Before I got out of my bunk I knew we’d need two reefs in the main. I delighted in this prospect because I love sailing in a big breeze, but I also knew that my crew of cruising students didn’t have a lot of experience in heavy weather. As we made breakfast the boat sailed back and forth at anchor in the building wind and we listened to the robotic voice of the VHF report a gale warning with winds expected to top out at 35 knots. Two reefs it is, we decided.
Prior to getting underway we talked about sail combinations, reefing and how to best prepare the boat for the conditions. Being a school owned boat, none of us had sailed it in this much wind so there would be a learning curve on what she could handle. Learning curves are great for sailing classes. Sure enough, we saw 30 to 35 knots and having two reefs in the main was good but we still had a little too much weather helm when sailing close hauled. After some trial and error with different sail controls (i.e. traveler, backstay, jib fairleads), we were able to effectively rid the boat of weather helm by reefing the jib slightly. This is how you learn your boat or any new boat though, by getting out in a big breeze and seeing what works, because hey, the wind can’t always be 15 knots at our backs.
Enjoy this week’s edition.