Last year I wrote a post summing up our first season sailing performance. Now, a couple of months into our second season, I think it’s clear that we’ve already found a better gear! In this post, I’ll share some data from a two-day solo sail I did this week.
Turku – Åland – Turku
My plan was to leave early in the morning and sail from Turku to the Åland archipelago. Then stay the night there, and return the following day.
The weather forecasts offered a decent amount of wind (18-19 knots, gusting to 20+), and I was really excited to get out there and learn more about sailing our boat. It was the same route we did last year, with the whole family and some inconvenient consequences. This time around, however, I was set on making it a less stressful event.
At a bit after 5 am, after just a few hours of (restless) sleep and a quick breakfast, I untied the docking lines, and set off.
Close Reaching There
I had planned to use the crossover sail for the first half of the trip, but as I was hoisting it, the wind quickly increased and moved a bit forward. So, what was halfway up, came back down, and I rolled out the jib instead.
I started out with a full main and a full jib, and when I reached the short offshore part (the yellow dot), I had to put in the first reef.
The apparent wind angle was on the beam until the offshore passage. After that, a bit less than close-hauled (close reachish) until the very end, when I actually had to tack a couple of times (oh, humanity!).
Looking at the picture, it’s cool that for at lot of the trip, the speed was well over 7 knots, hitting above 8 regularly. The average speed for the whole trip (about 54 nautical miles) was 7.1 knots. Max speed, with a 6 second average, was 9.2 knots, and dropping down to a 3 second average, a cool 9.6 knots! Whee!
Next, the polar diagram.
If this blog was an audio book, this is where I’d but fireworks and cheering sounds. Just look at the polars! For most of the upwind part, my top speed was faster than Hanse’s polar speeds! That was a first.
Off the wind, I was slower, but I was using a jib and their speeds are for a spinnaker.
Broad Reaching Back
The trip back was mostly downwind, with a full main and the crossover sail hoisted.
During the last hour of the trip, I was going so close to dead downwind (between 150-160 degrees) that I furled the crossover and sailed with the mainsail only. (And reached 7 knots with just one sail!)
Here’s the data.
Once again, pretty long stints in speeds between 7-8 knots. The average for the whole 54 miles was a bit less, 6.7 knots. The 6s max speed 8.8 knots.
This polar diagram is as great as the other one! With just the crossover and a sufficient amount of wind, I achieved the Hanse 388 spinnaker polar speeds! Well, for part of the wind angles anyway.
Amazing, but I do feel the need to insert a short disclaimer here: calculating precise true wind speeds and angles using the currently available instruments isn’t that reliable. The images and diagrams do to try to paint a real and honest picture, but sometimes they might be less accurate than they seem. (On the positive side, there are no tidal currents in Finland, so that helps a bit.)
What is visible in the visualizations, though, is what I felt in real life: the boat is a lot faster than last season.
Some Theories of Speed
I thought about it for a while, and here’s what my intuition says about why the boat feels so much faster now.
The first, and by far the most dominant reason: the barnacle colony on the bottom is gone! The boat yard did a great job with the bottom and the new antifouling is beautiful. The base layer is Jotun Vinyl Primer, and on top of that Jotun Megayacht (😍) Imperial Antifouling.
The second reason: using an outboard lead (crossover sheet) for the jib when reaching. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get the jib decently shaped with two sheets attached. With just the basic self-tacking sheet, when not going tightly upwind, the sheet point is helplessly in the wrong place.
Thirdly, weight, and weight placement matters. Last season, with the whole family (and dog) aboard, the boat was heavier. And we were all over the place, not really focusing on balancing anything.
When I filmed the video above I had to move down to leeward from the windward side, and it felt like even this small shift of one human body affected the way the boat behaved noticeably.
Maybe we’ll pay more attention to that. Or maybe not. Speed won’t be priority #1 for us. Less heeling, on the other hand, might be nice.
So, a clean bottom, sail trim and weight matters. Pretty elementary stuff, some might say!
The whole trip was very enjoyable but quite exhausting. I set off at sunrise both mornings and was almost nonstop stuck behind the steering wheel for eight hours each day.
This brings me to one unresolved issue, and one final thought.
The unresolved issue is one I have with the autopilot. For some reason or setting or whatnot, it was really hard to go from hand steering to the autopilot whenever the boat was heeling and there was some pressure on the steering. When I pressed the ‘auto’ button, the pilot inevitably decided to round up into the wind. It lost it! Slowly and surely.
I found one temporary workaround, though. When I pressed the -10 degrees button right after ‘auto’, it sometimes kept its stuff together. (And I have a couple of other ideas as well, that I will try when I get a chance.)
The final thought— it’s really nice and stress-free to sail alone. But it’s also very lonely. It is a good way to learn more about the boat, but it’s not at all why I bought it.
“When the air temperature is at least fifteen degrees, I’ll join you,” Charlotte, known for freezing a lot, said to me with a smile.
spirit of the sea
it will breathe its good life into all.
Great to know that some boats are in use, even if it is a little chilly at this time of year! No knowing when I might get afloat here in the UK – hopefully early June.
I did a fair bit of solo sailing over the last couple of years. the H385 is very easy to handle singlehanded with everything coming back to the helm position and the self-tacker. My longest trip last year was Portsmouth – Studland Bay – Alderney – Portsmouth, about 190NM in total over three days.
I do my passage planning using a boat speed of 6kts but with a reasonable wind I expect to do more. On this trip my outward Channel crossing averaged 6.5kts over 60NM and the return was 7.5kts over 90NM. Very happy with that!
I do make extensive use of the autopilot, especially with the wind on the beam or further forward. As the wind moves further aft the auto-pilot struggles a little, especially if there are waves lifting the stern quarter. But I am extremely impressed at how well it copes when on the wind. I suggest that may want to experiment with your calibration as the behaviour you describe does not sound right. In stronger winds you may need to bear away a couple of degrees to keep things happy, but I do use mine in 20kt+ wind without any issues.
I hope that the weather warms up soon for you so Charlotte and the kids get some boating fun too.
Nice to hear about your solo sails. Have you ever sailed solo overnight, by the way? If you have, it would be really interesting to know how you managed sleeping and watchkeeping.
What you say about the autopilot sounds correct. I will have to recalibrate and see what happens!
I think the weather will warm up quite soon. It was already 12C out on the water some days ago. Soon it will be 15 😀
Take care and all our best!
Below 15 degrees with wind, it must be freezing. I’m from Portugal, and we are really fortunate to be able to sail all year at temperatures above that. (and a lot of days with sun, even during winter)
Do not have all those islands though! 🙁
It is a bit freezing at times so I do envy you 🙂 Last week when I left early in the morning it was just 3 degrees!
Best regards to you from here! And this week it’s getting warmer!
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