Capsizing

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It is inevitable that you will capsize at some stage, but thanks to the Laser dinghy design, they are relatively easy to right. However, there are some tips to make things a little easier and faster.

Of course, you want to avoid capsizing as much as possible – it slows you down when racing, tires you out, makes you cold, frustrates you, etc, etc. So you will want to do everything you can to minimize your chances of capsizing.

Keeping your laser upright will mean that you will have to do a number of things at the same time, including –

If you capsize your Laser dinghy, don't panic - it's not the end of the world

If you capsize your Laser dinghy, don’t panic – it’s not the end of the world

  • reading the breeze better (watch for wind patterns over your shoulder, and keep an eye on other boats as they get hit by gusts)
  • leaning right out with your feet in the hiking straps (keep your legs straight for extra leverage if your knees and thighs can handle it)
  • easing the mainsheet rope as the gust hits
  • tuning the sail better (flattening the sail using the cunningham, outhaul and vang in windy conditions), etc.

But when the inevitable occurs, remember the following.

What to do when you capsize

Generally you can feel when the boat is going to capsize. If you can sense it early enough, you may have time to quickly ease the mainsheet, and scramble over the side, placing your weight on the centerboard just as it reaches the horizontal position (be careful not to fall into the sail, as you may tear a hole in it, or worse off, hurt yourself).

Don’t put all your weight on the end of the centerboard, as this may cause unnecessary stress on the fin and hull. Rather, put your feet on the centerboard close to the hull, grab the deck where it meets the hull, and lean back. As long as the mainsheet is eased, it should pop back up fairly quickly. When it does, quickly get back into the cockpit, sort out the ropes and tiller, get your bearings, and head off once again.

If you capsize to windward, the safest option is to swim up to the bow, swim the nose around slightly past where it is pointing directly into the breeze, then put your weight through the centerboard and right it this way.

If you are sailing in shallow water, you want to avoid the boat from becoming totally inverted, otherwise, you may dig the mast into the bottom and could cause damage to the rig. Here you want to be especially careful and quick to react to the possibility of capsizing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td_a0K6y6Vg

7 Comments

  1. Annette

    I have a Laser. Love it but I cannot put enough weight on the centerboard when I capsize to flip it. I don’t have the upper body strength to pull my body onto the centerboard. Any suggestions ?

    Reply
    • Admin

      Hi Annette
      There’s a few things you might want to think about. You may already be trying some of these, so bare with me.
      Make sure that the mainsheet is off, otherwise all that extra weight can make a huge difference.
      Make sure that the fin is all the way down, and pull on the end of the fin to give you extra leverage.
      You might want to try to jump over onto the fin just before the dinghy goes over. This saves you having to pull yourself up.
      Obviously you want to try to avoid capsizing. If you do though, try to understand what went wrong so you can learn from it and be ready for it next time.
      Other than that, just try to build up your upper body strength. This will come in handy not just for when you capsize, but for around the course as well.
      Good luck with it, and all the best.
      Brendan

      Reply
  2. Les

    I recently flipped and could not get back into my Laser without flipping it over again. I weigh about 250 pounds. Is there any way for me to get back in the boat from the water?

    Reply
    • Admin

      Hi Les.
      Sorry to hear that you are having issues righting your laser. I’m a bit lighter than you (about 75kg / 165lb), and haven’t had the same experience.
      If I stand on the fin when the mast is parallel to the water, I can normally just swing my leg over and into the cockpit as the hull rights itself. If it doesn’t quite go that smoothly and I end up in the water and the boat is upright, when I scramble back on board, it does come over on top a bit, but I always manage to get back in before it tips the other way. It does take a bit of effort to pull yourself back on board, and you have to move pretty quickly, so maybe a bit more practice is all you need to get on as quickly as possible before the boat has time to roll on top of you.
      Since I haven’t experienced the same as you, it’s a bit hard to advise. Maybe some others that have had similar issues can offer some advice.
      Good luck with it!
      Cheers
      Brendan

      Reply
  3. Patti Cohen

    Hello! I’m finding it more and more difficult to climb back into my laser from the water after capsizing. Does anyone know of any straps or other ideas to help me? I have a hard time getting over the edge and reaching the hiking strap. My upper body strength is poor. I was thinking of tying a rope to the stern near the hiking strap that would give me a grip and allow me to get in. Any ideas for this grandma who loves crazy, stupid wind days?

    Reply
    • Admin

      Hi Patti
      Sorry to hear that you are having issues. I have not heard of any straps like you mention that you can use to help.
      Other than not capsizing in the first place, or if you can do a dry capsize (when you are standing on the fin when trying to right the boat, then you jump over straight into the cockpit when the boat starts to right itself), I am not sure what else you can try.
      Best of luck.
      Brendan

      Reply
      • Admin

        Here’s another video that you might find useful with some good pointers.

        Reply

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