Sailing with headsail only

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
We had another great weekend on the boat. We spent Saturday night at anchor a few miles from our slip then stopped for the day on Sunday at Langley where we met up with some friends (socially distanced, which was a little awkward, but well work it).

The wind instruments have never worked, but I’m guessing it was 15 to 20 knots both days. Waves were 2 to 3 feet with some white caps and a small wind ripple on top. No spray and we stayed dry both days with just an occasional splash on deck. As luck would have it, we found ourselves with the wind at the beam or behind us both days. I don’t have a preventer rigged and the main is a little difficult to hoist, so I decided to sail with the 120 headsail only. On the beam reach, we were cruising at 6 knots with a few moments up around 7. I am blown away by how well the boat sailed in this configuration. There was a slight weather helm, just enough to feel the rudder on the beam reach. Downwind, it was balanced and easy to handle hovering around 5.5 knots.

I am confused why there wasn’t Lee helm without the main and why, in my limited experience with the boat, there isn’t excessive weather helm with the main up. By no means am I complaining, but I’ve been spending a lot more time focusing on balancing the boat as opposed to trimming the sails independently and this seems to go against what I’ve learned and experienced to this point. Is the center of effort for each sail just perfectly placed above the center of resistance of the keel? Would this move back and cause lee helm if I had a larger head sail? What do other 32, 35, and 38 owners run on their furlers?
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Ericsons sail well under jib alone. A happy design outcome.

Ericsons also don't favor too much sail up, and most control issues are result of flying all the laundry in 22 knots and wondering why the boat slews . Do we need a larger rudder? etc.

The easiest measurement of too much sail, I think, is the heel. If the crew on the rail can;t keep the boat at somewhere around 20 degrees heel, performance suffers. Racing, which requires lots of sail area, also requires responsive trimmers and a helmsman who knows how to feather and pick his spots in waves and gusts. To sail an Ericson casually in Force 5, reduce sail.

I have found that in 30 knots plus, only a scrap of roller-furler jib provides a rig balanced such that a vane self-steering gear does fine, even in the usual 10-foot cresting seas offshore. Vanes are quite sensitive to rig balance, so that's a real testament.

I have found that the mainsail is necessary for balance off the wind in any kind of a seaway. Reefed, it provides a steadying counter force to the boat being tossed around and slewed by surfing quartering seas.

We've all noticed the surprisingly good behavior under jib alone (I have a 120 genoa also). One added benefit: if you ever have to sail into the slip, which is quite a project given our crowded marinas, you can douse the main and have complete control under jib alone. That really, really, simplifies a procedure in which luffing is necessary, and for which a big mainsail on a boom is a complication.
 

debonAir

Member III
The "theory" is taught as if the boat has a vertical mast.. which it never is when sailing. Picture the force vector on the rig. You can picture it as a single rope attached somewhere on rig about 1/3 up and some place fore or aft of the mast, depending on sails hoisted and shape. The rope is pulling both forward (to drive the boat forward) and sideways, which heels the boat and pulls it sideways. The keel resists the sideways motion a bit, so the net result is the boat moves forward and heels over. Now picture that same rope with the boat heeled well over. Instead of just pulling the boat forward and over, it wants to rotate the boat into the wind. The more the heel the more that vector becomes "rotate" vs "heel" which is why you round up when you get knocked over.

With just the jib up, and light air, you will have a bit of lee helm, but since its light air you wont be fighting it so you won't notice. The center of pressure on the jib might be a few feet forward of the mast horizontally, so maybe 5 feet fwd of the boat's center of resistance. But that pressure center can be 15 feet above the deck vertically. When you heel over at say 45 degrees, that 15 feet of lever becomes effectively a 13 foot lever (15 * sin(45)) rotating the boat to windward around its center of resistance vs just the same 5 feet of leverage rotating the other way... so the long lever wins and you get weather helm. To make matters worse, when heeled over, 1/2 the rudder force is pushing your bow towards the bottom vs towards the lee, so your dragging that a bit.

The bottom line is, the more the heel, the more forward you want the sail, and less area you want. My E35-3 seems a bit tender and I usually use the main all-up or all-down vs. reefing. If its blowing hard enough for even the first reef, the boat usually sails just as fast with just the 135 jib, and the wind is usually going to pick up after that, so I just drop the main.
 

1911tex

Member III
When single handed, I mostly fly the 120 Genoa only. So easy to manage with Furler. You can call me lazy or my age...doesn't bother me a bit; however, you are correct! When #1 son is aboard...it's a different story.....let the truth be known!
 

supersailor

Contributing Partner
I sail with both main and 130 'till about 18 knots when I dump the main. There does not seem to be a difference in overall speed between reefed main and jib and jib only. The skipper sure notices a difference in effort, though!
 

GrandpaSteve

Sustaining Member
This is the first sloop I owned and didn’t just crew on. At first I think it felt like cheating - sailing on the jib alone, but it works so well when the wind is 12 or more that I’ve come to accept it as the way to single hand my boat. Which is what I do 95 percent of the sailing season.
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
This is the first sloop I owned and didn’t just crew on. At first I think it felt like cheating - sailing on the jib alone, but it works so well when the wind is 12 or more that I’ve come to accept it as the way to single hand my boat. Which is what I do 95 percent of the sailing season.
I understand the need for simplicity when single handing, or with lots of inexperienced guests, but although I single hand about 70% of the time or more, it just doesn't seem right to not sail with both sails. So while I "cheat" occasionally, most of the time I'll have all sails up, even if it means reefing. It just makes for a better, more genuine sail on our E30+.
Frank
 

Teranodon

Member III
I love to singlehand my E34. Recently, going on solo overnights has helped to preserve my sanity (and my marriage) during this #$@*! epidemic. There are lovely anchorages of all kinds not 10 miles from my home port of Friday Harbor. And though I am a bit ashamed to admit it, 9 times out of 10 I am out there with just the genoa. Sure, it doesn't look so great but, by God, the boat moves beautifully on all points of sail. I love my mainsail but, let's face it, its a pain to hoist, drop, trim, tack, reef and gybe singlehanded.
 

1911tex

Member III
I love to singlehand my E34. Recently, going on solo overnights has helped to preserve my sanity (and my marriage) during this #$@*! epidemic. There are lovely anchorages of all kinds not 10 miles from my home port of Friday Harbor. And though I am a bit ashamed to admit it, 9 times out of 10 I am out there with just the genoa. Sure, it doesn't look so great but, by God, the boat moves beautifully on all points of sail. I love my mainsail but, let's face it, its a pain to hoist, drop, trim, tack, reef and gybe singlehanded.
Teranodon: Besides those 6 steps for the main, add flake and cover! Not complaining here, but when I have guests or family aboard...I always fly main and Genoa...of course they take care of all main sail steps as they are the crew! For guests, we always rehearse before leaving the dock...practice, practice, practice. I do believe they all like to participate or they would not want to sail with me again....they keep coming back and I like that.....
 

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
My "rail meat" is more rail than meet, so I'm going to have to figure out heeling without help on the rail.

20180713_164314.jpg

I have to be honest, I never really understood how heeling affected helm feel and I thought this thread was headed down the same path. I started and deleted multiple response trying to respectively ask my question again of why sailing with only a head sail that applies a force forward of the center of resistance can provide weather helm and not lee helm. Re reading each attempted response made me realize I was missing something, so I went back to google.

I can't believe how much bad information about the physics of sailing is out there. My favorite so far is "sails cant provide lift because they're made of cloth, the just redirect the wind just like your hand out of the car window" and "The main doesn't make you go faster, it's just like a barn door that helps steer the boat". DebonAir nailed it, "The 'theory' is taught as if the boat has a vertical mast.. which it never is when sailing". Unfortunately I originally wasn't looking at the correct plane and couldn't understand how it affected my situation. Then I found this video:


It's a long winded explanation, but the author takes you from the very basics to the cause of weather helm due to heel. The ah-ha moment for me came around the 22 minute mark where he showed the boat heeled over from above. This whole time I'd been visualizing the boat from the side and missed the moment applied around the CLR by the forward force of the sail (which is exactly what Debonair perfectly explained). Thanks for taking the time to write that out.

I'm not sure if the sailing characteristics of these boats were perfectly calculated, a product of a designers years of refinement, or just a happy accident. Either way, It's a pretty elegant balance when your sitting at the helm.
 

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
Frank,

I previously owned an Ericson 25+, which is kind of the little sister to the 30+. I single handed the boat 90% of the time. I tried sailing it with head sail only a few time and quickly learned it wasn't a happy sail configuration for that boat other than downwind. I think it's a function of the fractional rig, but either way it had some pretty gnarly lee helm if I didn't use the main. It was slightly better when I used the 110 instead of the 135, but still troublesome. If it wasn't for other's comments on how well the 32, 34/35s, and 38s sail under jib alone (mostly Christian and his videos), I probably never would have tried it with my 35. Even though it worked, I really wanted to understand why.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
My "rail meat" is more rail than meet, so I'm going to have to figure out heeling without help on the rail.

View attachment 34400

I have to be honest, I never really understood how heeling affected helm feel and I thought this thread was headed down the same path. I started and deleted multiple response trying to respectively ask my question again of why sailing with only a head sail that applies a force forward of the center of resistance can provide weather helm and not lee helm. Re reading each attempted response made me realize I was missing something, so I went back to google.

I can't believe how much bad information about the physics of sailing is out there. My favorite so far is "sails cant provide lift because they're made of cloth, the just redirect the wind just like your hand out of the car window" and "The main doesn't make you go faster, it's just like a barn door that helps steer the boat". DebonAir nailed it, "The 'theory' is taught as if the boat has a vertical mast.. which it never is when sailing". Unfortunately I originally wasn't looking at the correct plane and couldn't understand how it affected my situation. Then I found this video:


It's a long winded explanation, but the author takes you from the very basics to the cause of weather helm due to heel. The ah-ha moment for me came around the 22 minute mark where he showed the boat heeled over from above. This whole time I'd been visualizing the boat from the side and missed the moment applied around the CLR by the forward force of the sail (which is exactly what Debonair perfectly explained). Thanks for taking the time to write that out.

I'm not sure if the sailing characteristics of these boats were perfectly calculated, a product of a designers years of refinement, or just a happy accident. Either way, It's a pretty elegant balance when your sitting at the helm.
There are sailing and general boating magazines in the NW and beyond that would really like that picture for a cover shot, IMHO. :)
 

frick

Member III
1971 E29....
My boat was designed as an MORC racing and cruising boat which were all the rage.
With the MORC ratings game a short water line gives you a better rating... but when I heel over 15 to 17 degrees, the water line grows by 2 plus feet and then you sail faster. I think my standing water line is only 22 feet, and grows to just under 26 feet with a the power heel.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
I have wondered about the same (jib-alone, absence of lee helm) dynamic. I think it's an Ericson/Bruce King thing.

In my sailing 101 class, the explanation, (and the empirical evidence in Catalina 30's and a C&C 31) was that if one sails with jib alone, he/she will experience lee helm. If one sails with main alone, he/she will get weather helm. But that's not what my boat does.

In my 32-200 under jib alone - I don't have lee helm, I typically have weather helm - she wants to round up. I have a 90% jib.

So what does this mean for balance and sail trim? The boat will still perform better (steer easier) under most circumstances I have found, with a little jib and a little main. I just keep reminding myself not to put up too much sail.

I was on a broad reach last week with both sails up and was gusted unexpectedly. I rounded up so fast it was nearly uncontrollable. Too much sail. I need to have a 3rd reef installed.

Separate point - depending on the length of the solo-sail, I sometimes find it easier to run the main alone, as I won't have to tend the jib sheets on my tacks.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
I appreciated DebonAir's explanation and also the video tutorial, esp. for the guy's ease at typing in graphics.

Not saying I really understand any of it. Lift can be explained by Bernoulli, but is also explained by Newton's 3rd. It's kinda confusing to try to grasp the subtleties of low/high pressure and attached flow over a NACA section, and then consider that a barn door with a Merlin engine on it also flies just great.

And on top of CE/CLR considerations, if you just tilt a sailboat over a little the hull form makes it head away from the tilt even under power with no sail up.

To me, the effect of the CE is most obvious on a windsurfer. To head off, you tilt the entire sail forward. To head up you tilt the entire sail back. No rudder necessary or present.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
Frank,

I previously owned an Ericson 25+, which is kind of the little sister to the 30+. I single handed the boat 90% of the time. I tried sailing it with head sail only a few time and quickly learned it wasn't a happy sail configuration for that boat other than downwind. I think it's a function of the fractional rig, but either way it had some pretty gnarly lee helm if I didn't use the main. It was slightly better when I used the 110 instead of the 135, but still troublesome. If it wasn't for other's comments on how well the 32, 34/35s, and 38s sail under jib alone (mostly Christian and his videos), I probably never would have tried it with my 35. Even though it worked, I really wanted to understand why.
That's interesting. I have a 26-2, which--as far as I know--is the identical hull to the 25+. I have a 135% genoa and the boat sails beautifully under headsail alone. The helm is very balanced. With the boat heeling over it has the very slightest amount of weather helm. I've not had an issue with lee helm at all.

What keel configuration did you have? Mine is the 4'11" fin.
 

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
The 25+ was a 1980 with the 4'11". My 135 was newer but had a lot more miles under it. The sail maker I took it to said it was way beyond repair and asked me to bring in all my other sails so he could advise on what I should do. He said the 110 was in perfect shape, so I had him put a luff tape and UV cover and I used that for the last 4 years. It was great for single handing and I didn't notice any loss in performance. We did use it alone when going down wind with good results, but anytime I tried to go above a beam reach I had some issues with it. The main problems were a neutral helm to lee helm and getting the boat to go through the tack.

Maybe my experience is a combination of the 135 being blown out and the 110 placing the CE too far forward under Jib alone. Or it could be the 25+ was my first boat. I had lazy jacks, a new traveler, adjustable back stay, boom vang, and a cunnignham on the 25 which made using the main easy and effective. I didn't really have any reason to experiment with jib alone after making all the improvements to the mainsail handling so . It would be interesting to go back and sail it again to see if it was a perceived issue or an actual issue with this new found perspective.
 

supersailor

Contributing Partner
The reason I reef at 15-18 knots is not excessive heel but excessive weather helm. Having to crank the rudder over acts like a huge speed brake. I used to diligently do the first and second reefs but the main is so much easier to dowse when the wind is less that there is a big incentive to dump it earlier. It would be interesting to see in a race with another 34 if it is faster or slower to dump the main.
 
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