Sailing in heavy winds

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Has anyone sailed the C14 in heavy winds conditions? I would like to know how stable and how the boat performs under heavy winds. Has anyone experimented with a spinaker?


Sailing on Shelter Bay
Heavy winds and spinnaker.....

After it gets up to the point where there are white caps (15 or 16 knots) I head for home. If I am solo I sometimes go out with just the main and it sails well in moderate winds. Since the boat does not have a back stay I think it would put undue stress on the shrouds to try a spinnaker: the boat isn't designed for it. I find the boat fairly stable, but I have a lifetime of experience sailing dinghys so I know what to do and react quickly. You want some twist in the main in heavy weather so there isn't as much heeling moment up high. But you want the boom to go sideways when you release it, so vang adjustment is critical in an overpowering blow. Keep the boat upright, not excessively heeled, by hiking out, feathering up, and playing the main. If hit by a gust you must be able to release the main a measured amount quickly from the hiked-out position. (a ratchet main-sheet block helps here) If that doesn't keep you from heeling too much the crew must then release some jib tension, but not so much you loose headway or heel to windward. In international 14's many skippers used to have two mainsails. A smaller one for heavy weather so they could keep it driving (not have to luff it) even when it was blowing hard.
I like the heavy winds and have had reefing points sewn in my main. This allows me to go out solo when the wind is blowing, especially when I cannot convince a more sane person to join me. I have sailed twice on my local lake in "high wind advisory" days, exciting stuff. I do have a hard time pointing upwind when it is really blowing hard, otherwise reefing the main is required. You need plenty of energy and lots of concentration. It is really exciting when you can surf the motorboat wakes and any rollers on the lake.

I have sailed in the Gulf of Mexico on a blustery day, there were some outer islands that kept the surf under control. I had myself and 3 crew, and we had all 4 of us hiking out. And, a few times surfing the rollers in the Choctawhatchee Bay when the wind really kicked up. I had crew and was not reefed these times.

I found on my small boat and the big boat, this is when you find out where you need to modify your gear and/or rigging. I found in heavy air that my cleats are more difficult to release, especially in a panic. So, make sure you have everything in good working condition. And, if you have crew, make sure you are well rehearsed on tacking and have done some capsizing drills.

Be certain about your abilities and the conditions, and of course the PFD is mandatory (even on the calm days). Enjoy yourself, but be safe and pick your days to venture out. On the worst of days that I ventured out, I still had a support boat close by or there were lots of powerboats nearby.

Last year, had a catastrophic failure on a hobie 16, the port hull collapsed and we flipped. I was pleasantly surprised at the powerboaters, we had about 6 of them on us pretty quickly offering up help.

1989 Capri 14.2
1984 Catalina 22


Sailing on Shelter Bay
Wow: Four hiking out!

With 4 of you hiking out you must have been flying along on a plane. The only thing I think about is the stress on the rig. I sure it is enormous. Apparently it all held together and it sounds like you had a lot of fun. I can't quite picture 4 people switching sides at the same time when you tacked, or did you take turns?
Thanks for confirming

I feel like I have about the same upper limits as mentioned above. Whitecaps send me in and in heavier air i leave the ji at home or take her down. I almost always solo, but long for the extra ballast on those days knowing that I could make her really move. Thanks for confirming my envelope.
When I had 4 of us hiking out, I was the heavy at 200 lbs. The other 3 were my Sea Scouts, all 14-16 yrs old. Tacking was manageable, let the main out to flatten the boat but keep your momentum. Communication is key in getting that many bodies and limbs moved around.

The wind let up a bit that day, so we did a little surfing on the rollers. I had one boy standing in front of the mast as we beached... I told him to start running when we hit dry sand.

And my hands get sore and arms tired from constantly hanging onto that mainsheet!! it is fun and exciting up above 12 knots or so, but 15-16 would be my limit.

As to rig strength I think the stays would be the weak link, so I remade mine with the next size bigger wire (3/16 instead of 1/8 if I recall), with an extra swaged fitting on each end, so that is a little less of a worry.

My capsize experience was in heavy air and I could not get the boat back up because the hull rode so high up it became a sail in it's own right, fighting me as I tried to swing it around so the mast pointed windward. So, I will never take my hand off that sheet in those conditions. Not the most relaxing kind of sailing but you sure do feel like you moved it on those days.
Wow! .... absolutely insane fun :eek: .... Don't think I will ever get to the skill level to experience that thrill! .... but it is good to know that my boat is good for it!
I have a set of storm sails that are great for days like we had today. Whitecaps and gusty winds strong enough to make the shrouds whistle.

It makes for exciting but tiring sailing and we did capsize once, but my son and I are getting pretty good at righting the boat, I actually climbed over the side and onto the centerboard without getting wet until I righted the boat.

The storm sail main can be reefed, but we have not had to do that yet. If it was not for the storm sails, we would not get to sail as often.

Hartwell winds

I recently bought a 14.2 from a guy that feared sailing alone and therefore never sailed it. It's first splash was a few weeks ago in light winds; a good day but uneventful. Last weekend Hartwell had gusts of 25kts so I drove up from ATL just to test my skills. I quickly found that the jib was more work than it was worth in heavy winds so I stowed it after my first tack. The main performed great but I achieved my best speeds, GPS, on a reach and less than 10 degrees. I topped out at 7.5 but I'm sure I could do better. This was the second time this O6 had touched water and as a new boat there was a lot of stretch in the stays; which explains the weather helm closed hauled. When I pulled the boat I had to shorten the stays two holes and still had the proper play fore and aft. Next time I'll try the jib again since I should get better performance with a tighter rig. It was a great day and I had the lake to myself. I modified the transom the day I bought the boat, seemed like an oversight on the designers part. I also plan to install reefing lines on the main when the season is over. I just bought a boomkicker which hopefully will eliminate the need to dump the boom in the cockpit and give me more lift in higher winds. I'll report on how that mod works out in a few weeks.
My bad, must have been in a hurry. I meant to say Traveler. I set the traveler at 26” and secured the main sheet at center. I also removed the traveler block to give me a more responsive main sheet for quicker adjustments.
Strong Wind

Another thing we like to do is in light wind, tie the main sheet as a single purchase to the traveler, but in heavy wind have it tied in advance as a double purchase. (Double is where the sheet comes down from the block at the aft end of he boom to the block on the traveler and back up again to tie off on the bottom of the block at end of boom.) RK