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Windward heel

I think the whole thing is pretty complicated, there are some major 3d fluid dynamics occuring under the hull with the foils and stuff as well. It seems pretty obvious that heeling to windward works in some situations.

The bit in the rooster vid where Steve suggests the under water shape of the hull is like a wing neglects the fact that the footprint is pretty shallow so the biggest flow is under the hull rather than round it.

Any how, I'd like to see some investigation into it, but as the legendary Reeves and Mortimer said " I don't know how it works but it does"


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This weekend, during a small regatta, the wind became lighter for a while and I tried windward heeling for upwind. An objective fact is that I could point higher. This was not only my feeling, but I could observe it by a simple comparison to the rest of the fleet.

As for the speed, I had the feeling that the boat was going faster as well, but I can't tell if this was something "real". I mean, I don't know what would have happened if I had made the usual slight heeling to leeward for light wind.

Anyway, looking at the rest of boats, the possible speed difference doesn't seem so important in the tradeoff as the possibility of pointing higher. The latter was really significative. I ended first :) among a small fleet of 6, although the truth is that I was already going first when I tried this technique.

Ah, and I experienced a clear lee-helm. Otherwise the boat naturally beared off.



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RobKoci said:
Hmmm. Then where does lift come from?
Board lift is absolutely relative to angle of attack. Airplanes with symmetrical wings cannot stay in the air with an AOA of zero. Only aerobatic planes have this type of wing (so they can fly upside down easily, relate that to a sailboat tacking with both tacks being equal) and their nose will always be up slightly, even if you don't notice (sailboats leeway).
No sailboat sails perfectly straight as long as they have only one board that is symmetrical. Boats with a symmetrical board/keel will have some amount of leeway. This is where your AOA comes from, thus creating lift, negative pressure on the high side...etc. Both hydro and aero - dynamics work in the same manner around an airfoil, so if you know it about air, you know it about water, and vice-versa.


My pet theory - When you windsurf upwind you lean the mast into the wind a portion of the drive created from the sail is forwards at some angle off the bow. A smaller but very interesting portion of the drive is upwards - lifting the board upwards through the mast step and through your footstraps - so the more you "windward heel" the more upwards lift you create, the less weight is on the water and the faster you go.

Could something like this be happening when you windward heel a laser sailing upwind in addition to all the nice stuff going on underwater?


pugwash said:
My pet theory - When you windsurf upwind you lean the mast into the wind a portion of the drive created from the sail is forwards at some angle off the bow. A smaller but very interesting portion of the drive is upwards - lifting the board upwards through the mast step and through your footstraps - so the more you "windward heel" the more upwards lift you create, the less weight is on the water and the faster you go.
However, assuming the wind is parallel to the surface of the water, the more heel (to windward or leeward), then the lower the effective surface area of the sail with regard to the wind. I think of it as max surface are of sail when boat upright, heel at 45 degrees and you lose a lot of the surface area from the perspective of the wind. You may start lifting the hull (don't know) but you will then be doing it with an effectively smaller sail (smaller to lift you and smaller to drive you).

I would think that windward heel beneficial effects must be something to do with balancing the boat and the underwater shape rather that starting to lift the hull. If this is true then it does not necessarily mean that more is better.



Glenn Bourke (3 times world champion) , in 'Championship Laser Racing', 1993, Furnhurst Books is also an advocate of 'windward heel' upwind in 'light-air'. Pictures p45 & p62 suggest however that conditions when this is applicable are certainly above that of a 'drift' but before you are two blocked (photos show blocks about 2-4 inches separated) and hiking still possible with toes under the grab rail.

Seems to work (give good height) - on relatively flat water and relatively smooth (cooler) wind - and if your concentation holds enough so you can steer essentially with boat trim. Much harder to sustain in blusterly conditions.

Bourke indicates he is not sure whether it is extra hydrodynamic efficiency of the foils or enhanced sail-plan angle of attack effect - but it seems to work if you can get the balance and steer by tourkeing and balancing the hull.

Anyone know why suggestions abound that a Radial should be heeled to leeward up to 10 degrees upwind? Is it just a 'feel' thing to get back more of the traditional Laser weather helm?- have noticed also that most top Radial sailors sail very low in the groove (sometimes footing at angles that appear almost rediculously deep to a standard sail sailor in chop) but get speed and then wind up to windward.
I think the angle of attack theory has some good chances. The I14's are experimenting with gybing centerboards, and the Tasar has had them (right?) since the boat was released. It probably doesn't work in heavier winds because more apparent sail area is more of a gain than a higher angle.



I too am a keen Windsurfer, but the pictures in Glen Bourke's book from astern when he is sailing with windward heel show a virtually vertical leech (i.e. the windward heel is just sufficient so that the leeward bend of the loaded mast is negated and the trailing edges of the sail are now pretty much vertical instead of off to leeward as they would be if the boat was flat.

Despite the theoretical advantages of lift/lightening of the Windsurfer rig as it is inclined over the sailor to windward most racers seek to keep the rig as vertical as possible (some using extra wide booms to do this together with down pulling seat harness that vangs the sail) to increase mast-step pressure. Maybe this is because of the differential in hydraulic lift available from the water compared to that available from air and a need to get fin - if not centreboard these days - foiling hard to maintain height)

The comments by others about sitting forward and an initial lee (possitive) helm suggest we are talking about both angle of attack of sailplan and flow around the foils. Maybe we are in effect getting a 'gybing centerboard' action and enhanced roll-over vorticey effects from the rig - the noticeable cut-out when waves or other disturbance occours suggests this kind of interaction - a bit like the transition from extreme windward railing by the lee down wind performance (or flying a hull in a catamaran downwind) and the pause/helm changes if you inadvertantly drop flat again and resume stalled luff to leech flow.

Would be good to get a Bethwaite comment on this.


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I've measured the same upwind course between 2 buoys comparing leeward vs windward heel in stable light wind conditions. With windward heel it seemed to take around 20% less, partly because of speed, partly because I could tack much more near the buoy.

I've also used it in a recent regatta with light wind and have no doubts now: it is clearly better. I gained a lot of advantage in each upwind leg.

One "effect" I felt is that from time to time I didn't feel any pressure in the main sheet, so it seemed that the sail was just "sheeted" by the boom weight.


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You first have to get your boathandling down and then worry the fine points. Race a lot and find a training partner to check yourself. Go upwind/downwind in all conditions to get your boat handling down. Make yourself go out in a blow and just do upwind/downwind...it's the best way to master the Laser. Sail other classes. Particularly small tubby boats like Tech Dinghys and Interclubs. You sail them fast downwind with a lot of windward heel and, the Techs are so tippy that you will soon learn when you're in the groove. Don't get too technical and worry about the theories until you're fast/undercontrol downwind in a blow and in light air. Then you can break it down and find that 1/10 knot you need to move to the next level.
combatsailor- Um....Thanks, but that's not really what we're looking for. There are some of us here that are looking for that 1/10 knot. Furthermore, the estimated 20% decrease in a timed run is really significant. In a close fleet, 20% could be the difference between first and last.

There's a good discussion about this with boats in general on Sailing Anarchy: http://www.sailinganarchy.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=45481
the thread basically divides it into a bunch of issues- not the rudder, possibly hull dynamics, as well as some rigs just doing better when cranked to windward.
Doesn't seem to work well with waves. We were sailing in pretty light winds Sunday - maybe 5-8 kts. Didn't seem to ever have to hike out very hard. But there were waves from the earlier 15kt winds.
Windward heel didn't seem to help me point any higher in these conditions and I seemed to maybe even lose a little boatspeed.


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The one thing that I use as an indication that I have the foils working right with windward, upwind heel is that the tiller is about 1" to 1 1/2" to lee of the boat's centreline with NO HELM PRESSURE. No helm pressure is really important. I can let the tiller go and the boat still tracks staight with the rudder in that position. It's kinda cool cause is shivers a little like you would imagine the fin of a fish but sticks to that general position. Is it possible (this question is directed at the engineers) that the tiller is acting like the flap at the back of a airplane wing relative to the board? Because that is certainly the position it takes. If that was the case, then the board and rudder would be creating a shape similar to the shape of the sail (concave on the windward side).

Does this make any sense?
Hi chaps,

having watched Steve Cockerill's DVD quite a few times I can tell you that he doesn't explain things very well. As you are about to understand what he is trying to say, he will say something lese that will confuse you completely. Sometimes you need to pause the DVD and think what he said.

Anyway, I will try to explain how me and a couple of guys understood it.

Heeling to windward will make the boat bear away (leeward). So, you turn your rudder to leeward to counter act the "turning". Somehow the heeled hull and the rudderblade get into a balanced state so the tiller is light. You don't feel any resistance on it. This means that the rudder blade goes straight and acts as the centreboard. The boats centreline is not pointing to the direction you are going but slightly to windward. This means that your centreboard is pointing to windward. So water is "hitting" your centreboard from the leeward side (more presure) while it creates a point of lower pressure on the windward side. This pushes your centreboard and consequently the boat to windward.

He says that it's quite tricky to get the balance right and I have to admit that although I have tried to do it, I haven't succeeded. On the other hand I have been sailing only for 9 months (so I am still a newborn when it comes to sailing) and I lack experience. I need to improve my boat handling, before I get to this level.


New Member
Yiannis said:
The boats centreline is not pointing to the direction you are going but slightly to windward. This means that your centreboard is pointing to windward. So water is "hitting" your centreboard from the leeward side (more presure) while it creates a point of lower pressure on the windward side. This pushes your centreboard and consequently the boat to windward.
Mmmm, I think that this is not a particular feature of being heeled to windward. In fact, as explained in "The Physics of Sailing" (by Bryon Anderson: it includes a nice diagram of water flow) the centreboard always works like that in an upwind course. That is, the bow points slightly to windward w.r.t the real direction (that is, your boat is slightly shifted sideways to leeward). This means that a centreboard has an angle of attack causing a lift force to windward.

But perhaps the keypoint has to do with the rudder. As you point out, heeling to windward makes the boat to bear off and causes an initial lee-helm. In principle, this is bad, as heading up with the rudder would act as a brake. But curiously, after a while, once you get a bit of speed, the tension in the rudder disappears. It may be the case that the angle of attack of the rudder in that position creates a lift force to leeward (and a bit upwards) in the rear part of the boat, which together with the centreboard lifting to windward, makes a pair of forces helping to point higher.

In my experience it seems that the whole effect is a bit sensitive and a kind of forces balance must be reached. I've also experienced that waves destroy the effect, what I think supports this hypothesis based on lift forces on foils.

I heard somewhere that in an optimist, 15 degrees of heel downwind is optimal. I am not sure about the lasers, but I am sure it is around that.


I have seen the DVD and the wind is strong enough to hold the boom up. The wind is 'light' by our hardcore standards but its not really that light in reality. It works well, I have tried it but it doesn't really work in wind that is lighter than would allow to be just about hiking. It relies on good flow over the foils so you can get extra lift if you stick at it for a while, it's not going to work if there's no decent flow over the foils.


I too have experienced the added lift from heeling the Laser to windward going upwind in a light breeze and flat water. The tiller is definitely off centre and to leeward and vibrates slightly. What I think is happening is that heeling to windward increases the angle of attack of the main foil, ie. the daggerboard. The Laser has a very fat daggerboard and a long chord which is lengthened further because it is raked backward quite a long way. Aerodynamicists will know that a fat wing, ie. one with a large thickness to chord ratio, can still allow flow to be attached on the suction side at larger angles of attack than thin foils. (The downside is higher drag, but as the Laser is a "slow" boat, the foil is one of the thicker kinds, probably a NACA 0012 or maybe even up to 0015. I have not measured it, but it's fat!)

When sailing flat, the Laser's normal angle of attack for the daggerboard is about 2.5-3.0 degrees due to the normal leeway. (All sailboats have a certain amount of leeway when sailing upwind. Skiffs that plane upwind make much less leeway than a Laser) At normal leeway, the Laser's rudder is therefore not in the path of the daggerboard's turbulence. However, when heeled to windward and with the dagger foil at an increased angle of attack of probably 3.5-4.0 degrees, the rudder foil comes into the path of the daggerboard's turbulence. When this happens, the flow over the rudder is more turbulent and it loses lift. This turbulence and decrease in rudder lift might explain the vibration we feel and the phenomenon where the rudder is pointed to the leeward side (the tiller is 2-3cm past the centreline on the leeward side) while the boat is tracking straight. In a stronger breeze and with faster boat speed, this situation would be a real performance killer, but while in this "groove" the Laser can live with reduced rudder efficiency and exhibit this quirk and "climb" to windward from the enormous lift generated by its enormous dagger foil.

Well, that's what I think is happening anyway...;)