Latest News: Forums Technical Weather helm / rig tuning

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  • #3425

    I am on the verge of buying my first wayfarer. Having sailed probably half a dozen or more boats over the years the one thing that has always bugged me has been the amount of weather helm. (Most have been either hire boats or sailing school boats which I guess may not have been set up very well).

    I have read the tuning guide on the Porters website and I would use that to get an initial set-up – particularly in terms of mast rake – but, to what extent is it possible to tune the rig to get a reasonably balanced helm?

    Any thoughts / comments would be much appreciated.


    With a full rig (main / genoa) the boat should be balanced, personally I like a little bit of feel on the tiller – so a tiny amount of weather helm.
    The boat should be sailed flat – once you start heeling then the pressure of water against the leeward chine will increase the weather helm – so ease the mainsheet if you have run out of crew weight. Heeling is likely to be the main cause of weather helm – as I say, ease the main and sail it flat, you will go faster.
    If you are (cruising) under reduced sail you have to balance a reduced mainsail with a smaller headsail (jib rather than genoa).
    And of couse if you happened to be sailing a Wayfarer with a jib and full main that would give a lot of weather helm.


    Agreed that keeping the boat from heeling to leeward is the best way of warding off weather helm.

    But be sure that it is weather helm that’s your problem and not just a heavy helm. Many people experience this when their rudder blade is not fully down. Don’t rely on an elastic downhaul, fit a 2:1 purchase and pull it on hard. Don’t forget to fully release the downhaul line when coming in to shore though!


    Hi Bob – Interested in your comment regarding weather helm when sailing with full main and jib.

    I often cruise with a jib rather than a genoa due to the reduced risk of capsize. I have often heard of a gust taking a over boat with a jammed genoa sheet , but never a jib!

    Is it your experience that a W with full main and jib will induce excessive weather helm , I thought that Ian Procter designed the W to be balanced by this set up rather that the more modern addition of a genoa ?
    I may be wrong as I have only been sailing a W for 5 years or so and do not know the history of the class inside out.

    Q Diddle 7265


    Many thanks for the interesting replies to my first posting.

    I’ve spent most of my life sailing catamarans, most recently racing F18’s which do not have the option to alter sail sizes and where mast rake /spreader settings / rig tension etc are all crucially important, so I definitely appreciate other approaches to the question. I had completely overlooked the relationship between main and jib and it is quite possible the boats I sailed did have a jib, but it was all a few years back.

    This has definitely given me some good ideas to try out and I will continue in my quest to be sailing a wayfarer this summer.


    I cannot comment on the original rig – wooden mast and cotton sails. My experience is only with the modern metal mast/spreaders.

    Personally the only time I have found full main and a jib to be a viable combination is short tacking on the Norfolk Broads. The jib is enough to help the boat tack but not too much that the boat pays off to leeward before the main fills on the new tack.
    On open water if the wind is light you can sail okay to windward under main/jib but boat speed will be significantly lost. As soon as the wind moves up to top of F3 you will find weather helm picking up, then it becomes hard work steering.
    For a long passage it’s important to have a balanced helm. So if you setting a jib then balance that with a reef in the main.


    I agree with Bob – the genoa is the sail to use for power. Sometimes however when I sail single-handed my first reef is to get rid of the genoa altogether. This certainly induces weather helm, but I compensate by raising the centreboard somewhat. This has the counterbalancing effect of bringing the centre of lateral resistence aft to balance the rig.
    It is also very important to sail the boat flat.


    >Sometimes however when I sail single-handed my first reef is
    >to get rid of the genoa altogether. This certainly induces weather
    >helm, but I compensate by raising the centreboard somewhat.

    What do you mean ‘get rid altogether’ – do you replace it with a jib or do you sail under main only?

    If you sail under main only, how well can you point upwind in your experinece?


    Best regards



    Hi Matoi,
    Yes I furl it away completely – there is obviously a sacrifice in pointing, but not too great and tacking has to be positive to avoid getting stuck in irons. Well worth it in gusty conditions when releasing the genoa and main sheets on my own is more difficult.

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