Running by the lee

Running by the leeWhy must the helmsman steer both by sails and course when running before the wind?

The answer is to avoid "running by the lee".

Running by the lee is when the wind blows upon the lee quarter. When a yacht runs before the wind the mainsheet is slacked far off; in racing, or when wanting to attain full speed the wind being dead aft, the mainsheet is slacked off as far off as it will go; almost until the boom touches the rigging.

When running with the boom slacked off to its extreme you must watch the gaff does not go too far off when you ease off the sheet, the gaff or sail must not bear upon the crosstrees. When before the wind the headsails will not draw, or will hardly draw.

Now suppose the course is a buoy or any fixed mark dead on the bow-
sprit end. It is a very easy thing to steer straight for it. The young helmsmen must remember it is most unsafe to steer straight upon this mark without all the time keeping a watch upon his sails, and upon the direction of the wind to make sure the yacht is not running by the lee.

If the wind is dead aft and the mark dead ahead, a very small change in the direction of the wind or the unobserved continuance of a cross tide will bring the breeze on to the lee quarter and the yacht will be "running by the lee".

The steersman cannot detect much feeling on the helm when he is running before the wind. If the speed is slow the tremor of the water against the rudder cannot be felt. As he sits at the helm facing the mast he will feel the breeze on his leeward ear or cheek.

By his "leeward ear" we mean, as his face is towards the bows or mast and he is looking in the direction of his course, the ear on the same side as the boat carries her main boom. If he can distinctly feel the wind on this ear, or more surely on this side of his face than the other side, then the yacht is "running by the lee".

When so running the wind is blowing from the lee quarter of the yacht at a direction from the outer end of the boom, or leach of the sail, towards the mast. An indication is the head-sails beginning to fill over on the opposite tack to the mainsail. The main-sail has a windless appearance. We do not advise the beginner to look at the mainsail to decide whether she is by the lee. Let him go by feeling the wind on his leeward ear and by the head-sails being filled over on the opposite tack to the mainsail.

Now if the helmsman cannot point his bow towards the buoy ahead without feeling the breeze coming on his leeward ear and the foresail, or jib, or both, actually filling over, then he cannot run this course without being by the lee. A yacht should never run by the lee. It is unseamanlike.

When the helmsman feels he is by the lee one of two things must be done. He must either alter his course at once by luffing that is, he must alter his course by putting his helm down; or if he wishes to keep the same course he must gybe. So the beginner when steering a yacht before the wind should always sit to windward of his tiller because he will then be in a position to suddenly put his helm down.

When steering a yacht at any time running before the wind, and particularly if she is sailing fast, it is absolutely necessary (if she steers with a tiller) to keep all persons clear of the lee side of the tiller, so that the helm can be put down.

If the steersman wishes his best girl beside him she must never be on the lee side of the tiller, but on the weather side of it she may be as close to him as he likes.

Now we have said a yacht should never run by the lee, and this is a very good saying. The racing man who is by no means a beginner will do well to remember it. The reason is that it is the slowest way of sailing. This is obvious because the after edge or leach of the biggest driving sail, the mainsail, is turned towards the wind, and the breeze is not blowing into the sail at all to belly it out.

To drive the yacht fast the wind must be either blowing fully into the big mainsail to belly or bunt it out as it does when she is sailing off the wind; or it must be blowing f ully into it from dead aft to belly it as when running; or it must be blowing from the mast or luff towards the leech as it does when she is close-hauled.

Put to try to sail a yacht with the wind blowing along the boom towards the mast is to present the smallest possible area of sail to the wind, and this is ridiculous. It is sailing by the lee, and is "not done," so to speak, "in the best circles."

For an explanation of the spinnaker read on: Spinnaker.