Anyone use one of these?
However, it was on that very first meeting that Keith gave us one priceless piece of information when he told us of the need for a two-wing wedge riding sail in these wild waters. Riding sails have been used for hundreds of years to stabilise boats at anchor to prevent, or at least lessen, the sheering motion that can develop as the wind picks up. This maddening and potentially dangerous anchor dance affects some yachts more than others, especially lighter, faster modern hull designs. But as wind speed increases even boats that normally lie well will eventually start to sheer. Gecko was no exception and tongue in cheek we rated her as a six out of ten on our 'international sheering scale' standardised to a force eight gale.
This sheering motion can be wearing on the nerves and tiring especially when it becomes violent with the boat rolling savagely to leeward as it is jerked back around at the end of the 'tack'. Yet a far more dangerous possibility is sheering's potential to break out even well set anchors.
Traditionally a ketch would hoist the mizzen to achieve the aim of holding the boat bow into the wind. Other techniques to reduce sheering are setting two anchors, an anchor or drogue hung off the anchor chain in the bow, a line from abeam to the anchor chain to offset the angle of attack, a bucket or drogue hung off the stern, or even anchoring stern to! None of these techniques are particularly efficient. Some even seem like acts of pure desperation while others are unseamanlike, being positively dangerous should a dragging anchor need to be urgently hauled and redeployed.
Keith had come up with his elegant solution to the sheering problem many years ago on the Orkney Islands during a force 10 North Atlantic gale in Scapa Flow. He had hoisted the mizzen of his ketch to steady the boat but, as the wind speed increased, the sail began to flog violently until it literally exploded. His solution was to jury rig the storm jib as a two-wing wedge riding sail off the backstay.
Keith quickly sketched the rig for us and, on the morrow, rowed over again to help set up our storm jib as a 'wedgie'. Subsequent gales saw us increasingly proficient at rigging the sail, which held Gecko steady when normally she would have been sheering wildly.
It was during one force nine gale, when we were moored upwind of two other yachts, that the full impact of the technique became obvious. With our wedgie rigged in the stern we watched as our neighbour started to sheer violently from side to side. The next day they came over to ask how that “funny sail” worked, as the motion on their boat had been so bad they had been forced ashore