Starblazer - 08/11/2016 – The pleasure and pain of downwind sailing.
I like downwind sailing, which is lucky since a lot of the long passages on
our circumnavigation were predominantly downwind, however it is not all
plain sailing. Excuse the pun! In racing circles and well crewed yachts
the defining sail to use is the huge, brightly coloured spinnaker. We do
not carry a spinnaker on board because we find it too difficult to handle
with just the two of us, especially in gusty winds. Added to that, we would
need several of different weights to cope with the different wind strengths.
Our preferred sail plan is either twin genoas, poled out to each side, or
mainsail and genoa or jib on opposite sides. The advantage of the first
plan is there is no chance of crash gybing the main with the attendant
shocks to the rigging and potential damage to the boom. Unfortunately we
damaged the track on the mast which the poles attach to, now we can really
only use one pole. It isn’t important because we removed the twin genoas in
Brazil and, for this passage, only have a single jib as it is better for
beating into the wind which we expect at some point. The second plan is
safe so long as the boom is tied forward with a preventer line and the boom
is always set to leeward i.e. downwind. So what can go wrong? The ‘pain’
part of this set up is the relative lack of manoeuvrability, you can turn to
bring the wind a little farther forward but risk the poled out headsail
backing i.e. getting the wind in front of the sail. It shakes the rig when
the sail snaps back with the wind on the right side. The second ‘pain’ is
when you want to alter course and need to gybe both sails. (Gybing is when
you turn so that the wind passes from one side to the other via the stern,
potentially dangerous because the sail doesn’t completely lose its drive as
it does in a tack when the wind crosses in front) We can safely gybe the
mainsail with care so long as we are both in the cockpit. The jib or genoa
gives us a problem because we also need to gybe the pole so we simply roll
away the sail. Swapping the pole over is a bit of a challenge because of
another ‘pain’ of downwind sailing, the rock and roll.
The following seas tend to hit the boat on the quarter (corner for
motorists), this slews the boat sideways as the swell and/or wave sweeps
under us, the shape of the wave causes us to heel and the autopilot turns
the boat back on course. As the wave passes the boat rolls back the other
way. It is not very comfortable, especially in big seas. Moving around is
a little difficult, cooking is decidedly challenging and as for showering
and getting dressed, I leave that to your imagination!
We have had a fantastic 48 hours rocking and rolling downwind, the noon run
from 1200 Sunday to 1200 Monday was 165.9 miles. In the last 20 hours we
have covered 134.4 miles so we are on course for another good day’s run.
Monday’s dinner was moussaka, also made last week and frozen. We continue
to eat well.