June 05, 2016

You've Capsized... How to Get Going Quickly!

By Doug
There's no shame in capsizing a Laser. Sailing aggressively downwind means risking a capsize.  So every capsize should come with "yeah, but did you see how fast I was going?"

In my 2016 Worlds Journal I mentioned how my good friend Alberto Larrea (ARG) tipped in race 1 and lost 6 places, how I mentioned a faster way to get going again, and how he tipped again in race 10 and only lost 2 places. Here's the problem with the normal way.

You're sailing downwind (the green dot is where your weight is):

The sail twists in the pressure, the forces become unstable and you tip to windward:

It's a mistake, and the way we fix mistakes is we try to undo them. In this case, and to stay dry, we climb over the gunnel onto the centerboard and use it to get the boat up again . But this pushes the rig under the water:

[Not shown: swimming around the boat and trying to get on the centerboard, which can be slow and difficult for many people, including myself.]

The boom might still be in the air, and there might be water on the sail, so time here is wasted:

And by this time, the wind has probably pushed the boat downwind, so when the wind gets under the sail, the boat capsizes the other way and you have to get on the centerboard again:

You finally have the boat up and you climb in. It's more than just slow, it's exhausting!

With a little Lateral Thinking, here's the trick I figured out many years ago that worked for Alberto... you're sailing downwind:

You tip to windward:

But you continue the mistake by grabbing the gunnel in the air and pulling it down:

You climb onto your boat which is easier than climbing onto the centerboard:

Your weight keeps the momentum going and you switch to the other side of the centerboard:

The boat keeps moving with the mast coming up followed by the sail:

You climb in, the boom's on the correct side, and you're good to go. It's faster, less work, and you might actually feel refreshed!

Note that this only works in deep enough water. Also, if you fouled someone, this does not count as a penalty turn!


  1. Thanks. I am going to have to try this.

  2. Love it - thanks for the tip.

    Having done so much of my sailing on waters where the mast would get stuck before the boat could turn turtle, I don't think I'd ever have thought of this.

  3. Thanks, it really works well as it's quick and the sail comes up in the right place.
    Keep up the great work with your blog http://thefinalbeat.com/

  4. Thank You Doug, I will try it!
    What about grabbing the main sheet starting from the position of the photo and force the main sail to go down ( flat to the water) and then jump on the centerboard from the upwind side? When you capsize like in the photo the wind is in your back so if you can jibe the main sail the rest is easy ( or relatively easy...)

    1. That's how most people try to do it, but getting up again can be slow as the sail will have water on it. When the mast hits the water, it only has to turn 90% before it's pointing upwind, so any delay is bad.

      The good news is that this new method is really fast - without any resistance, the rig will take just seconds to circle under and come up in the correct position.

  5. Great tip - if I ever capsize I will have to try it. Ha ha. It does sound like it could work. Will definitely try it. Thanks

    1. You're more than welcome. Let us know how much time it takes for you... it should be about 10 seconds.

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