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Old 25-06-2007, 07:26   #1
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Talking My first capsize (dinghy sailing, don't worry)...

As many of you know, this is my first season sailing! I went out yesterday in relatively heavy winds (I have been practicing on calmer days thus far). I was on dead run to practice some jibing when I had a gust come along and jibe it for me Well I wasn't ready and the boom came across too fast. I couldn't switch sides fast enough and ended up dumping the boat!

No big deal, the dock staff came an righted the boat. I dried out and went out for the rest of the day without any more issues

I was sailing a centerboard version of a Cape Cod Mercury:
Mercury Sloop

I am posting this because
a) It was fun
and
b) It got me thinking. Is there a formula that exists that can predict capsize based keel/centerboard weight, force on the sail (based on wind speed, direction, and sail size), and balancing weight on the boat or are there too many variables to contend with there?

So that's my story from the weekend!
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Old 25-06-2007, 08:30   #2
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Hey Merlin,

I am sure there is a formula somewhere. If a boat is engineered a certain way, there is a formula involved


I am going to be going for my first sailing lessons come the beginning of August. Signed up and all ready to go. Knowing me, I will probably have a similar incident as you in 2 month's time But it isnt all that bad. i love to swim, afterall. haha
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Old 25-06-2007, 08:33   #3
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Hey Merlin,

I am sure there is a formula somewhere. If a boat is engineered a certain way, there is a formula involved


I am going to be going for my first sailing lessons come the beginning of August. Signed up and all ready to go. Knowing me, I will probably have a similar incident as you in 2 month's time But it isnt all that bad. i love to swim, afterall. haha
Haha, I also like to swim a lot so I didn't mind going in for a dunk! If I can offer any advice at all it would be to grab some books to read prior to August. It will help you make sense of all the terminology that goes with sailing! I read a lot over the winter before going out on the water! It helped out a lot!

Swimming is fun
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Old 25-06-2007, 08:35   #4
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While I'm not familiar with the Mercurys, I've sailed Widgeons and they appear to be similiar, a couple of things come to mind:

Accidental jibes happen - they happen a lot less if you don't sail DIRECTLY downwind - try and stay off by about 10 degrees. Also - try different positions within the boat when on a run/broad reach - each boat reacts differently when ballast (you) is distributed to different places during different points of sail.

You should be able to right your boat by yourself. There are many things you need to do with the boat prior to shoving off. Making sure you have the proper safety and bailing equipment is important, along with ensuring that things are secured on the boat. The tough thing about being on a run and capsizing the boat is that most likely the centerboard was up (even if it was, it should ALWAYS be secured so it doesn't come completely out.

When I was stationed in Hawaii, we use to sail Widgeons in Pearl Harbor all the time. It gets hot there. We would deliberately "capsize" and swim around to "prep" the boat for righting. Nice way to cool off.

Merlin - don't know where you are (you may want to fill in your profile a bit), but it might be a good idea to practice that (let your boating staff know that is what you are going to do, so they don't come running out).

Buenas suerte.
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Old 25-06-2007, 08:41   #5
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While I'm not familiar with the Mercurys, I've sailed Widgeons and they appear to be similiar, a couple of things come to mind:

Accidental jibes happen - they happen a lot less if you don't sail DIRECTLY downwind - try and stay off by about 10 degrees. Also - try different positions within the boat when on a run/broad reach - each boat reacts differently when ballast (you) is distributed to different places during different points of sail.

You should be able to right your boat by yourself. There are many things you need to do with the boat prior to shoving off. Making sure you have the proper safety and bailing equipment is important, along with ensuring that things are secured on the boat. The tough thing about being on a run and capsizing the boat is that most likely the centerboard was up (even if it was, it should ALWAYS be secured so it doesn't come completely out.

When I was stationed in Hawaii, we use to sail Widgeons in Pearl Harbor all the time. It gets hot there. We would deliberately "capsize" and swim around to "prep" the boat for righting. Nice way to cool off.

Merlin - don't know where you are (you may want to fill in your profile a bit), but it might be a good idea to practice that (let your boating staff know that is what you are going to do, so they don't come running out).

Buenas suerte.
That's great advice! I purposely put myself on a dead run because I really wanted to practice tougher jibes! Maybe next time I'll practice more on a broad reach

As far the boating staff goes, they have rules in place. They don't want people trying to right these boats themselves so they're happy to come out and right the boat, pick you up, and tow the boat in! They only ask that, if you can, you hold the mast up, so the boat doesn't turtle. I think I saw maybe 3 more capsizes after mine. We sail in a relatively small area so they can see all the boats. All you have to do is stay with the boat. Again, these are house rules!

They also have some laser's, and those you can right yourself!
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Old 25-06-2007, 09:58   #6
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Dunno about the Merlin, but I've sailed Laser IIs a lot. If the Merlin is anything like a Laser, believe me this is NOT your last capsize.

Personally, when I'm on a run in a dinghy, I keep myself low in the boat and centered. It ain't all that comfortable but it helps avoid the capsize.

And I rarely have the main all the way out... I'd rather have a bit less downwind speed than have the boom slam from one side to the other, possibly snapping rigging. If you keep the main sheet in hand and you have even an instant's warning, you can haul in and slow thngs down.

Even running in Connemara (Mirage 27) I try not to have the boom all the way out. Just chicken, I guess, but metal and rope can take only so much.


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Old 25-06-2007, 10:24   #7
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hey Merlin,

That is actually one thing i have been doing. grabbed a couple books and all i have been doing was reading. Alot of the terminology is rather foreign to me, so i am just trying to get my head around it. But it gives me something to do aside from staring at the yachts and boats in around Toronto Harbour from my condo balcony
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Old 25-06-2007, 11:37   #8
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I recommend the book "Start Sailing Right." It'll get you off on the right foot.
If the club will let you right the Lasers then practice capsizing the Lasers. Jibing a Laser requires that you sheet in before letting the boom swing around. If you don't sheet in in heavier weather the sheet hangs up on the leeward quarter and doesn't let the boom move across quickly enough so you'll capsize for certain.
Had the same thing happen to me when I was just starting out sailing because a crew member was sitting on the mainsheet in a Rebel 16. I think it happens to all good dinghy sailors sooner or later and it is a good way to learn proper jibing.
Another trick I learned in racing in heavier weather is that with your daggerboard or centerboard up 3/4 of the way you'll have less of a chance of capsizing when jibing.
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Old 25-06-2007, 11:46   #9
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You now know why sailing DEAD downwind in heavy air is a risky proposition. On a larger vessel that accidental jibe could bring down the entire rig. Falling off a tad is much safer and usually more comfortable and even faster.
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Old 25-06-2007, 11:52   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiprJohn
I recommend the book "Start Sailing Right." It'll get you off on the right foot.
If the club will let you right the Lasers then practice capsizing the Lasers. Jibing a Laser requires that you sheet in before letting the boom swing around. If you don't sheet in in heavier weather the sheet hangs up on the leeward quarter and doesn't let the boom move across quickly enough so you'll capsize for certain.
Had the same thing happen to me when I was just starting out sailing because a crew member was sitting on the mainsheet in a Rebel 16. I think it happens to all good dinghy sailors sooner or later and it is a good way to learn proper jibing.
Another trick I learned in racing in heavier weather is that with your daggerboard or centerboard up 3/4 of the way you'll have less of a chance of capsizing when jibing.
Kind Regards,
JohnL
I can attest, that's a pretty good book! Also, thanks for the advice on the centerboard, I'll have to give that a try!
Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbates
You now know why sailing DEAD downwind in heavy air is a risky proposition. On a larger vessel that accidental jibe could bring down the entire rig. Falling off a tad is much safer and usually more comfortable and even faster.
Lesson learned for certain! You can only read so much about "accidental jibes" and why running isn't really a great point of sail but you don't get it until you do it
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Old 25-06-2007, 15:29   #11
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Quote:
rtbates, he say—
You now know why sailing DEAD downwind in heavy air is a risky proposition. On a larger vessel that accidental jibe could bring down the entire rig. Falling off a tad is much safer and usually more comfortable and even faster.
rtbates gives good advice, but is a bit off regarding the terms.

When sailing DDW (dead downwind) one cannot fall off the wind any farther, because there is no deeper point of sail to "fall off" to.

What rtbates is actually proposing is to avoid a DDW point of sail by steering the boat higher into the wind, so as to have both sails drawing on the same side. This maneuver would be to Bear Up, Come up, Go Up, Harden up, or Head Up. The result of hardening (the sheets) up would be to put the dingy on a deep run so as to adopt a strategy of so-called downwind tacking (an imprecise term, but it describes the zig-zag downwind course that results).

Practicing downwind tacking (gybing from a starboard deep run to a port deep run, and vice-versa) is a worthwhile use of your time, but should be practiced, like most maneuvers, in lighter conditions until skills and timing are perfected. When gybing:
  1. harden up the mainsheet to center the boom, while maintaining a deep run
  2. pull the tiller to weather until the mainsail fills from the opposite side (shift your bodyweight at this moment to the new windward side to retain balance)
  3. ease the mainsheet to let the boom out quickly so as to avoid a broach, then
  4. trim the new working jibsheet and adjust your course.
This prevents the uncontrolled swinging of the boom from one side to the other in a fresh breeze, i.e., a crash gybe, and the sudden shift in balance that is hard to keep up with, and which undoubtedly caused your dunking .


Until those skills are perfected, when caught in strong winds, performing the so-called chicken gybe will leave the boat in your control and prevent damage to the boat. The chicken gybe is performed by:
  1. quickly heading up from a starboard run through a close reach, hardening the mainsheet energetically to keep the boat driven
  2. continuing the turn by steering the bow across the wind (tacking), and
  3. easing off on the mainsheet/trimming the new working jibsheet to adopt the new point of sail, a port run, or vice-versa
There is nothing "chicken" about staying in control of your boat; rather, it is the sign of a prudent skipper.

Your anecdote brings back my salad days on the bay teaching myself in my own 14' dinghy. You're going about it the right way, from all I can tell.

SkiprJohn is right: the farther off the wind your point of sail is, the less centerboard you need in the water. Just don't forget to lower it again when coming up, or you'll be side-sliding across the bay with no board to prevent leeway (been there, done that).

Note: when the breeze freshens, there is a real danger of a broach, an uncontrolled acceleration/pointing up due to over-pressure on the mainsail. In extreme cases, it can spin the boat around like a top before dumping you over. On broad reach and deeper courses in any kind of breeze, always have the mainsheet in hand and ready to release in a blink, or you could find yourself capsized and/or inadvertendly hitting someone/something.

Fair Winds,
Jeff
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Old 25-06-2007, 18:33   #12
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Sailing any further off would be sailing "by the lee" which is a very dangerous point of sail unless you are planning a jibe and are already sheeting in. If you have your sail way out and a preventer attached to the boom you can get away with sailing a bit "by the lee" but it can be a pretty dangerous practice ending in bent booms and strained rigging.
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Old 25-06-2007, 21:07   #13
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Um, John, he's in a dinghy. Doubt a preventer is standard equipment. :O
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Old 25-06-2007, 22:34   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlin
b) It got me thinking. Is there a formula that exists that can predict capsize based keel/centerboard weight, force on the sail (based on wind speed, direction, and sail size), and balancing weight on the boat or are there too many variables to contend with there?

So that's my story from the weekend!
It's not actually a formula, but a biological change that indicates imminent capsize but it can only be learned with experience.
As soon as a certain muscle in the body clamps shut it's time to ease sheets or head up.
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Old 25-06-2007, 23:55   #15
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Only my Autopilot can sail DDW accurately. I practice and am getting better but Otto just laughs...

There is nothing prettier though than getting goose winged and running downwind at 5 kts. We don't do it much for a simpler reason. When running downwind wind the relative wind on the deck is practically zero. The boat heats up, the passengers get hot, they think their ice is melting faster. A broad reach and occasional jibe makes for a happier and cooler boat.

Dinghy sailing OTOH is a blast. Josh (9 y/o) loves two things - capsizing and man over board. Once he gets hot he will "accidentally" fall out of the boat yelling, "man over board." After getting underway he will immediately ask, "Can we do a capsize now dad?"

Capsizing any dinghy up to 13 feet is a blast and easy to right. Doing it with my son helps him learn the skills. In fact day one or two of any decent dinghy course spends at least 2 hours on capsize drills. Although Merlins boat doesn't look to be self bailing and I wouldn't drill in that boat. Laser Picos are good for that.

Since he finished his Optimist course I am back in the Laser Pico on Saturday mornings while he takes an Optimist. We play follow the leader. He's had a hard time figuring out beating upwind and tends to sail backwards a lot - LOL
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