I capsized my AI twice in one day. Both times the amas collapsed. Itâ€™s not as much fun as it sounds.
A little background. I have had my AI since December of 2006. I sail it a lot. I sail off the coast of Florida and enjoy sailing/surfing the boat in and out of the inlet by our condo. The low center of gravity and the wide stance make the AI a great vehicle for negotiating big waves. Itâ€™s a lot of fun and I do it often.
The weather that day. Lots of wind and waves, both directly toward shore. There were no other boats out on the water, just surfers.
The area. There is an area north of us that becomes very shallow. Itâ€™s about a half mile offshore and probably covers an area about the size of 5 football fields. With the wind and water conditions, this area became a zone of breakers way offshore.
First capsize. I thought I was far enough out on the seaward side to miss the bad water. Bad guess. I was sailing on a reach, half the sail furled., the wind and waves coming directly over the starboard side. I saw the wave coming but thought it was just going to roll under me like all the others. I didnâ€™t realize it was going to break until I was almost on the face of it. With the wind on the sail and the wave curling, the AI toppled over sideways down the face. I fell with the boat. When I surfaced, the AI was on itâ€™s starboard side, the port ama was on the high side collapsed against the boat.
Second Capsize. After the previous capsize, I was on high alert. I was also farther into all the breakers. I needed to get out of where I was and sailing was the fastest way to do that. The wind had picked up. I went back on a reach, I furled all but a few feet of sail and was also pedaling. Every time a large wave came, I turned and went into it head on. This worked for about 5 minutes. Then THE WAVE came. It was about 60 yards away when I first saw it. If I were a surfer, it would be the one I was waiting for. I turned toward it and started pedaling harder. I knew I had to get over it before it broke. Pedaling directly into the wind and waves I had very little forward momentum. The boat slowed as it started up the face. I got this sick feeling as I realized the AI was going to be turned over backwards. I did not want it coming down on top of me with all that water on top of it. As the boat went over backwards, I remember frantically kicking it away from me. The sound of that wave breaking was thunderous. When I came up, the AI was away from me and both amas were collapsed.
The amas. I donâ€™t know how to tell you how difficult it was to right the boat and extend and lock both amas in that water. The waves kept knocking the boat down, rolling it over, pushing me away from it. I canâ€™t even tell you how long it took. I made deals with God. I got it together and I got home.
My concerns. For the amas to release the way they did, I was sure the little plastic caps on the aka braces had to be broken. They werenâ€™t. But what I discovered is that if the ama is pushed from the rear, it compresses the little spring in the aka brace cap and the brace can pop off the retaining ball quite easily.
I realize that being driven backwards down the face of a breaking wave may be the only time this comes into play. But there should be a way to lock that brace on the ball.
If I had capsized where I did and the amas had stayed in place, it would have been a matter of righting the boat, getting back in and going on my way. With the amas collapsed in bad water, an inconvenient situation became a very dangerous one. It will happen to someone else. And it will happen at the worst possible time.
Note to Hobie, find a way to lock the braces on the ball. The little spring cap is great when the boat is moving forward, not so great when moving backwards. It should be a simple fix.
And now for the good news. I know how fragile the AI looks. Donâ€™t believe it. My boat was pounded, from every angle possible and in the most violent manner. It was rolled over with the mast sticking in the bottom and then hit again and again. I kept waiting for pieces to break off, for the mast to snap, for the rudder to disappear. Nothing broke, nothing. When I got back, there was a little water inside the hull, but there were times when the entire boat was completely underwater. Well done Hobie, well done.
Afterthought. When this first happened, I was upset that a design flaw might have put me in danger. As I look back on it, I wonder if the AI would have faired as well if the amas hadnâ€™t collapsed. I would think the tumbling, pounding and rolling over would have been worse for the AI if the amas had remained fully extended. Maybe I was luckier than I thought.