Sails

Steady helm

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"My Grampian sloop is fairly heavy, but it performs well in a breeze. However, my arm gets tired holding the tiller to keep the boat sailing in a straight line. Would moving the foot of the mast forward or aft help correct this problem?"

-- Harry Newiger, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada


Win Fowler replies: Several things could be causing this problem—it’s called weather helm. If your boat is an Alex McGruer–designed Grampian 23, I’d try lowering the centerboard one-third or half the way down. This will move the bottom of the board, and the center of lateral plane, aft. It might dramatically reduce the amount of weather helm.

You could also try raking your mast as far forward as possible by easing the backstay turnbuckle and tightening up on the headstay. In addition, keep the mainsail shape as flat as possible by tightening the outhaul, taking up on the halyard, and then easing the mainsheet to let the top of the sail twist off. If your sail is old and very full, particularly in the leech, consider replacing it with a new and flatter sail. Finally, make sure your guests sit forward and on the windward side; that will keep the bow down and the boat sailing as upright as possible, helping to reduce weather helm. If you’re still overpowered and the boat wants to head up, don’t hesitate to take a reef in the main.

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