An extra headsail

There was no wind yesterday morning when we left the mooring, and we motored across the Sound and out through the Western Channel on a glassy sea. One hour, two mackerel and a pollock later, a light wind ruffled the surface. Just enough wind to try different sail arrangements.

Blue Mistress shows a slight but noticeable wetherhelm in certain wind conditions and I have been wondering what difference an extra headsail might make. If I used the spinnaker halyard – (we have a spinnaker which I haven’t got round to repairing yet), and the deck fitting I normally attach my jack lines to, this was a chance to try it out.

From the depth of sail bag, I dug out our smaller jib and set it flying. It set very well and we made a gentle knot under this sail alone. Then I added the no. 2 jib which is the relatively heavier sail I set when single-handed in stronger winds.

I was trying to match sail shapes. The smaller sail has a longer foot than the no.2 jib but otherwise the match wasn’t too bad. After lots of adjustments, we found a balance and, still without the mainsail, we were making an extra knot or two. I took these images when we were reaching and you can see how the light wind affects each sail.

I need to think this through some more and would be interested to hear other people’s experiences/thoughts on headsails and weatherhelm.

During all this, we looked up to see three short but steeply breaking waves coming towards us out of nowhere. The sea was flat, there were no vessels creating wash anywhere near us, and yet suddenly we found ourselves beam on to a breaking sea. There was just time to disengage the autohelm and turn stern to. The second wave just lapped over the stern and then they were gone – the sea flat again. I guess some disturbance hundreds of miles away . . . but a reminder not to be fooled by the conditions and to keep a good watch . . .