UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by dominicve » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:31 pm

It seems that one point of debate here is whether using a smaller or differently-cut mainsail could actually ease boat-handling in strong winds.

Simona and myself have been using smaller mainsails for some time, deliberately cut to help smaller crews to cope with stronger winds. Like Ed, we find that these DO make the boat handling easier (which is not to say that we don't still find lumpy/windy conditions a challenge).
Of course, being at the light end of the 14 crew weight range, it could be argued that our experience may not apply to the entire fleet.

I also suspect that the expertise of 14 sailmakers to design smaller, more-controllable sails (at the expense of maximum power in all conditions) has not yet been exhausted. If we were to allow the use of a second mainsail at major events, with the objective of exploring this direction more fully, it might be that further progress/improvements could still be made.

If we do eventually accept that easier heavy-weather sails might exist in concept, then I imagine that even the big-wind afficionados should be in favour of allowing them: after all, it's difficult to capitalize on superior sailing-skill in strong winds if the racing is often cancelled.


PS: Joe - we launched & sailed to the start on the later-abandoned windy race day in Weymouth. I don't think we'd have done that with a full-size main up (and many other boat-owners appeared to agree). Even though we then decided that the conditions were at our limit (and we retired & sailed home), I believe that if other boats had been able to use dedicated high-wind mainsails, the fraction of the fleet at Weymouth racing in control could have been significantly higher.
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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by george » Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:35 am

my experience (limited) with the Hoff's stumped rig:
the smaller sail area is undoubtedly easier to use when inexperienced or under weight:
-in weymouth we were too light (135kg), and Richard had only sailed a fourteen once before, for a 1h warm up in August. With reduced rig our tacks worked, corners were doable, waiting pre-start was achievable. With the bigger rig everything was hard, even taking it easy. Our low-wind performance of the stumped rig can probably be attributed to oversized rudder foils, and under-sized sailors. It was not as fun as the proper rig in under 14 kts.
- in far too much wind (increased to 27 kts) with a friend who had sailed a penultimate with me a few times in the 90s but only hiking boats since, the boat was manageable to begin with (we could tack and bear away), but the 25-27kt was still impossible and we came in under jib. A few more minutes of practice before the stronger wind and we would have been ok.

Not much data, but enough to convice me that the ability to reduce area makes a difference.

Is this needed? Well yes. We want the mid-bottom half of the fleet to be racing. In weymouth the racing was abandonned largely because the rescue fleet was overwhelmed with capsized boats, from across the fleet. Even a small change in any individual's threshold to capsize could make a substantial difference to the total number in distress at any one time.
If i ever make it to the front of the fleet again, i would like to know that if i had a problem, there would be rescue cover for me, and if not that i would be able to race and enjoy my boat. I think enabling smaller sails would achieve this.

Does this matter to the Australians who are blessed with strong winds and excellent skills in them? Yes, because nervous newcomers to the fleet will have a head start, and for the reason above, they will get more racing and better safety cover when they join us mere mortals from mother england.

The cost? The restriction was brought in to make boats cheaper. I honestly think it failed to achieve this, but at the expense of restricted ability to sail for the newcomers to the fleet - the very people it was hoping to help.
I accept the usa position that stiff rigs can reef/stump, however upgrading a whole rig is more expensive than picking up a smaller, flatter mainsail.

I would also advocate a second kite, but accept this is not under discussion at present.

COI. I am a rules liberal - i think there is far too much unnecessary legislation and that they should be trimmed down to the size of the moth rules. Shoot me.

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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by kimballm » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:26 pm

Dominic makes a key point in his last post. As a fleet we abandon sailing too often in the face of a blustery day, where the wind is ‘gusting 25kts’ or gusting ‘28kts’, because only a small proportion of the boats feel they will make it around the course unscathed. We lose many of the best, most fun, days sailing as a result, and over a season it will be better for everyone, including the strong wind afficionados, if racing goes ahead.

It’s ordinary seamanship to be able to reef your sail(s). At the end of this post, I have copied an appendix from Ian Proctor’s seminal work ‘sailing: wind and currents’. In it, the International 14 is used as a benchmark for the sailability of windy weather, it even tells us to reef in a force 6. We seem to have lost a trick or two in the last few decades!

Ideally we should all be able to sail with a reef in our one suit of sails, as and when we each feel it necessary as the wind picks up. There are two major issues:
- As already mentioned on the forum, the bend characteristics of most existing masts won’t let you set a full sized mainsail with the head pulled down from the top of the mast. The further down the luff is pulled, the worse the problem.
- Secondly, who really wants to go sailing on the very windy days with their best regatta sails? Even allowing for how quickly heavy flogging can wear out sails, all it takes is one careless capsize where the crew or helm falls through the foot of the sail, to have a very expensive accident.

After the Weymouth worlds I had an old mainsail cut down. 60cm was taken off the foot (with slighty more off the leech than the luff, to raise the outboard end of the boom) and the luff was re-cut for the new lower position on the mast. Total cost was under £150. Since then I’ve used the sail a number of times, opting for it in ‘gusting 25 kts’ with experienced crews, and using it in ‘gusting 22kts’ with light or inexperienced crews.

The sail has worked very well and done exactly what it is meant to do. Not surprisingly, if the wind drops to under about 12 kts you really wish you had a full sail up. Above 14 kts the speed made good to windward is comparable to boats sailing with full sized mainsails. It is easier to sheet tighter and sail closer to the wind, which makes up for the slightly lower boat speed. Off wind there is no obvious difference. The shorter leech is still plenty to balance the pressure of the kite, and downwind speed is mainly governed by the spinnaker. Absolutely the most important thing though, is that the boat doesn’t feel at the limit of control, even in 25 kts. I would have enjoyed trying the sail in more wind, to find the limit, but sadly racing didn’t go ahead on those days. As mentioned previously on the forum, launching and landing in a breeze is made easier, much easier than might be expected.

Separately, I also had a zip reef fitted to another sail, giving the ability to reduce the luff by 45cm. This sail was not such a success. Even lowering the sail by this small amount, meant the luff curve didn’t fit the mast, and it was not possible to flatten the reefed sail as much as the full sail. With the reef in, sail spent most of the time back-winding on the luff, with a very ‘on’ and ‘off’ power characteristic. The reef didn’t remove much power from the sail, increased drag, and made boat handling trickier.

Antipodean colleagues might think we are pommy poofs not make it round the course in 28kts, but hopefully Weymouth showed that the wind limit affected the top guys in the fleet on a pretty equal basis across the nationalities. Yes, flat water, warm wind and a large open race area make it easier to sail in higher wind speeds, but around the world, we don’t all share those luxuries.

We could all consider buying new masts with a uniform bend; or we could stump existing masts by accepting the additional weight of a stump and the need to re-cut all the rigging (how many boats world-wide have enough lead in them to get down to 70kgs and weigh in a stump?); or we could all continue to sit on the shore when the anemometer spends too much time reading force 6.

Please can we all, from every country, whether our regular sailing conditions are for light winds or heavy, consider the benefit of regaining a wide wind range for our boats, and vote in favour of the proposals. They are the simplest and cheapest way to achieve this.

Ian Proctor sailing wind and currents.gif

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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by Shu » Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:50 pm

We've had the results of the US vote for several weeks now. Have other results come in yet?
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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by Colin Smith » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:05 am

The only votes that have reached (as World Secretary) yet are those from the UK and Australia. Reminders have been sent to the other countries but the vote closes on November 28th...

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Re: UK rule proposal on wind strength and mainsails

Post by Colin Smith » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:52 pm

The class vote on the GBR proposal closed yesterday. GBR voted for the proposal. CAN, AUS, GER and USA voted against. The proposal therefore failed to pass and the class rules remain unchanged
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