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April 26, 2010


O Docker

I have read this argument about fore-and-aft sail balance controlling weather helm for so many years and from so many knowledgeable experts that I concede it must be true. After all, those are the guys who are out there winning races.

I also must conclude that I live in some sort of parallel universe where what is true in the real world doesn't apply to me. I do know that I can sail my Catalina 30 under jib alone with no noticeable lee helm and that, when the wind pipes up and the boat really starts to heel, I'll have quite a nice weather helm, even without the main. In my bizarro world, it certainly seems like most of my boat's weather helm is attributable to heeling.

Years of confusion have also left me with these other foggy notions:

- Adjusting backstay tension follows different rules depending on whether you have a fractional rig.

- Increasing backstay tension on a fractional rig will induce mast bend that will, in turn, flatten the main, and most fractional rigs therefore usually have tapered masts that are designed to bend easily.

- On a mast head rig, though, more backstay mainly increases jib luff tension - a good thing if your jib luff is curving away to leeward.

I'm probably wrong about all of this, but I've become comfortable with my delusions over the years, and I'm too old to change now.

Also unique to a Catalina 30 is the backstay's ability to widen the crack that usually develops on the bottom of the boat between the keel stub and the keel proper. Those who increase the boat's usual 4:1 or 8:1 purchase on the backstay adjuster to a more manly 16:1 usually end up paying the price in yard bills the next time their boat is hauled.

The backstay adjuster is a nice place to mount a video camera, though.

Adam Turinas

One of the reasons I love blogging is getting comments like this.

The joy and frustration of sailing is nothing is simple.

Some thoughts:
1. The old theory about weather helm was that it was the hull lying more in the water caused by the heel that created weather helm. Your experience would bear that out.

2. I wonder of the fact that the mast is quite a ways forward and you may have a big genoa has something to do with the way your boat sails on the genoa only as the center of effort is quite forward

3. Buggered if I know.

God I love sailing

Carol Anne Byrnes

On the Etchells, in heavy air, tightening the backstay reduces weather helm, rather than increasing it. That's one of the many strings I can pull to depower if things get hairy -- Etchells don't reef, but they have a whole lot of other options. One option for depowering that doesn't always work well is dropping one of the sails -- that sometimes results in the boat going backwards.

O Docker

A friend with a Knarr told me the same thing. I was surprised to learn the main had no reef points. But, like the Etchells, the rig is fractional and the mast is made to bend quite a lot.

Here's a photo of an Etchells that shows the mast bend (especially above where the forestay attaches) and you can see how flat that makes the main:

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