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Downwind in a Force 5

Mr Mike

New Member
First post,
Sorry that I should ask questions on a Force Five but there are no active forums on the Force 5 and the Laser and Force 5 boats are quite similar. I have viewed many u-tube videos on Lasers and and still have not mastered downwind technique with my boat. I am fairly new to sailing and at 76 am still pretty agile. I am not interested in going as fast as possible or racing. I am only interested in staying upright. In the summer when the breeze is out of the SW we often have 12-15 knots with gusts 18-20. I sail in a small sound off NC and have a 1/2 -3/4 mile run coming home that is almost directly downwind under a bridge. During this downwind run there are places where there is little room to alter course. The boat gets pretty twitchy at winds over 12 Knots and I have capsized a number of times. I can handle my Sunfish in these conditions but the Force 5 is a handful.

I just would like some suggestions on angle of sail, vang, CB and technique. Again I do not have to go fast. I have tried several things without success. I do fine on all other points of sail.

Thanks in advance,

Mr Mike
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
I sail in a small sound off NC and have a 1/2 -3/4 mile run coming home that is almost directly downwind under a bridge.
Could you do deep, broad reaches on your downwind return trip instead of running? Deep, broad reaches are a more stable point of sail than running when it's windy.

- Andy
 

Mr Mike

New Member
Andy,
The Intra Coastal waterway (ICW) runs through the sound and there is not only power boat traffic but it is pretty narrow where I must go. A broad reach would be ideal but unfortunately not enough room. That's why I have to master downwind runs in moderate wind. When the wind is over 15 the Force 5 stays home. I have other boats that are more stable on runs.
Mr Mike
 

Keso

175590
On a Laser, the boom will be out less in 15kts then 7kts. In heavy air I will only allow the boom to be about 75-80 degrees relative to the boat. And rarely sail dead downwind, but just off angle and jibe a little more often. If it feels like it is dishing out on you, then snap the main sheet in a bit.

Usually the vang is on only a pinch (about a knot width), and the foot of the sail about the distance from the boom of a “hang10” sign with your hand. Cunningham off. The foot can be brought in a little in heavier air, but don’t choke the foot off.

To add stability, you can leave the board all the way down.
 

Mr Mike

New Member
175590,
The centerboard down and the boom out to about 75 degrees makes sense. That will require an occasional jibe. When I jibe in heavy air should I let the boom go out to 90 and then trim it or do you cleat it to stop at 75 degrees? I have capsized before on heavy air jibes and often do a 360 to avoid the jibe altogether when winds are brisk. It surely is slower but I'm not racing anyone. Also what does "choke off the foot mean"?

I usually set all the sail controls when I start and rarely make any adjustments. I would expect sail controls have a smaller impact than the boom angle and CB. I am about 165 lbs and I don't hike out horizontal. I am no longer the athlete I once was.

Thanks for your advice.

Mr Mike
 

Keso

175590
I don’t generally cleat so I can trim the sail in and out based on the gusts. For jibing- I usually let the sail out towards 90, as the transom passes through direct downwind, trim in to start the back winding of the main and finish the move with the rudder. But if it’s sporty- No foul if a 360 works!

As for the sail foot, don’t crank on the outhaul to close off the foot of the sail. The sail should be depowered by tightening the outhaul and taking some camber out, but you still should have a gap between the foot and the boom. About half the “hang loose” sign.

Once the sail controls are set then you should not have to touch them again until your next new point of sail. All power will be controlled by the boom angle.

Here is a good clip about happy-sad sails which may help in preventing the capsize as it begins:

 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
The hulls designs are very different with the Force 5 being hard chined. The boat should be more stable on one of the chines opposed to flat. Keep the board 90-80% down. Try to sail "by the lee" with more vang on and the sail trimmed in around 75-80 degrees, (90 should be your max DW out on the main) as others have suggested. If the boat gets unstable try more vang and more trim in on the main sheet.

Here's why you WON'T Jybe. When it's blowing harder the top section of the mainsail opens up or "spills out" to leeward. It is ALWAYS out further than the boom which keeps it from jybing.

Also look at your course management. Try sailing as low a course as possible to the bridge. That way when you get close to the bridge you can reach up and through it. Then once through go back to your "low road" course.

In breeze you can sail lower that DDW using the practice above. It lighter winds use less vang and mark your main sheet for 110 degrees out on the boom. When you get the boom out beyond perpendicular and heel the boat to weather going downwind you can sail "by the lee" without jybing. It's also very fast.

In Lasers we avoid DDW because it's lower and most unstable. Either broad reaching or by the lee is much more stable and faster.
 

Mr Mike

New Member
Thanks for your advice. Gonna be a couple of months before the water warms up enough to be safe out there unless I get a dry suit. It's all making a little sense. There is a section on my run home that I "Sail by the lee". By then the wind is partially blocked by trees and I can sheet out past 90 degrees to minimize an accidental jibe. Then I turn the boat slightly and with my sheet hand I actually feel for the tension easing and then pull the whole business acrosss letting it go out as far as it will on the other side and turning back to the new windward side slightly. I use a wind direction arrow on the mast which is very helpful. As for bridges, I have practiced this many times. The current at the bridge is pushing 1.5- 2 knots at peak tide. Down wind is easy as the current helps. When I am bucking the tide, I have to get the angle just right for maximum speed to ensure I can make it through. I have had to do an emergency jibe a couple times when the wind died or I miscalculated. It is a bit tricky keeping off the bridge abutments. Before going under a bridge I have to assess wind, current, presence or powerboats, and always enter on the windward side as close to the abutments as possible. It is rare when I can't make it through but it does happen. I than have to take an alternate route (long way) to make it home..
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
Also remember the rules of the road. Your lane going under the bridge is the right side, (going either direction). I understand the power boat concern. Even though you have all the rights, (unless it's large commercial traffic) you can't depend on them to know the COLREGS.
 

Mr Mike

New Member
Rob,
I know the rules but never assume the guys running powerboats do. I time my passage so that I am the only boat and generally do not take the main ICW lane as the abutment protectors kill the wind. I generally slip though on the windward side outside the main boat lane. The sound has plenty of shoals and sandbars (no rocks) and I know where they all are. I mounted a small digital depth finder that runs off a motorcycle battery on the boat....a big help. I am self taught. I traded a jet ski for a sail boat and got hooked the first time. I capsized a bunch of times in the beginning but soon learned all the tides, angles, slews and wind. Having a dock in the backyard is very convenient. My fleet is now three sailboats. Wish I had started many years ago. Now my goal is to learn how to go downwind safely in brisk wind, not steady 20+_, but in 12 to 15 with higher gusts.
I appreciate all the advice I can get
Mr ike
 
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