Hiking for an Old Man

sjs

New Member
Thread starter #1
Hello, I am new to the forum.

I first learned to sail on a sunfish my uncle, cousin and I built sometime in the early 60's. Have not sailed one since the early 70's. For many years now I have been sailing cruising sailboats in various areas in the US and elsewhere and I am now between boats and looking for a daysailer. My first thought is of a sunfish because I used to love sailing it.

I am 61 and not as limber as I used to be. I don't think I want to be forced to hike out all the time. Sometimes my back is in good shape and sometimes it is not. Any daysailer will require hiking at times but some have enough stability to allow reducing sail, or feathering the sails, and avoid hiking in many conditions.

Since the sunfish has no means of reefing I am curious about its stability. I simply cannot remember from my days of sailing one. I will be sailing alone. Is this a boat an old man should avoid?

Thank you for any assistance.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#2
Any daysailer will require hiking at times but some have enough stability to allow reducing sail, or feathering the sails, and avoid hiking in many conditions.

Since the sunfish has no means of reefing I am curious about its stability. I simply cannot remember from my days of sailing one. I will be sailing alone. Is this a boat an old man should avoid?
I applaud your grasp of the reality of unballasted beach boats...

A hard chine boat will be more stable than one with a rounded chine.

A boat with a wider beam will be more stable than a narrower beam boat.

For it's size and simplicity, a Sunfish isn't too bad. It has a hard chine and the beam is moderate.

A lateen sail can have traditional reefing added, just not when used within the constraints of the racing rules.




A similarly easy to setup and light weight boat with a wider beam, but a soft chine is the Zuma. Though recently retired from production, used boats can be found for about the same price as a Sunfish.



LOA 12' 9"
Beam 5'
Sail Area 65 sq. ft.
Hull Weight 130 lbs.



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sjs

New Member
Thread starter #3
Thank you Wayne. That is a very informative and helpful reply. I am encouraged by your comment that the sunfish is not too bad regarding stability and that it can be reefed.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
#4
Re: Old Man Sailing

Reefing can be accomplished by tying the first grommet on the luff to (the S-hook attached to) the intersection of the two spars.

In addition, light weight sailors often use a 'Jens' in higher winds. This is a slight modification of the conventional set-up of the rig and requires one additional piece of line. Please search The Sunfish Forum for additional information.
 

sjs

New Member
Thread starter #5
Re: Old Man Sailing

Thank you, I'll do a search for Jens lines. Almost bought a used sunfish locally but another buyer got there first.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#6
Thank you, I'll do a search for Jens lines.
The Jens Hookanson style of rigging (Jens Rig) is a way to lower the whole sail rig to near deck level in order to reduce the effect of wind leverage without re-tying the halyard..., it does not reduce sail.

The Jens Rig evolved to benefit racers and lighter weight sailors so they could more quickly adjust for stronger wind conditions without dismantling their normal setup.

Another variation of this approach is called the "Gust Adjust" and can be seen demonstrated on YouTube.


Upper Jens configuration




Lower Jens along with a view of the "boom vang" halyard routing.


From the Sunfish Class Tips & Tricks page.

Further discussion can be found in the FAQ article, What should I do with sail when the wind increases? and in the Sunfish Bible by Will White (available at Sunfish Dealers ~$30)

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sjs

New Member
Thread starter #7
Thank you. I was confused a bit with what I had read thus far. These drawings explain it. I very much appreciate all of this assistance.
 
#8
I had to chuckle at you referring to yourself as an old man! By no means are you old!!

I am going on 51 now and just started sailing a Sunfish once again. I used to sail back when I was in my early 20's.l It took me a little while to get back in the swing of things again but I have found that age doesn't make that big of a difference when sailing in the Sunfish. I sometimes recline down in the cockpit and have used my lifejacket as a backrest which works very well thank you!lol I have been out in some brisk wind without my sail reefed and have found that just leaning backward helps a lot and I haven't really had to do any serious hiking.

Sure I'm a bit more stiff when I come in but that could be because I don't come ashore for hours I'm having so much fun. I've even developed tendonitis in my elbow from hanging onto my sheet line! But those things come with age and that's what they make Ibuprofen for!!

Go out and enjoy, I wish you lots of fun and sun!
 
#9
I am 57. My neck and joints rarely feel better than after a day on the 'fish. At 210# I rarely have to hike out very far. If I do the winds are at force whahoo and it is worth it. See if you can borrow or rent a 'fish and see how it suits you.

PS: A lady at our club in her seventies used to crush me in casual racing.
 

sjs

New Member
Thread starter #10
Thanks very much for the encouragement. I hadn't thought about the fact that I weigh 200# now and weighed about 140 when I last sailed one. That's a lot of extra ballast.

I am ready to go but haven't found a used one yet in good condition within a reasonable distance. I may have to convince my wife we should go ahead and buy a new one.
 
#11
Early 60's is old? Then I'm a fossil at 74 but still try to sail 2 or three times a week but I avoid heavy winds. With age has come a little extra weight so keeping thew boat upright is not too much of a problem.

Get out and unjoy yourself, kid!
 

baseman

On the Water
#12
I'm 55 (at least for the next 2 weeks) and I race my Phantom on weekends. It's not a large class race just a few small boats. At 140# I do have to hike out in heavier winds, but since I'm not much ballast, I'll ease the sail to keep the boat flat.

The Phantom is rigged similar to the Sunfish except the gooseneck is riveted in place and there is an eyestrap to attach the halyard and the sail is fairly high off the deck.

If you are just recreational sailing, don't be too concerned with the hiking issue. let the sail out and cruise with the wind.
 
#13
hey, I'm 76 and age don't matter I am working on a phantom that I have converted to a rowing /sail boat that I am ready to try shortly. I sail my old sunfish its old no serial no's but still sails great. A cinch cleat will take the strain off your arm and hand . I have trouble with my tiller arm but a little ointment takes care of that. Your only old as you think you are Keep loose and busy.
 
#15
SJS, I just turned 60 and bought my first Fish 2 years ago. I'm having lots of fun with it. At 195 pounds I too do little real hiking, just lean back. I'll come off the water if it's blowing over 15 kts. My main concern I need to test is dumping it and getting back aboard. For safety I need to do this with company close by just in case. Regards, Winever.
 
#17
At 73 I find no problem when hiking is needed. Keep the sail low (3" above the deck) and the dagger up a bit to reduce heeling.
I do find that high winds tire me out faster than before but it's sailing and having a good time that counts.

Fair Winds,
Fred the Geezer
 
#18
OK, different issue, kinda. I tried to dump it in the harbor and couldn't get it to capsize. I really didn't want to grab the mast and fall into the sail, or attempt to drop between the boom and the hull. Or is that the only way? Anyone teach this drill when the wind is too light to help? Thanks, Winever.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
#20
OK, different issue, kinda. I tried to dump it in the harbor and couldn't get it to capsize. I really didn't want to grab the mast and fall into the sail, or attempt to drop between the boom and the hull. Or is that the only way? Anyone teach this drill when the wind is too light to help? Thanks, Winever.
In light winds you do have to pull on the mast. You will fall backwards while holding onto the mast, and the sail may be on top of you once you hit the water. If so, you will need to swim a few strokes to free yourself and get to the other side of the hull. At least that was my experience when I demonstrated capsize recovery this past summer.

 
#22
Wavedancer:
This is from the Wikipedia entry on "Sailing":

"If a sailing vessel heels too much, the real solution is to reduce the sail area, by removing and/or reefing sails. Raising the centreboard can reduce heeling, which can be surprising, but it is not an ideal solution as it only works by increasing leeway."

This is what I always understood. There's less rotational (heeling) force on the dagger if there's less area preventing leeway.

Fred

P/S. Here's the Wikipedia entry from "Heeling":

"One way to reduce heeling is to move the center of lateral resistance upwards by raising your centerboard or daggerboard. The boat will have less resistance below the waterline and consequently less heel."
 
#23
I’m 71 and I sail in 15-17 regattas a year plus frostbiting and club sailing. In my opinion you’d be hard pressed to find a more stable dinghy type boat. You have to work a bit upwind in heavier breezes, but as others have said, the jens makes it a lot easier. As far as capsizing goes, with most boats the problem is downwind not upwind. With the Sunfish sailing downwind in a breeze is a piece of cake.
 
#24
Thank you WD, and I should prolly raise the board too...DUH. It's not in my mind to think about how to fall over. LOL, Winever.
I doubt having the daggerboard down will effect your intended capsize, but you will want it down in order to flip the boat upright.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#25
Wavedancer:
  • Raising the centerboard can reduce heeling...
  • There's less rotational (heeling) force on the dagger if there's less area preventing leeway.
  • "One way to reduce heeling is to move the center of lateral resistance upwards by raising your centerboard or daggerboard. The boat will have less resistance below the waterline and consequently less heel."
All true..., but you may recall I brought up "threshold". If the energy of wind in the sail were concentrated at the waterline, then lateral drift would be the only concern. Unfortunately, the force is not channeled to that ideal region. The wind in the sail also creates a rotational force aloft…, the leverage commensurate to the height and size of the sail. When the force in the sail exceeds the sideslip freedom you get dumped … fast.

The physics of leeway is not universal up the entire scale…, reach the threshold, go swimming … it’s one of those self-correcting issues.

.
 
#26
Wayne is correct. Raising the board a little will not prevent heel/capsize, just reduce the involved forces somewhat. With the board not fully down, the wind force on the lower, larger part of the sail close to the higher center of lateral resistance will produce less heeling torque and more leeway. The upper part of the sail can still produce enough rotation to put you in the drink.

Fred
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#27
I think I have a handle on this, but let me pose a question regarding an "imminent capsize":

Suppose I have a device that automatically adjusts the daggerboard [upwards] when it senses an "imminent capsize". :cool:

Why wouldn't that device delay or prevent a capsize? :confused:

Besides "sailing inefficiently", why isn't sailing with a board routinely raised four inches going to accomplish the same thing? :confused:

(I'm not getting any younger, and the water is getting colder now!) ;)
 
#28
I'm sure you'll get more responses but here's my two cents:

Even having the board completely up will not prevent a capsize because of the hull's resistance in the water which will allow the force on the sail to rotate the hull into a capsize.

Moving the board up might prevent an imminent capsize if it's not too severe.
In my experience, a severe capsize happens very quickly and leaves no time for any adjustments except holding your nose for the dive. When a capsize is slowly imminent you will have lots of side pressure on the board and it will be pretty hard to move, especially if your heeled over.
That's why I recommended keeping the board up a little all the time to at least reduce the possibility of capsize but it won't eliminate it.

Fred
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#29
Even having the board completely up will not prevent a capsize because of the hull's resistance in the water which will allow the force on the sail to rotate the hull into a capsize.

Moving the board up might prevent an imminent capsize if it's not too severe.
In my experience, a severe capsize happens very quickly and leaves no time for any adjustments except holding your nose for the dive.
That's the physics of the situation in a nutshell..., unless you can levitate the hull for zero lateral resistance. ;)


When a capsize is slowly imminent . . .
IMHO it's much less work to just sail the boat skillfully, applying normal capsize abatement tactics like letting out the sail and/or briefly turning into the wind, rather than fiddling with the ragged edge of the capsize moment equation ... a constantly moving target ... by futzing with the least effective control element, the daggerboard.

The real "Easy Button" is to simply get enough experience so that sailing fundamentals become second nature.

.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#30
Suppose I have a device that automatically adjusts the daggerboard [upwards] when it senses an "imminent capsize".
Or you could have outriggers that spring out, or perminant outriggers for that matter.

What some people have already done with the sailboat design is to make the daggerboard a fixed element and they even add counter-balancing weight.

There's no limit to what might be done...


;)
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
#31
IMHO it's much less work to just sail the boat skillfully, applying normal capsize abatement tactics like letting out the sail and/or briefly turning into the wind, rather than fiddling with the ragged edge of the capsize moment equation ... a constantly moving target ... by futzing with the least effective control element, the daggerboard.

The real "Easy Button" is to simply get enough experience so that sailing fundamentals become second nature.
Thanks Wayne for pointing out the fundamentals.

As an aside, it's been my experience that a capsize to leeward, while sailing upwind, is pretty slow, NOT fast. In most cases, I should have been able to prevent capsizing by anticipating the coming gust, releasing the sheet in a more timely manner, and by hiking harder at the proper time. However, I am not twenty anymore :eek:, and never had the agility of top sailors. Hence, I do swim from time to time. Moreover, I rarely get to practice in mid-twenty breezes.

The other chapter relates to 'death rolls' going down wind or 'stuffing' the boat in a wave while surfing. These situations can lead to capsizes that happen faster. I have also capsized by being stupid enough to leave the board up a bit too much during a jibe in high winds (as a racer, I carry the boom low).

Finally, if the board was up for one reason or another prior to the capsize, the first thing to do, after getting free of the boat and lines, is to extend the board for full leverage.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#32
. . . However, I am not twenty anymore :eek:, and never had the agility of top sailors. Hence, I do swim from time to time.
Heck, did you watch the 470s in the final round of the Beijiing Olympics..., they all capsized at least once. Dinghy sailing is like that some days. So you go out and brave the wind anyway or go home and mow the lawn. I go sailing (which includes an occasional swim).

.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#34
I think I may be "being made fun of", but I can't be certain. :p
Suppose I have a device that automatically adjusts the daggerboard [upwards] when it senses an "imminent capsize". Why wouldn't that device delay or prevent a capsize?
:eek: OK, let's have a look a the practical side... What would this system need in order to function successfully? Would this be a mouse trap device or fly-by-wire technology?

Which brings up another question..., why wasn't the daggerboard simply shortened years ago to create the capsize proof boat?



.
 

baseman

On the Water
#35
I think I might be missing something in the logic behind using the daggerboard to minimize the possibility of a capsize. The daggerboard is quite small in relation to the size of the boat, and doesn't provide anything in the way of ballast. By the time you get the boat heeled far enough to where a capsize is almost certain, how much of the daggerboard is still in the water? And at that point can you really think of doing anything but letting go of the sheet and the tilller and preparing yourself for a swim?

The only way I know to keep the boat from going over is to depower the sail. The best way to maintain boat speed is to keep the boat as flat as possible. If you can't hike it flat, ease the main.

I'm not 20 anymore either, but I'm small and have always been fairly agile, but I still prefer to keep the boat upright. I've been racing my Phantom for 2 years and haven't been knocked down yet.

<end ramble> :)
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
#36
Re: Hiking for an Old Man—You asked!

I wasn't really thinking in practical terms—just using a "fer-instance". ;)

But, since it is too cold for sailing today, I'll address your questions:

1) Setting the daggerboard aside, the Sunfish has little built-in resistance to making undesireable leeway—it has some resistance—but given reasonable weather for sailing, not enough to develop a capsizable circumstance.

IMHO.

A capsize-proof boat in Sunfish-sizes doesn't exist: Other sailboats either capsize and/or sink.

2) "Mousetrap" is simpler, but I propose telemetry: build goggles that can measure—give them wireless capability—and do real-time viewing of the skipper's eyes. :cool:

When the skipper's eyes get very, very, wide, a signal will be sent to a 12-V servo-motor, which—coupled to a worm-drive and a pinion—will rapidly raise the daggerboard.


Capsize averted!

:)
 
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