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 –
- 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.