I think that as long as I'm comfortable on the boat and she and I are a good fit for one another, I'll be confident and my crew will be as well (and thusly, the heeling may become less of a thing for them).
"Use makes master."
Heeling is pretty scary to everyone when they just start out. I think it really boils down to trust - trusting that the boat will "do her job" and not capsize.
Most displacement boats won't go over with the force of wind alone in ordinary sailing conditions (ie, not broaching, for example). But saying that to someone is "abstract." Sitting in the cockpit when she starts to heel, and it just "feels" like she's going over, all that theory about what keeps her upright goes right out the window.
Saturday, my son was sailing by himself a dinghy in "decent breeze" for the first time, and as I was helping/coaching him back in, he heeled in the puffs a little more than he liked. He was quite upset. I got him to learn to play the mainsheet to keep things at his level of comfort - we were in no hurry to get anywhere.
Puff came - he screamed! "Ease the main," Better ride.
A mere few minutes later, another puff came and he heeled over even farther. I said, "ease the mainsheet" and he replied, "why? I'm fine." He laughed when I told him he was actually heeling more than we was a few minutes before and screamed about it.
One trick you might try to help your crew get better 'acquainted' with heeling (if you have not done this already) is to let them handle mainsheet trim. Let them keep it at their comfort level. You can say "ease" and "trim" and gently try to persuade a little more heel/proper trim each time.
On a breezy day, keep things "calm" and mellow. Talk about it before hand, and tell your crew "we are going to work on trusting the boat. I KNOW this wind will not push her over." Let 'em get a good hold on things, and when they are ready, go for some heel. Work toward getting the rail in the water and keeping it there for a bit, just to show how stable she is at that point. Show how you control that with the sail trim (and/or course changes)...it's not some mysterious thing that "just happens."
As I told my son...you control the boat, you sail the boat. She does not sail you. He laughed at that, too.
Once the basic, primal fear is addressed, then you can get into stuff like "well, excessive heeling is generally not good, anyway. Not because it's uncomfortable, but because the boat does not sail well like that most of the time (depending on the boat, etc, etc). So, all these things we practiced to keep it comfortable for you are also things that will help us sail faster and more efficient in the long run."
Viola! Turning "fear" or "discomfort" into a positive.
I started to ask a couple people in the PHRF fleet I sail in if I can go out with them for a sail so I can get more experience feeling out different types of small cruising boats.
A most EXCELLENT idea!
And, I fully accept that in part, it's the sailor (me), which is why I'm looking for a smaller (19-23'ish) boat that I can just go out and play around with -- test the sails, make adjustments, and really learn the boat and teach myself (like I have with dinghy-sailing),
Another excellent idea/approach. Good stuff.
Given that (a) small boats tend to get used more and (b) a boat YOU are comfortable on will get used more, finding the "right" boat for you will definitely equal more sailing time and better experiences/memories.
I think in the light stuff, it boils down to the skill, patience and will of the sailor.
I sort of learned this on a day when I had somewhere to be and motored the 16 or so miles round trip. I had to drop off something at the other end of the lake I was on by a certain time, and I had to be back to the club we were in by a certain time (for a social function).
I rationalized motoring on the basis of "too little wind and too little time."
My rationalizations sometimes help keep me warm.
The problem was a fellow, let's call him JK, who was out on a Precision 18. JK was the only one of us that sailed the whole way - both directions.
There was not too little time. I was just not up to being "a sailor" that day. JK was, and I learned a lot, spiritually I guess more than technically, that day from watching him. It was simply beautiful how he just sat in the cockpit of his boat...right where he needed, and wanted, to be.
And he was not late for the social function. I was surprised how close he was by the time I got my boat on the trailer and was done tending to 'boat stuff.' I think we gave him an "award" at the social dinner for "Intrepid Sailor of the Day."
I have, since that day, made a real effort to improve my light air sailing and to try to not let "too little wind" be an obstacle to getting where I want to go (dang-nabbed schedules notwithstanding). It is truly amazing how little wind it takes to give a boat steerage way.
Finally...Jim, thanks and grog for this post.
Very cool discussion (and linked article).