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What to do when you are hit by a big gust that threatens to capsize you


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I just read this here: http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?139164-why-not-a-yawl-catamaran

When a monohull is hit with an overpowering gust, one steers her INTO the wind ,to spill wind. It becomes natural to do real fast. Having a mizzen, ketch or yawl, helps with that.

When a multimaran is hit with the same puff, one steers her DOWN, using hull speed to bleed off apparent wind. Quickest way to flip or break one is to steer her into puffs.

...

A multi will accelerate rapidly into or off a puff.

If it goes away from a wind, the hull speed is subtracted from wind speed.

If it goes into a puff, the apparent wind will increase, FAST, and there is no natural dumping of wind from heeling over.

I found this bit really interesting because it highlights for me how I may have missed learning to sail a cat properly - learned to sail on sabots as a kids, never a cat. I now have a cat and sailing a few times i have noticed steering up isnt working... maybe i need to unlearn?

Does anyone here have any comments on this technique, should turning downwind be the plan rather than into a gust?

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Completely disagree with the idea of bearing off in gusts.

When a cat is sailing on one hull, it's exactly the same as a narrow monohull with skipper out on a wing. You respond to gusts in exactly the same way; ease the mainsheet and pinch up a bit. The "fast handling technique" desribed by Frank Bethwaite in the book "Higher Performance Sailing" is ideal.

When training beginner cat sailors, I suggest going out in a steady 10knot breeze, sheet in hard and get the hull flying. Gently bear off and the hull goes up higher, gently round up and she drops down again.

However this does lead to the lazy habit of keeping the sheet tight, even cleated, and steering up in gusts to keep in balanced. This technique is effective at staying upright, but not as fast as keeping a steady course and working the mainsheet.

The apparent wind comment is illogical. If you pinch up in a gust, the apparent wind swings to the front, the sail de-powers, and the boat slows. Depowering the sail also reduces the overturning moment, which brings the hull back down.

If you bear off in a gust, you increase the angle at which the wind strikes the sail. Either the sail will continue to flow, increasing both forward thrust and overturning moment, or the sail will stall; generating overturning moment without acceleration.

Here's an example of bearing off in a gust:

The increase in thrust generated enough force to drive the bows down and she cartwheeled.

I would re-phrase the above comment: "When a multimaran is hit with the same puff, one steers her DOWN. It is the quickest way to flip and do a speccy cartwheel for the cameras".

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Downwing in survival conditions you sheet in hard to reduce sail area while steering deeper. Letting the main out downwind presents more sail area

and more impetus to drive the bows down

Upwind ease main and retighten in gusts in combination with pinching to windward to maintain speed and distance covered .Pinching can dramatically gain ground to windward towards the top buoy but also can slow you down while easing main and steering off a little can give a hike in speed to power through waves. Its all a combination of moves to get you around the course efficiently with minimum distance and best possible speed.

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See what all of you guys are saying makes sense to my instincts. That's basically the theory I was working on. When I read this though it touched a nerve because out on copeton dam we pitchpoled and my 11 year old went flying right over his sister and landed out on the front beam. (My cat has a beam across the bows). This was a dangerous situation so since I have been searching for answers on how to avoid this and feared I had caused it by sailing wrongly for my boat...

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I've weighed 55 - 62kg over the past 7 years and raced in winds of 25+ knots quite a few times.

Initially my approach downwind was as QB2 suggests: sheet in hard to reduce sail area while steering deeper. Race 2, Kembla Klassic 2009, 20-30 knots NE, there I was sheeted in tight, speeding downwind and trying to zig-zag between overturned boats trying to get to the startline. I was trapped on a very limited course. If I rounded up I would suddenly present my sheeted-in sail at right-angles to the wind and be flipped over. If I bore off more, I risked gybing and being flipped over the other way. Scary!

After consulting with some experienced champions, I now find it much easier to ease the vang, allowing the boom to lift and sail to twist, ease the mainsheet, but have knot tied to stop the boom pressing on the side stays. The top of the sail can twist all the way forwards and de-power if it wants to. I sail a broad reach, so if a mega gust hits I can just round up a little and totally de-power the sail. To get downwind I have to zig-zag there, with lazy 3-point turns between these de-powered reaches. All under control, no cartwheels and not scary.

Not that I don't cartwheel; I'll be hiked out with legs over the rear beam, leaning out and back with my head in line with the rudders. Despite the strong winds I've let the outhaul out for more power and am flying on one hull, absolutely top speed, working the mainsheet to feed in as much power as she can handle. Suddenly a little bit of chop raises its head and grabs the bow, fwoomp over we go! All good fun; I surface near the top of the mast, grab it and lift. The wind gets under it, and as I walk my hands down the mast back to the boat she flips back upright. I'm back on board and away we go again, losing a couple minutes only, didn't even stand on the hulls let alone pull a righting rope to get her up again. Sweeet.

Of course I'm saying all this while looking at forecasts of 30-40knots all weekend for next week's Paper Tiger Internationals on Wellington Harbour, and kind of hoping this bragging wont be put to the extreme test!

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The old adage "ease hike trim" seems to be the same here as always. In something like an A cat then the periods may be shorter and in a gust the A will speed up (with the EHT method properly applied) meaning that speed increases and apparent wind goes further forward meaning the boat needs to turn down in order to avoid slowing. Different cats will do different things depending on how they are designed.

At one of the Maricat Nationals a few years ago we had the pleasure of some of the current Cat Royalty including Bundy and his girlfriend (I think) Carrolyn who was sailing in a Maricat for the first time (I think), she mentioned bearing away in the gusts which I didn't quite understand then. I understand it a bit more now but find that it still doesn't work too well.

KO

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Well thanks guys for your input (same to anyone who has more to add)

I think like so many things in sailing, you need to get time on the water and let experience build up in a range of conditions

The young fella is a little pitchpole shy at the moment, hopefully I havent put him off too badly

The thing about the caper is that it seems good for some really good turns of speed, but when it gets to the ragged edge it feels like you arent totally in control, like anything might be about to happen.

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Aha, I think I misread the original post, or others took the thread to other places. I had thought the reference was just for upwind sailing.

Yes, definitely agree that when off the wind, in a gust you bear away then bear up in the lulls, but that's been the same for mono's as well as multi's.

Like TQ says, you have to watch for waves, they are the greatest likelyhood of going down the mine.

I don't have the guts to sail in much over 20kn so can't say what it's like above that but you definitely have to watch for the waves.

For gybing they've always said that you should be in a gust, going at full speed to effectively reduce the wind load, also the actual gybe should be a matter of a few degrees when the pressure is off the main, slam it over and bear away again, then start to think about coming onto the new course.

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Who ever wrote the post on the wooden boat forum is a moron and shows the danger of putting too much stock in anything you read online (except here of course because everyone here is a genius). Both Cats and monos do the same thing both upwind and down. When working you pinch to de-power when going downwind you foot away.

Bearing away upwind can be fast but it is not "safe" and requires you to be quick on the mainsheet (or traveller) as you will become more powered up (not less) so you have to drop the boom as you do it and pull it back up as the gust passes. It also depends on the boat and its performance curves, some (particularly those without dagger boards ie. H16, Mari, Windrush etc) don't really like going upwind and if allowed to run free will take off. However, a set of deep F18 style boards mean you can claw upwind without slowing down so depending on wave form taking the height becomes more valuable.

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There are two different contexts in which we might respond to gusts:

- to stop it tipping over, and

- to maintain maximum speed.

As said above, we pinch up into the wind to stop it tipping over.

On a reach, imagine we're sailing along with the tell-tales flowing and it's all under control. A gentle gust hits, the boat accelerates, and yes this swings the apparent wind forwards. In response, we gently bear away to keep the tell-tales flowing. These are fairly gradual, large radius turns; not impulsive swerves in reaction to peak gusts.

Knobblyoldjimbo's reference to A-class cats reminded of this second context, and the most amazing example of it that I've seen. During 2012 A-class Nationals at Wangi, they set windward - return courses, with a very short reach between top marks. Glenn Ashby rounded from upwind to reach, set a full sail and was out on trapeze, hull flying. He gybed around the mark to head downwind, then a huge gust hit. He jumped out on trapeze, hull flying, sail sheeted in hard, and was going so fast that he not only could bear away to a downwind angle, but also kept up with the speed the gust was travelling down the lake. He stayed with it all the way to his next gybe, it seemed to be about 30 seconds and 1km later! He was the only one able to trapeze downwind, and in that bold move he extended his lead from a few boat lengths to hundreds of meters.

Sailors at the back of the fleet simply rounded the mark, let their sails out, and sailed fairly square downwind like us regular folk.

Here's an article where Ashby describes trapezing downwind: http://www.sail-world.com/news_printerfriendly.cfm?Nid=92763

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Here's some nice onboard video from Stephen Brayshaw, trapezing downwind:

It appears that the overall strategy is to trapeze on a reach for maximum speed, and this allows bearing off to a downwind course. While employing that strategy, each gust is responded to by easing main and pinching a little as we've described above, to keep the boat balanced.

You can see him constantly working the mainsheet; pulling it hard to tighten the leech in lulls and keep the hull flying. He also steering up and down a little over small waves.

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Great video, thanks! I'd sure like to know how one has enough hands to control everything solo.

Adjust your trapeze, jib, downhaul, outhaul while controlling rudder and main. At least the a-class has no jib I guess. And my boat has no dagger boards.

Sometimes I wish i was a bloody octopus. My crew arent even strong enough to adjust the outhaul or downhaul and i'm trying to get my head around how i'm going to learn these skills solo... who's gonna steer the bloody boat while I adjust downhaul or outhaul! :confused:

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If you read the thread that the Dr is refering to it is a thread where the context is talking mainly about big cruising cats (there was mention of a 60' cat there) all the photos are of large ocean going cruising cats. They don't normally go in for hull flying as a rule, and they dont really have the problems of nose diving that small cats do (that I know of) so the actions taken during a gust should be different (you dont use the same techniques to park a honda Zot as you would to park an 18 wheeler do you). If you are looking for hints on sailing small cats (up to 20' say) a forum on big heavy wooden boats is not going to give you the best advice. If you want to learn how to handle everything talk to a Nacra 430 sailer who sails super sloop (sloop solo) with a kite, then you have to handle steering, downhaul, outhaul, main, jib, kite, and trapeze all on their own.

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I've tried unsucessfully to do the wild thing on a Windrush 14 (rigged Super Sloop). (I've sailed T's so I know the technique.) The lack of a centerboard appeared to restrict the boat "tripping over itself" which meant I went too high and lost heaps of ground. Does anyone want to have a guess at how trapezing downwind would work on a non-centerboard boat? Cheers

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If you read the thread that the Dr is refering to it is a thread where the context is talking mainly about big cruising cats (there was mention of a 60' cat there) all the photos are of large ocean going cruising cats. They don't normally go in for hull flying as a rule' date=' and they dont really have the problems of nose diving that small cats do (that I know of) so the actions taken during a gust should be different (you dont use the same techniques to park a honda Zot as you would to park an 18 wheeler do you). [/quote']

Having spent 5 years working with a leader in cruising cat design, Roger Hill, and sailing many of the boats we designed I can assure you the advice still doesn't fly, upwind you pinch to luff the sails a little, downwind you foot off to reduce heeling moment and move the apparent wind aft, just like a little boat. In fact steering the boat becomes a lot more important as you can't ease sheet anywhere near as fast when it is on a winch.

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ramshackle: In the sail-world article I linked to above, Ashby explains that trapezing downwind works on an A-class with curved boards, because the difference in speed is so great.

It's all about achieving the best 'velocity made good'; your fastest path to the downwind mark.

On a sloop-rigged Windy or Maricat, my understanding is you steer as low as you can get away with, with the sails out and still have the telltales flowing. Trapezing is unlikely to gain advantage, as you have to point up into the wind too far and don't gain enough speed to swing the apparent wind far enough to bring you back downwind.

Great response CTMD; good to know.

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I think it might be possible on a Paper Tiger, I've seen Ian Marko trying it but he doesn't do it often.

The sloop rigged boats do tack downwind in order to maximise apparent wind (which is what happens in the A's, they generate their own wind so they are basically close reaching and soak down as much as possible).

I once saw the two Pfeffers (Windy super sloops) round the top mark about the same time, one went dead downwind the other went off on a long reach. At the bottom mark they arrived about the same time. That was in very light winds though, anything higher and they'd both be tacking downwind.

I find it quite confusing when watching the 'tube's of the big AC cats, you can never really tell when they are going into or away from the wind, the speed is usually the same and the trim is too.

CTMD, bet you can't right a big cat like Tony Q says he does!

Tony, that's an interesting technique, I wonder if it can be done on a Maricat, presumably the breeze has to be up in order to get the wind under the sail. Do you uncleat the main? also what do you do with the vang, I find with mine that if I don't release it I can't get right the cat.

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But back to a capercat nosediving - I had one when they first came out (sail 217) and nosediving was very much a trait. dont think there was much adjustment for mast rake at that time & it had the old spade rudders. you can certainly reduce the tendancy to nosedive by having the mast raked futher aft. hope you haven't scared the youngster off too badly.

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gusts and rerighting

Gusty winds alone can re-right turtled cats. Sailing at Pallarenda, Townsville on my Mari in 15-20+ knots when the wind really picked up and I chickened out and turned for the beach (A guy with a wind speed handheld later said it gusted to 40-50 knots as I did the turn). We pitchpoled. The wind was so strong I had to swim flat out to grab a bow wire and then was dragged hard through the water in every gust. I thought the mast was going to break because the sail was ballooned out backwards from the pressure I was that knackered all I could do was hang on. When I finally managed to drag myself onto the bow the Mari turned into the wind and immediately blew upright. Luckily the mainsheet had uncleated or we'd have gone over again. It took me ages to regain confidence to go out in anything approaching fresh conditions.

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I had an early Capercat too, and I did not think it was pitchpole prone. Had so much buoyancy in the hulls. Maybe your mast is way forward.

My current P16 is a lot more exciting that way, and is nothing compared with the hobies - I've seen H16s bury half their hulls in the mud. I pitchpoled with my 9 year old son with both of us on trapeze. He thought it was the coolest thing ever.

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Yeah Dylan tells the story of how he swung round the shroud, right over his sister's head, landing out on the front beam, like it's some sort of ninja move he's proud of. But the truth comes out whenever we get near top speed and he's yelling "we're gonna pitchpole!" through the spray and I can just tell he's a bit worried now...

I am planning on raking the mast a little bit more actually but since I have the older style rudders it already has a hell of a lot of weather helm, so much so that as a tiller extension I use only rope. More rake will only increase weather helm I suspect. But I really want to practice using the traveller and downhaul and outhaul more, and just finding out what the limits of this boat are, since for my intended use it's really quite perfect and as much as I like the windy 14s and the nacras they just cannot carry the stuff we like to take with us when we are just cruising about.

If anyone has a set of flip down rudders I can adapt to the caper, i might be interested, last I checked calipso wanted nearly $1000 for a set

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