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Thread: The remarkable course stability of the Pearson Ariel

  1. #1
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    Nov 2010
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    The remarkable course stability of the Pearson Ariel

    I had someone ask recently: "Does the Ariel have weather or lee helm?" My answer was: "Neither! If the sails are properly balanced, she'll sail a straight course on that point of sail forever without ever touching the helm. Properly configured and canvassed, she's a self steering boat." They didn't believe me.

    I've sailed a lot of fin keeled boats, and one of my biggest complaints is their tendency to perform continual "S" turns while on a reaching course. In aviation, we call that nasty habit a Phugoid oscillation (http://www.centennialofflight.gov/es..._II/TH27G1.jpg). Airplanes do that dance in pitch, poorly behaved sailboats do it in yaw.

    With proper sail trim, the Ariel is so rock solid on course that one can release the tiller and steer her over long distances for hours and hours with the main and jib sheets alone. I recently sailed from S.E. Farallon Island back to Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay, CA) the entire distance without ever once touching the tiller. And that was in 8 foot swells and 5 foot windwaves! I only had to adjust an inch here and and inch there on the sheets to bring her all the way back home, all the while with the tiller folded up and out of the way. That's how a sailboat should handle.

    My friend doubted that degree of stability, so I shot two short videos to prove the Ariel's capability. (I intentionally chose a day with heavy chop in anticipation of the argument: "Yeah, but will the boat hold a heading when disturbed by wave action?")

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXUUrLENQn4&feature=plcp
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNo16sFBVag&feature=plcp

    Just trim the sails, and watch her follow the wind! I've got an autopilot, but frankly, if I'm steering a point of sail, I don't really need it.

    Am I overly exuberant, or is this a truly remarkable quality?
    Last edited by pbryant; 10-15-2014 at 08:55 AM.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2004
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    I am continually surprised by just what poor habits people put up with in their boats. I sailed a Beneteau (First 355) from Tampa to Cartehenga Columbia.... it tracked so poorly that it would literally NOT stay on course without complete concentration...

    Now granted, it was a racing boat but (IMHO) any boat that REQUIRES an autopilot to hold a course is poorly designed.

    My Ariel tracks streight, and I too regularly sail without much attention paid to the helm... I hand steered for the entire 9 month cruise we took and I had an St-2000 below in the locker... never took it out.

    I have purchased a Pacific Lite winpilot for her, but that is as much about making single handed passages as anything... and I am sure she will be a perrfect platform for the vane.... she already does it so well.

    No, I do not think you are overstating things... they are really exceptional boats!


    s/v 'Faith'

    1964 Ariel #226
    Link to our travels on Sailfar.net

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Philly, PA
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    Hmm

    Well, this is an excellent thread for me as I am a relative newb to my Ariel #97. So, far I have put about 500 nms on her with horribly old sails and I have to say that I don't find her able to track very well at all, as a matter of fact, I am rarely able to leave the tiller... My best friend is my tiller pilot, aka blue bungee, which I have found works pretty well with a breeze to counter the weather helm.

    So, a couple things about my rig as of today, 100% head with a non-reef able main, both of which are very old. No main sheet traveler. No vang.

    I have a new main with two reefs on order from BaconSails, should be here in a couple days.

    I would love to hear more details about your set up so I could tune the boat a bit better and get a more consistent balance.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Also, I saw your video and I have to say that I too can balance my boat if I luff the main... Does this mean your Ariel is 'balanced'?

  5. #5
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    Sep 2012
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    i received my new main from BaconSails a couple days ago and I was able to go out yesterday for a couple hours.... well, after sitting in the dead air for about 20 minutes the squall hit me and I was off! For the couple minutes that the wind was under 10 knots the boat was balanced for the first time all on its own! quite amazing the difference a new main sail will make. in looking at the shape of the sail compared to the old blow out 30 year old sail... i would say that the center of effort has moved forward since the efficiency of the luff has increased dramatically.

    a couple minutes later i had a single reef and the storm jib while it was blowing 30-40 knots. fun! at this point there was a lot of weather helm but whatever. another hour or so later there was 6 ft breaking waves (tide in the chesapeake was coming in while the wind was blowing south-east). I have to say this seeming little boat handles weather incredibly well for her size.

    more on balance later.
    Last edited by carbonsoup; 10-07-2012 at 09:12 AM.

  6. #6
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    Nov 2010
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    Sunnyvale, CA
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    Quote Originally Posted by carbonsoup View Post
    Also, I saw your video and I have to say that I too can balance my boat if I luff the main... Does this mean your Ariel is 'balanced'?
    I believe you answered your own question in your subsequent post. No, my main is fully effective (not luffed) when I achieve balance. When properly balanced, my main and jib go into a full luff at exactly the same angle of attack. In the videos, I purposely headed up and luffed both sails to demonstrate how the Ariel will automatically fall off (when the tiller is released) and return to the original point of sail all on her own, thus demonstrating good course stability. Sails in good condition make a huge difference. When I first bought my Ariel, her mainsail looked like something off a ghost ship. She didn't perform well until I outfitted her with a proper mainsail.

    Here is what I find with my (nearly new) sails: in light winds (< 10 kts) my 100% jib balances best with no reef taken in in the main and the boom lifted (to increase draft) by about 6 inches from vertical with the topping lift. At around 15 kts, I drop the boom to vertical and take in one reef (about 80% of a full main). Above 25 kts, I'm at my second reef on my main and I substitute a 75% jib. At 40 kts, I've got my sea anchor out, all sails are doused, and I'm sealed up down below in the cabin busily inventing new swear words - directed at myself. I also put on a helmet -- because I got tired of emerging with two black eyes and a head covered with lumps. She does wiggle around a bit in ruff water.

    Here's a video showing how well she takes 7 foot seas with 3 foot windwaves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVoPa18O7k8&feature=plcp. Prepare to be bored. I shot that Sunday, Sept. 30th while returning from Pigeon Point where I was looking for 2 lost fishermen who were lost overboard from an 18 foot motor vessel that was capsized in those swells. (2 had PFDs and swam ashore - 2 didn't have PFDs... and washed up on shore later.) I was close hauled (with the jib doused), the traveler hauled hard to windward, making 5 knots in 15 to 20 knots of wind. These were long period swells with no breakers in 170 feet of water. No problem at all for the Ariel. It was a very comfortable ride. I had one reef taken in on the main. Yes, she'd do 1 knot faster with the main hauled all the way up, but since I'm not a racer, I place more importance on stability than speed. (Besides, why shorten a nice voyage?)

    I agree that the Ariel handles weather astoundingly well for her size, but there are still times I don't take her out. My harbor (Pillar Point - Half Moon Bay, CA) gets really exciting swells near the entrance in foul weather and northwest swells rolling in from storms in Alaskan waters. Just outside the harbor breakwater and to seaward (west) is an area the surfers call "Mavericks" where we get some of the largest breaking waves in the world. If you're curious about the local scenery here, try to catch the movie "Chasing Mavericks" that's coming out this month (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YYc3jRoua8). Because of the seastate issues here, I make it a point to have as little experience possible with winds over 40 knots - and the 15 to 20 foot seas that often accompany those winds. And I avoid sailing in the company of surfers.

    "There are old sailors, and there are bold sailors. But there are no old bold sailors."
    Last edited by pbryant; 10-10-2012 at 07:35 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    Orinda, California
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    Paul,

    If you would like to learn more about trimming the sails on your Ariel, give Ed Ekers a hail (A-77 Pathfinder). Multiple year class winner and he's right there in Santa Cruz. (That's his user name on the board. Email would be best way to reach him.)

  8. #8
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    Nov 2010
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    > Also, I saw your video and I have to say that I too can balance my boat if I luff the main... Does this mean your Ariel is 'balanced'?

    The most common mistake made in sail trim is to trim the sail in too tight. It's OK for the sail's luff to luff, that's why the leading edge is called "the luff." It is sitting in turbulent air created by the mast.

    I suppose trimming in too far looks neater, with a nice flat sail, but the sail should be at a critical angle of attack to extract maximum power from the wind (unless you want to go slower or pay less attention to heading and trim). As a general rule, if you can head up more than 10 degrees without stalling the entire sail, you have it hauled in too tight.

    "When in doubt - let it out!"
    Last edited by pbryant; 10-14-2014 at 02:42 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    San Rafael, CA
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    3,613

    Jester Challenge

    Believe this is a singlehand cross Atlantic race in small boats like ours.

    Find YouTube
    Self-Steering without a windvane - Jester Challenge.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnkDsDW18zQ
    (doesn't work, sorry..)

    You'll see Jake Kavanagh showing off SARAH - Simple And Reliable Automatic Helm.


    just adding a bit for interest and support!
    Last edited by ebb; 03-24-2016 at 01:14 PM.

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