R 22

Rhodes 22


Heavy Weather Sailing

Okay all you sailors with more experience than me we need some advice.

This past weekend the wife and I went out for our first sail of the season. It was blowing hard at our slip, but our slip is quite protected so consequently we were unsure of just how hard. As we will be traveling for a month and unable to get out until we return, we wanted to get at least one good sailing day in.

We left the slip and headed into open waters. We killed the motor and decided because it was our first day out, to be somewhat prudent and start under jib alone. We sailed for several hours, averaging approximately 4 knots rigged like this. Then we decided to raise the main, even though it was blowing like stink, I estimated 20 knots.

Now here is where my stupidity becomes a factor. We were getting pretty beat up under full sail and as I foolishly decided earlier to leave without rigging our jiffy reefing system, it was going to be tough to reef the main under those conditions. We (I) decided to head up to drop the main and get the boat somewhat flat again.

Here's where the fun begins: I got her headed up and as we were dropping the main we got hit hard with a gust (we later found out that there were gusts reported in excess of 30 knots) that spun us completely around to where we were now going to jibe. I hauled in the mainsheet to put it down the center of the boat (sort of an unplanned, controlled jibe) and we were now heading straight downwind, allowing us to drop the main and regain full control of the boat.

I really didn't feel we were in any big trouble but it sure as hell got us to thinking what we should have done differently. I try and learn EVERYTHING I can about sailing in general and our boat in particular. I should have tucked in at least one reef for sure. I'm thinking that was probably my biggest mistake. Anyone out there have any comments or suggestions? What would you have done differently besides using your noodle, as I obviously did not.

Ralph Bibbus
s/v Milagro

Reef early; be cowardly, not macho. You are fortunate you were in a smaller boat--I sometimes stop an accidental jibe by stopping the boom w/my arm! Larger boat could have torn something up for sure.

Larry Sparks
s/v "Sailsman's Bounty"

Congratulations, you've experienced your 1st spinout! Locking the boom amidships while going dead downwind in 30 knot gusts sounds like a great way to broach! You were REALLY lucky.

Did you consider running before the wind on a broad reach before you dropped the mainsail? The heeling would have been minimal & you probably would have enjoyed the trip to surf city.

If you really wanted to slow things down; then, the other thing I'd have done is furl your genoa first for 3 reasons:

  • 1. It's bigger than the mainsail & therefore reduces sail area more than taking down the mainsail
  • 2. the genoa is on a roller furler which makes it quicker & easier to furl.
  • 3. If the boat is overpowered; then, the last thing you want is lee helm. Sailing with only the mainsail will move the center of effort aft & give you weather helm, which is safer. Also, with the main sheet on a traveler, the mainsail can be "played" in the puffs and lulls much better than the genoa. The Rhodes 22 will beat to weather better with only its mainsail vs only its genoa. If you were unable to reef the mainsail; then you should have at least set the boom to the lowest height in order reduce the heeling moment.

Roger Pihlaja
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
05 Jun 1998

Not to be-labor the point, but when beating into the wind, you could have reduced the jib and to control things a bit, over sheet the jib to backwind the main. I used to have to do that in Flying Jr. because you really can't furl/reef a dinghy. With the jib sheeted in and the main loose, you have ruined the mainsail shape and lost power. You'll move, and it's noisy with the main flapping in protest, but you're in control.

Alex Bell
06 Jun 1998

Looks like you are getting some good answers,

The 175% jib needs to be reefed above 15-18 knots, without the IMF "it is time to reef the main the first time you think it is time to reef the main"; using the motor is also a good idea, since the wind will catch the hull. I guess I am in a safety mood today, if you were to go over the side would your wife have been able to get you back, the sound is in the low 50's. 50/50/50: 50 degrees/50 minutes/50% death. (USCG). Did you have on your PFD? The inflatables are real nice.


Agree ... simple and small leads a happy day. I follow Royce's sailing book: heavy wind sail with main only, upwind. So far it has worked for me. Drop sail if too much wind and use your motor. Be thankful. Cowardly, but safe and alive. Who would I impress anyways?

Larry Conroy

Our Rhodes has both self-furling sails, but one thing that struck me was that when you went up wind, starting the motor and having power would have kept you headed into the wind.


If the wind was that strong, one suggestion would be to have reduced the headsail area by reefing it in. With the size of the genoa, it sounds like it overpowered the main that normally would have acted as a windvane keeping you headed into the wind. Another alternative would have been starting your motor to keep headway and steerage while headed into the wind to lower the main. You might want to do both, although I admit starting the outboard is less than elegant.

When the wind is strong all the little details get magnified and you sometimes don't get away with little mistakes.

Dave Walker

Read: THE MOST DANGEROUS POINT OF SAIL IS DOWNWIND. You were very fortunate to be sailing mainsail only. Into the wind water is peeled away from the hull quite well. Also this way you can usually sneak the mainsail down little by little as the occasional heavy wind softens. Roll up the excess foot of the sail in tight bedroll and a short line around the gooseneck and another by the clew. You might even put a small wrap of sturdy line around the mid-boom permanently, to tie the mid-belly of the sail in a storm.

When spooked I always keep bow to the wind even if I have to motor. Been real lucky this way.

Larry Conroy
S/V Tally Ho

BTW, not lucky, prudent. Motoring is good when spooked.

Alex Bell

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