Some tips are long and some are short – This short one will save your life or one of your crew.
As you know – sailing downwind has the dangerous potential of the accidental gybe. This can be quite a common occurrence if you have an inexperienced crew at the helm or perhaps with a major wind shift when sailing close to an island and … well… with the added distractions of being on a sailing vacation, an accidental gybe is probably going to happen.
Please teach your crew to only walk to the front of the boat on the boom side of the boat when sailing down wind. In this manner, the boom is only traveling at a bruising 20 miles per hour when slamming across instead of the fatal 100 miles per hour when it reaches the other side.
Could be dangerous
It’s particularly important to emphasize this when heading out on a bareboat charter vacation where you’re often taking along some land lubbers. So, NauticEd has put together a quick briefing list for the crew prior to departure which includes tips like this.
Download the PDF at the bottom of the page at http://www.nauticed.org/courses/view/bareboat-charter
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Remember in the movie back to the Future when Michael J. Fox hated being called “Chicken”. But eventually he smartened up – didn’t take the dare and changed his future for the good. Well … sometimes in sailing it’s equally as smart to not take the dare.
The safe maneuver is called the chicken jibe.
The chicken gybe replaces the gybe in high winds
It’s mostly done when the skipper is uncomfortable about the conditions for the gybe and most likely if the winds are high. High winds in a gybing maneuver can cause damage to the vessel rigging by the boom SLAMMING across too fast. In a normal gybe maneuver the boom slam effect can be reduced by pulling in the main sheet and letting it out as the boom comes over to the other side. However, in high winds – 15 knts plus, if the boom is not let out fast enough, the wind on the main sail will round the boat up in to the wind and heel the boat way way over. This is a very uncomfortable situation.
Here’s an animation. Note I’ve included the apparent wind direction and notice how it changes direction through the maneuver – it’s just a little extra to keep you thinking. And I also included some batman cartoon stuff from the old days – sorry it’s just my sense of humor. The little man getting tossed off is no joke however – I included this as a reminder to how dangerous gybing can be – especially if you don’t prepare your crew. That boom comes across fast (not in a chicken gybe however).
So many choose the chicken gybe. The end result is the same. You are meerly tacking the boat from a broad reach on one side over to a broad reach on the other side. Simple, easy, effective and safe. The only thing to watch out for is that the jib sheets will whip back and around quite violently. So it’s a good idea not to have anyone near the jib sheets i.e. on foredeck.
When you’re getting ready to gybe, take the jib lazy sheet and wrap it around its winch and pull quite tight. This will pull the jib towards the windward side of the boat just a little.
Now when you gybe, you don’t have to be so busy about pulling the jib sheet across quickly because it will almost be already set for the other side. You just need to trim it.
This technique also prevents the jib from wrapping around the front of the forestay which is a real pain to pull back once you’re through the wind.
So tighten that lazy sheet just before you gybe.