will want to round up into the wind and sometimes force you to tack. the jib will keep the bow turning away from the wind. sail upwind with the jib in tight and let the main out in the gusts. gusty wind on lakes are the most difficult to sail on because the wind keeps changing direction ,takes practice.
This, this, this. The jib will balance the boat.
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