Bristol Channel Cutter "Angelsea"

Lee helm revisited

Hi all,

As discussed in this thread,9644 I had a problem with lee helm.

Now after sailing with the old and new sail (jib) I have come to some conclusions. But first some details about the 2 jibs. I originally thought I was sailing with the yankee cut jib when I sailed Shanti down to St. Thomas. So for the new sail I had another yankee built. This was fine by me as the trade winds are strong. But the old sail was more of a jib top, a bit larger sail and a center of effort a little further aft. Please see image below.

Bristol Channel Cutter sail plan

Two different sized jibs














A note about weather helm and the BCC. We all know Lyle Hess was a genius at designing boats. After this experience and research regarding my lee helm problem I am more convinced of this than ever, as you will see. Many, including myself consider the BCC to have too much weather helm. After careful thought and research I no longer believe this. If anyone has been aboard the “Pride of Baltimore”, a 90′ topsail schooner with a tiller, you will understand what I am about to say. IT’S THE RUDDER. The Pride has relieving tackles fitted for control of their huge rudder, similar to the design of the rudder on the BCC. What we have all experienced as heavy weather helm is more due to the size of the rudder and the amount of force needed to control that rudder, than to weather helm.

When sailing with the previous jib, I had the old weather helm back. Felt just like home on the BCC from my years of sailing the Falmouth and the 17 days spent sailing to weather on the delivery down here to the Virgins. So while sailing the other day I took note of the position of the tiller in relation to the companionway. I figured I could go back to the plans of the cockpit and calculate roughly the degrees of rudder needed to compensate for the weather helm. The tiller pointed to the left or right side of the companionway while sailing. See attached diagram. This worked out to about 3 degrees. 3 degrees is what I have found as a consensus as far as proper amount of weather helm. So at least Shanti as of now has the “proper” amount of weather helm, it just takes a lot of tugging on the tiller to get the BIG rudder to sit there.






So what caused my lee helm I experienced? Many BCC owners have taken the rake out of the mast in a quest to lessen weather helm (if they had only known about the rudder). This is the case with Shanti, she has had her mast taken to plumb. And I believe that this is fine. It does take some weather helm out. But remember that I am sailing at almost ideal weather helm angle on the rudder at this point. Now put a smaller jib on the BCC and you have moved the center of effort forward. This is just past the “tipping” point of balanced. Thus I experienced lee helm. I put the larger jib back on and have the weather helm back.

Part II

I have just recently bought some new sails. A new main and staysail to be exact. I purchased them from Rolly Tasker Sails. They are an established Australian loft now located in Thailand. The cost was half of the highest quote I received. They are beautiful sails. I will post a more complete review of them later.

The old main on Shanti was battenless. The sail was 22 years old. Shanti had a hard time powering to weather. I usually sailed at 4-4.5 knots w/1 reef and jib in 20kts of wind.

So last Saturday we had to sail to the mangroves for the first forecasted storm of the year. We took off with the winds out of the east at a solid 20 kts. I set the smaller yankee jib (the one I had lee helm problems with) and used the full main with no reef. We would normally, with the old main and wire rigging, have to tuck a reef in the main at around 15 knots of wind. But with the new full batten main and the light weight synthetic rigging, we were able to carry the full main all the way up to 20kts. We were rail down at about 20 degrees of heel. Any more we would have had to put a reef in.

Wow, we were sailing to weather at about 5.5kts nicely shouldering into a heavy chop and 3-4’ swell. Rail down we had about 2-3 degrees of weather helm with the smaller yankee jib. You see the full batten main has a lot more roach to it than the battenless main did. Thus moving the center of effort aft a little. Now at 10-12kts of wind the boat sails herself with the yankee.  More than 12 knots of wind up to 20 the helm increases up to about 3 degrees, as it should. After that a reef is necessary.

So now I have it all sorted out and Shanti is sailing like she was designed to….A Lyle Hess Bristol Channel Cutter!

Be careful of moving your mast to plumb. You may not need it. And it will not help relieve that strong tug you experience while sailing. That is just from a very large unbalanced rudder.

Cheers, Gary

3 thoughts on “Lee helm revisited

  1. Gary Felton

    Hey Doug,
    Yes Shanti made it through just fine in the mangroves again. Thanks for asking!
    Gary, Deb & Shanti

  2. Douglas

    Ohhh That’s V Good News ,,,, BTW if you run across a damaged boat that still has a useable Monitor Wind Vane , “Water Paddle” , I need one ! Those items are USD $ 1 K and over from S F .

    I had two , and both were thief’d away in Malaysia , probably went to a scrap metal buyer,,,, such a loss for me ,,,

    Just am soooo glad that your mangroves manouver was successful once again ,,,, should it be said to “Look Out” for the next one ??? However unexpected it migh be !

    Wishing you as much Love in Your Life , as I have found with my partner, in mine ! I would expect that Doug Schmuck might say the same ,,, and what about Mike Anderson is he still together with ???