Lee Helm


New Member

Friends, I sailed in shifty winds of 15-23 and experienced lee helm. The gooseneck was at 17 inches, outhaul tight but there was a little sag in the luff where the gaff meets the mast.

The tiller nearly snapped to lee from time to time and I would like you to advise what contributes to this condition.

Hmmmm. I hope I have my physics right, but lee helm (i.e. if you took your hand off the tiller, the tiller would go to the windward side and the boat would tend to fall off the wind) occurs when the center of effort in the sail is too far forward. The things that can affect where the center of effort is are: a) the gooseneck position b) the age of the sail and whether or not the max. draft has shifted forward or back, c) the outhaul and downhall adjustments on the foot and luff of the sail and e) even your daggerboard (wood vs. plastic) and the board being up or down.

Try two extreme gooseneck settings, say 21" and then 14" and see if that help or worsens matters. I would think that moving the gooseneck forward
to 15" or 16" would help. I have a feeling you may be sailing with an older sail that is somewhat blown out and not going to work very well in heavier air
(although it may be great in the light stuff).

I may be completely off base here, but fiddle the gooseneck and see what happens. Ideally the 'fish should have a little windward helm so if you took your hand off the tiller the boat would come up into the wind and stall out.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
The tiller snapping to the lee side meant the boat would come up on the wind and that's a sign that the gooseneck needs to be moved back.
This allows more sail area in front of the mast and lowers the rear of the sail. Both of which will make the boat more neutral in higher winds by moving pressure foward.
The rule of thumb for gooseneck setting is lighter air foward, heavier air back. Depending on the boat/sail/and the sailor's style of sailing the range can be anywhere from 12 inches back from the front to up to 24 inches. JMGO but once it's back to 21 inches and the boat still wants to round up it's time to learn how to tie a Jenn's rig.
Thank you gents. I returned to the water yesterday and experimented with the settings and did find effective changes in balance. I also deliberated ran into headers and imitated the same phenonamon. It may have been that the shifting 23 mh gusts slammed into the sail and momentarily resulted in the lee helm condition.

Best regards
A small correction to your terminology: the situation that you described is referred to as WEATHER HELM not lee helm. The HELM for some reason does not refer to the tiller but to the tendancy of the bow to got to windward (weather helm) or to leeward (lee helm). The tiller obviously does the opposite. I my experience, a strong puff will heel you over and produce lots of sudden weather helm if you don't move your weight or the sail fast enough to counter it. Fun isn't it?!!!!

If you'll be sailing in breeze a bunch, then you should consider a Jens Rig or reefing the sail. The Jens rig can be found on the Tips & Tricks section of sunfishclass.org