OK... so this whole thing started with aesthetics, some hidden plans, and a sore shoulder.
I made an interesting discovery the other day whilst helming Ubique in a Force 6.
"Jeez, this thing has some serious weather helm!".
How come there is so much force on the tiller? Five Pardey books, and two nights of exhaustive GoogleTube research later and I'm convinced I had my answer.
The bowsprit on Ubique is too short.
Checking through the plans discovered on the boat revealed that Lyle C Hess had indeed spec'ed the 31' 8" Bristol Channel Cutter with a 5' 6" bowsprit. Weird?
Measuring the bowsprit on Taleisin from some videos and re-reading a few of the Pardey's books revealed that the Mothership had an 8' 6" bowsprit - and she was 2 feet shorter than Ubique.
Now I know it's a bit vain, but the designer part of me (that's my profession) has always been uncomfortable with that shorter bowsprit - it just doesn't look quite right IMHO. So, is it time to lengthen that puppy?
The purpose of lengthening the bowsprit is to push the centre of effort (I think) forward, reducing the boat's want to pivot around her centre of yaw (just by the mast I think). In other words, when the mainsail has too much power, Ubique wants to constantly screw into the wind - forcing the skipper to apply serious force to her rudder, slowing her down.
So, I decided to conduct a test.
In a moderate wind (20 kn / Force 4) I tripled reefed the main (unnecessary for the conditions) and ran the high-cut clew jib and staysail, and sure enough - she was considerably better balanced.
In a recent blow (35 kn gusts) where we did need the triple reef, we ran just the staysail and the boat was postively featherlight in the helm. This seems a little weird, because the sail plan with this config is mostly inboard with little favouritism fore or aft.
I put it down to bad sail shape, or it could be down to the fact that I'm not a very accomplished skipper yet.
So, one visit from the talented Andrew Denman (Denman Marine) later, and I have commissioned a new bowsprit to see what effect that has. Andrew recently replaced April of Cygnet's bowsprit (after it snapped clean off in a recent bad storm), and he also gave me some good advice about getting a sailmaker on the boat to check the sails.
So, stay tuned for an update, or why not have your say on the BristolChannelCutter.org Forum here: http://forums.bristolchannelcutter.org/t/cure-for-excessive-weather-helm/24