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 Post subject: Learning from a capsize
PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:06 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:05 pm
Posts: 96
Location: New Hampshire
Capsizing can be a wonderful learning experience. Nothing like doing something wrong to improve.

There was a recent thread on jib control discussing whether to leave the jib cleated on tacks. It made me realize there are a lot of differences in how we have to approach our sailing if we're going solo or going with an experienced crew. I cleat my jib when I'm by myself, and I'm thinking I need to think through this technique a bit more. There's no way that I can see to really control the jib sheet when you're by yourself. Today I was out in 15 -25 mph winds, with gusts going 30+.

As usual, I had the jib cleated. Big gusts hits, and sheet out completely, try to luff, and still go over. Lesson learned is to think about the jib some more. It felt like just before I went over that the jib was powering up, pushing the bow down, and stalling the rudders. Although the rudders will stall at some point in a capsize, it felt like they stalled way before they should have. Instead of luffing, right before I went over, I was actually bearing away, not what you want to do in that situation. And when you're capsizing, it's awfully hard to reach that jib sheet and release it.

High winds I've been letting the travelers out a bit, but still sheeting the jib fairly tight to the traveler. (I've got to get the performance out of the jib, don't I?) However, I'm thinking I need to let the jib out some, letting it flap, and de-poweirng the front end of the boat. The main has a lot of power and I don't need the power off the jib. I don't know if this is the right approach, but lacking an ability to control the jib sheet by myself, I need to experiment with this a bit. (Ideal solution would be a cam cleat where you could set the pressure at which it would pop, but I'm not sure there is such a creature.)

With this approach, right before the tack, I'd pull the jib in tighter, using it to help with the tack. Otherwise, in high winds, I'd try to avoid the using the power of the jib because there's no way to control it when I'm by myself.

This was the first time I tried reefing the main. Quite honestly, I was not impressed by the result. I'm not sure it resulted in any decrease in power, created a poor sail shape, and didn't seem to make a bit of difference. But I'd love to hear from others on this.

One thing I learned from this capsize is patience after the boat goes over. Considering the wind, where I was on the lake made riding the boat to shore and dealing with it there seemed to make more sense. I was going to end up on a nice beach. But while going to shore, I did some moving on the hull. Standing on the bow produced nothing. The boat stayed in exactly the same position relative to the wind. However, when I moved to the stern, the boat started spinning slowly but surely.

Eventually it reached a point where the mast was directly upwind. At that point, I noticed the wind was starting to lift the sail all on its own. It was coming four or five feet out of the water, as the wind got under the sail. (Let me note at this point that this is not a good position for the mast to be in for righting as you'll see in a second.) Decided to take the righting line and give it a try. It popped right up, with virtually no effort at all.

Unfortunately, it went right over the other side. First off, this will create excitement for anybody else on the water. Second is to grab the dolphin striker as soon as possible. However, I doubt that even grabbing the dolphin striker would have saved it. Just a bad position to try righting the boat.

However, I started riding the hull again, and waited until it swung around enough for the sail to start showing some signs of lift (right about the angle recommended by Hobie). Waited for a good gust to hit and then grabbed the righting line, and again with little effort, the boat popped up, with me grabbing the dolphin striker and holding it there. Success.

So patience, patience, patience. Wait for the boat to be in the right position before wasting your energy. Let the wind do the work. Not the answer in light winds, but might be the best answer in high winds.

Not happy I went over today, but I think I've learned some good tricks for the next time. And one of the tricks is going solo means some different techniques then if you have a crew.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe


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