A Little Weather Helm is a Good Thing
Two of the sailing terms you will learn in a Norton’s Sailing School ASA 101 Basic Sailing class are Weather Helm and Lee Helm. Weather Helm is the tendency for a boat to steer itself into the wind, while Lee Helm brings the bow of a sailboat away from the wind. Both of these trends are caused by an imbalance in the sail plan – on a sloop, too much mainsail or the mainsheet pulled in too far causes weather helm. Too much jib/genoa would conversely cause lee helm. The prudent captain strives for balance in a sail plan, but allows for slight weather helm.
If the weather conditions rapidly change for the worse and the helmsman loses control with weather helm, the boat would tend to come up into the wind and stall. In the same scenario, having lee helm would turn the boat downwind potentially culminating in a flying jibe and/or broaching (both dangerous situations).
As part of our ASA 101 on the water training, you will let go of the helm and experience the neutralizing effects of weather helm. The boat brings itself up into the wind/waves and stops.
Just remember, not to have too much of a “good thing”! With too much weather helm, you will be constantly fighting the tendency to turn into the wind requiring excess pressure on the rudder which in turn slows you down. That is why only a little weather helm is a good thing.