the 2013 Bayview YC One-Design Regatta
from a Wayfarer point of view
Sunday pics - 1:
Anatomy & critique of a capsize recovery
a.k.a. Well, that's easy for you to say!!!
photos copyright of Marcin Chumieci of Photoelement


Sunday 2 June 2013, Detroit River off the Bayview YC:  Mark Taylor and his brother, Paul (W7673) have just capsized. Spinnaker appears to have been involved. Under the RRS and general sailing law, Robert and Nikos in W3445 would have an overriding duty to try to help - if it appears that help may be needed. 

1.1  Helping Those in Danger 
A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.

Note also the following exchange I had with Robert:

From: Robert Mosher W3445
Sent: Sunday, June 09, 2013 7:08 AM
Subject: RRS Rule Assitance

Dear Al

Would like your opinion. Do any of the following offset the need to give assistance under the rules?
  • they were swimming and handling things OK.
  • a rescue boat was standing by.
  • a current was flowing from the East and Wind from the West making it hard to stand by
  • my crew would not be able to handle the boat alone, and he did not know enough to help.
I thought of the rule and felt we would only add to the problem at that point. The rescue boat was out and the photo boat was there. I did change course to come close and check out how they where doing.


Sent: Sunday, June 09, 2013 8:26 AM

You did the absolutely perfect thing under the circumstances. The main thing is that you checked carefully to see if assistance seemed needed. That is something we all need to do more of, especially me!! 

Crew Paul has done job #1 flawlessly: He is on the centreboard. As is usual on a spinnaker run, the helm was sitting to leeward - and in a way, Mark still is. At this point, Paul and Mark are perfectly placed to try the scoop method by having Mark stay where he is while Paul tries to use his weight on the centreboard to lever the boat back upright. I have never done this myself but have seen a 5-0-5 team do this very slick manoeuvre at a Pumpkin Regatta on Fanshawe Lake. At least in theory, the scoop method offers several advantages:
  • the inboard person is very well placed to ensure that all sails are/become free to run rather than scooping up very heavy water that can easily defeat the best efforts of the crew on the centreboard
  • as the boat begins to right, inboard man could help the process by moving some of his weight towards the high side
  • above all, somebody will be inside the boat as it comes upright at which point the absolute #1 priority is to get the board full up (and to  keep the sails free to luff!!)

Alas, Mark goes for the standard approach instead by ...

... helping his brother with the board. Note that if Mark had stayed where he was, there is the distinct possibility that their boat would be upright and being bailed by now. As a man of regrettably extensive capsize recovery experience, I would recommend that here, the centreboard man move his weight as far from the hull as possible to increase leverage.   

Ah, the CYA would be proud!! Last I looked they tell you to send the crew to hold the bow head to wind. In my opinion, this is worse than useless because
  • it makes the crew waste valuable energy swimming which could be a killer in frigid water
  • the boat should be sideways to the wind (mast downwind) as it is brought back to the upright position rather than head to wind

See!!! Paul is righting the boat nicely with just his own weight. Mark could have stayed inside the boat
where he started and  now be making sure the sails are not making Paul lift any water.

That jib could be left freer to luff and shed water!! Now Paul is about to make his life far tougher than it needs to be: As the boat continues to right, Paul should at all costs - especially with no one inside the boat yet - make sure he drags himself aboard. I do this by grabbing something like the centreboard box or the thwart and sliding into the boat on my tummy as soon as the righting motion passes the point of no return. Better too soon than too late. Once or twice I have moved too soon but that costs little:  I merely get back onto the board and try again. Failure to get in while one can easily do so leads to needless effort having to be expended - or worse - trying to climb in from the water.

Here we can see what happens if you do not make sure someone is in the boat as soon as it rights. At my age (71) I now have little hope of climbing back aboard without some kind of help, especially with a bulky life jacket on. I like to be the first one in but failing that I need to have someone heel the boat towards my side until the rub rail is immersed. Most sailors do not realize that as long as the boat is not moving through the water there is no danger in doing this: the person already in the boat merely moves weight towards me until I can more or less slide aboard. Once half of me is in, my nervous crew can relax and (try to) level the boat out if he must.

Many sailors prefer to get back aboard over the transom - especially when no one else is back aboard yet. Here you can see Mark trying to keep the boat level as young Paul works to get a leg up - so to speak. In my experience, it is perfectly possible to slide back aboard without risk of capsize while the boat is dead in the water even if no one is in it yet.

A danger with both crew members being in the water at the stern (above) is that this tends to point the boat downwind and make it begin to insist on sailing away. It is well nigh impossible to keep a water-filled boat that has begun to sail off downwind from re-capsizing, and twice as tough to do so from the position in the water that Mark and Paul are in.


Here Paul has nimbly climbed back aboard but Mark is acting as a sea anchor that will keep the bow pointed downwind and the boat sailing. Regardless, the absolute first thing that should happen after the boat is righted and somebody is back aboard, is that the board should be fully raised. Note how W7673 is already starting to sail away with Mark making a wake and Paul looking suitably nervous.
In Paul's shoes, I would dive for the board and bring it fully up. Immediately thereafter I would go to the stern (the preferred place to be in a boat full of water, anyway), grab one of Mark's hands and drag him forward along the starboard side until he is in the water more or less opposite the thwart. Taking Mark's drag off the transom, letting the sails luff and keeping the board up will allow the boat to stabilize itself beam-on to the wind and dead in the water, with sails still luffing and no capsize risk. Now that the boat is stabilized as described, Paul can safely heel the boat to windward until the rub rail is immersed and he can drag his helm back aboard like a caught fish.

At this point, both can relax and even have a beer if so desired. The boat will look after itself. The only drawback here would be that those lovely new Mike McNamara sails are of course flogging and losing pristineness with each minute they do so. It occurs to me that heaving to should be possible in these conditions. That would considerably reduce the wear and tear and permit one to enjoy one's beer in true peace.

2013 Midwinters: Tony Krauss starts to bail as Uncle Al looks on. Boat stabilized with board full up and my lovely
2013 Worlds Mike Mac sails flogging themselves to death.  I can see no reason why next time I can't heave to

Sooner or later the fun will have to be curtailed and bailing will have to start. I fortunately have a heart condition and so can in good conscience ask my crew to bail - see photos above from this year's Midwinters where you can also see that our board is full up. Having the board full up, has the additional huge plus of plugging most of the CB box which tends to cut bailing effort in half especially if you don't have slot closure strips. Frank Goulay and I did this in six-foot chop at the 1992 Worlds off the Isle of Wight and Frank had that boat dry in two shakes of a lamb's tail. In the instance above, I did redeem myself slightly by offering to open Tony's beer for him ...

Here the Taylors are beginning to sail upwind with the boat still quite low in the water.
The threat of being run down by an Ultimate 20 can be a motivator of sorts, I suppose?

Trying to get the bailers working? Sitting way aft in a boat this full of water as you try to sail it dry is a great safety play. Moreover, I have heard Scott Town, one of our better heavy air sailors ever, suggest that it would be worth trying to sit both crew members on the aft tank right after righting the boat, cranking the sails in on a broad reach and getting water to gush out over the aft tank and transom - as well as through the bailers.

Once the boat is again moving this fast while being this low in the water, I begin to feel nervous and would move weight aft to get the pointy bow out of the water as much as possible. Otherwise, the slightest heel can easily overpower the rudder and you could re-capsize.

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