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Heavy Wind sailing by Dave Berntsen

In the case that any sailor is caught in more wind than they are prepared for it’s improtant to have some skills and a plan for keeping control of the boat and getting back ot the beach safely.

Some general stuff;

Make sure rudder is tight in it’s casette.

Bring 30′ of safety line and a knife on board. I tape the line in a coil under the horizontal bar that supports the top rudder gugdeon.

Carry a marine waterproof radio on your lifejacket

Wear your safety tether.

When it’s windy pull your daggerboard up 8-12″. This will depower the blade. Make sure to add an extension on the dagerboard bungee with a hook so you can secure the dagger board when pulled up (in case capsize).

Some rigging stuff:

If you anticipate wind to increase, put more rig tension on before you leave the beach.

Replace the hook on the cunningham with a shackle. The jib sheets can get caught on the hook when tacking and will mess up the tack.

Replace the hook on the main sheet with a captive pin shackle with a bar. This is a secure way to attach the main to the sheet which will not come unhooked.

Keep trampolenes tight and rotate the tramp cheek blocks on the deck so the tramp tensioning line needs to run though the block (not just around it). this is much more secure and will not come undone.

If it gets windier move the jib and mainleads forward on the clew board. This will spill power in the sails and make them more controllable.

Boat Handling in high wind

For fast boats its important to learn how to sail them slow, especially when it’s windy. You can practice this in between races when you have time to relax.

So… there you are in the water and it gets really windy and all you can do is keep the boat upright. If you are not about to run into anything, I would typically head to weather and do the following.

1. pull on the cunningham to depower/twist the main off.

2. hike our hard to keep the boat flat as possible. Sit forward in the boat so the shroud is pressed up against your body. Need to have your weight forward!

3. sheet on the jib, kinda hard so it is flat and can point into the wind without flogging.

4. Pull in the main so it just stopps flogging – and at this point the boat should slowly work to weather. Drive conservatively and focus on keeping the boat balanced and slow.

If the leward ama is getting burried is is beacue the boat is most likely going too slow or sideways. You need to get some forward motion, so ease the main and get the boat driving forward.

If you decide to bear away and go downwind, you need to sit way aft on the mainhull. Install a hiking strap for your feet to prevent falling off the back of the boat.

Keep sailing deep so the boat is flat in the water and work the boat through the waves. Going downwind, is more tricky and prone to wiping out as you will be going faster (than if you just stayed pointing upwind).

You can ease the main as it will really depower as there is no boom-vang to maintain it’s shape.

As a last resort you can flip your boat and ride it out but this can create a whole lot of other problems;

– Your daggerboard can float away if not secured.
– You no longer have control of the boat and can drift into other stuff
– You can become separated from the boat (bad – don’t do this)
– Your boat may sustain damage from waves and or mast hitting the bottom.

Hope there is some helpful info here…

I’ve found the Weta really managable in 25kts, here in San Francisco. I’ve been out on some days in 35+ and it was not too fun and alot of effort to maintain control of the boat.

I did the double dammed race last year in gusts over 40, but I had a 180lb crew (excellent laser sailor) and I weigh 200 lbs. The whole race was downwind so the apparent wind was less than the true windspeed, as long as we kept going downwind. With a good crew, the Weta was pretty fun downwind in big breeze and waves.

That’s it for now. Hope this helps…


Sausalito, CA