Boat heads up when close hauled in strong wind

Thread starter #1
I was sailing solo with main only in a 15-20 knot wind last week. My boat kept heading up when close hauled or even in a close reach, to the point of going in irons. No amount of rudder could prevent it. This finally resulted in a capsize (my fault: I let go of the main sheet -- bad!). Thank God for my Baby Bob! ... I had no trouble righting my boat, but lots of trouble climbing in over the traveler -- going to install a boarding ladder this week.

My question for those of you who solo without a gib is: is this heading up into irons a common occurrence for you too? I understand the ideas of center of effort and center of lateral resistance, so I does make perfect sense that the bow will head windward when close hauled. In lighter winds I was easily able to hold the boat on the tack heading, but when the winds became stronger, the boat went into irons every time.

I was sitting fairly far forward, up near the jib car -- this may have contributed to the head up since I now realize by sitting forward I moved the center of resistance forward. I also had the centerboard fully down.

Anyhow, what advice and/or ideas do you guys have (aside for the obvious of putting on the jib) for dealing with this problem? FYI, there is the prescribed 21' 10'' main sheave to transom, but I have moved shrouds the one hole tighter than recommended to get the mast less sloppy.

Looking forward to your stories, suggestions, and sympathy!

-- Edward
heading up

The problem is the capri was designed to use the jib. When it's missing, the mainsail creates a moment (torque), tending to point you up. Think of the mast as an axis about which the wind and water forces act to rotate the boat. if you must work without a jib, perhaps try shortening the forestay, thus tilting the mast forward to move the center of (wind/lift) pressure forward. That is what we would do to reduce weather-helm, but I don't know if you could move it far enough to get the desired results.
Next option, is when the boat goes into irons, physicaly push the boom to leeward, backwinding the sail, until your heading falls-off the wind again.

Instead of all that struggle, how about using both sails, but reef the mainsail and jib to make it safer to handle alone in a brisk wind.
Heading up

When I sail solo in winds over about 15 (without the jib) I raise the center board about half way. As the cb raises it also pivots back and this seems to reduce weather helm.
both are right.

Both Jeff, and sailorm are correct.

You need to change the center of effort in those conditions. Both serve to balance the forces above water with below.

I found the capri naturally benefits from a neutral or slight forward lean to the mast, to "neutralize" helm. Even with MAIN and JIB up. With just MAIN up, you have to lean the mast forward a bit, and adjust centerboard.

What you describe is weather helm. Weather helm under main alone makes sense, because much of the pressure forward the mast is removed, therefore you are pivoting the boat from a point farther back, which causes it to round up.

Lee helm (which is tough to duplicate in the 14.2) is if the boat rounds down (or away from the wind), as described it can be very dangerous if it happens more and more in a blow, making the boat heel worse and worse until you capsize. The capri 14, due to its lack of a back stay naturally tends to weather up, that and the shape of its bottom (fairly round, lowering wetted underwater surface quickly).

Balance the boat, with cunningham, vang, mast rake (forward in this case), and centerboard (raise slightly in this case). Cun, and vang should be tightened harder and harder in a blow (except downwind which is usually light cunningham, and tight vang in heavy wind).

By the way, learn center of effort well, and sail trim, and boat setup as it applies to all sailboats. LEE helm, or WEATHER helm can be corrected slowly, or quickly through the settings you learn.

Reefing main and flying the jib should also balance the CofE forward again. It may still be too much for single handing in those conditions though.
Thread starter #6
Thanks all!

Spent the last week up at the lake soloing -- discovered the centerboard raising trick.

Also, in case any interest, when I moved back (I was sitting right beside the jib cleat/car) the weather helm neutralized like magic (of course, since this moved the center of lateral resistance towards the stern). I could even give it a bit of lee helm by moving further aft.

I have yet to change mast rake over the prescribed 21' 10". I'm pretty happy with the boat's response now the way it is set, although as I said above, I have the shrouds a bit tighter than the North and Quantum recommend.

One other tidbit: I find it very easy to get out of irons by applying hand pressure to the boom while turning the tiller slightly -- let the boat fall off, then let go of the boom and straighten the tiller with a bit of snap. The boat just jets off in a close haul!

Well, pardon me guys and gals -- I'm only in the second year of sailing any kind of boat, and I'm just really amazed at what our little boats can do.

Thanks again. -- Ed
Great tips on tuning and trimming from everyone. I also agree on reefing the main.

I was in Florida and found a sailmaker and paid him stitch in reefing points. I think I paid about $150 and he mailed me the sail once completed. I have reefed the main twice while I was sailing solo, each time I was able to surf the boat on motorboat waves on the lake.

The reefing points reduce the overall size of the main and allow you to still fly the jib. Also, it gives you the opportunity to sail in conditions that you otherwise would have to stay away from. Unless you can convince a friend or two to join you... And I have a difficult time finding anyone that would join me on a sailboat on "high wind advisory" days.

1989 Capri 14.2
1984 Catalina 22
Reef the main sail & jib?

I just got a 1997 14.2 about a month ago and just recently had the courage to sail with the jib. Sailing solo ain't easy but it's pretty amazing, although I cheat by having the main luff when I get tired in strong winds.

What does it mean to reef the main sail & jib in strong winds?
Reefing --

Basically, sewn in grommets part way up the mainsail parallel to the boom. This allows you to shorten the overall size of the sail. Instead of raising the mainsail up 100%, you drop it down and tie rope around the boom through the grommets. You have now reduced the overall size of the sail, lowering it several feet.

The mainsail on the Capri is large, and sailing solo (or with crew) in heavy air... you can reef the sail. This allows you more control over the boat so you will not be easily overpowered. Instead of just letting the sail luff and get banged around, you reef it.

You still need to use good judgement on going out or staying in, but reefing gives you the opportunity to sail in higher winds where you would have needed to stay home.

1989 Capri 14.2
1984 Catalina 22

Thanks man I made the trip to wikipedia and I can't wait to try it out. I'm sailing solo on the Kennebacassis River in New Brunswick and the wind can get very strong up here. Haven't sailed regularly for over 20 years so I'm very rusty...

Or lack thereof..obviously I need to read these posts more carefully.

The thing is that I actually have a sail diagram with the reefing grommets for the Capri 14..but the sail itself only has the Cunningham.......
I have heard of DIY reefing kits for your sail, but haven't never tried one myself. I found a sailmaker and had him sew in reefing points, it cost me about $150 and they mailed me the sail when they were finished.