Capsize Recovery

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, one needs 10,000 hours to truly master any skill with the caveat that the hours must be spent doing “deliberate practice.”

In the case of small boat sailing “deliberate practice” will result in capsizes–lots of them!

Dinghy sailing may not be mastered without exploring the boundaries of stability and crossing them. Therefore, you’ll need to be adept at capsize recovery techniques to master all things UFO.

First step on your way to capsize recovery is TO CAPSIZE. Hopefully, you’ve got this one down already. If not, dial your ride height to the max, get foiling, bear away and start trying to foil gybe. You’ll figure out how to capsize somewhere in there. Once the boat capsizes it will either be laying on its side with the mast in the water or fully turtled. There are a variety of ways to get it upright depending on your situation.

Righting a UFO on its side

Climbing Up

  • Climb onto the lower hull.
  • Standup. You can use the main vertical to help balance your way up.
    • Don’t stand too far aft. You can roll the boat onto its sterns with bows sticking up in the air, what we call the “Space Invader”.

UFO in full ‘Space Invader’ a part of every UFO pilots learning curve
  • In the same vein, don’t stand too far forward, but that will be hard to do if you’re aft of the main vertical.
  • Grab the handle connected through the hull and lean back.
    • When standing on the hull keep your feet on the chine for the best footing.
  • If you’re having trouble getting the boat upright or are impatient and want it upright faster, move to using the righting handle (see below). If you’re on the smaller side, you’ll probably be using the righting handle more often than not.

Using the Righting Handle

  • Reach or climb up to grab the righting handle on the top hull.
  • Put your feet on the chine of the lower hull and lean back. You can do this by climbing up onto the hull as you did for Technique #1 or merely pushing off in the water once you have the righting handle in hand.

Note that Dave is choked up on the righting handle line and keeping his body well clear of the water to right the boat as quickly as possible.
  • Keep leaning back. Try to make sure your body weight stays out of the water. Arching your back can help pull your butt up and out of the water as the boat comes upright.
  • As the boat starts to come upright, you’ll inevitably end up with your body in the water. As this happens start climbing up the righting handle with your hands to complete the recovery. If you’re on the heavy side such efforts probably won’t be necessary.

CalUFOrnia Roll

If you’re familiar with the California Roll righting technique used on Lasers and other small dinghies, then you can find details on the UFO version of the maneuver below. A California Roll is where you hug the daggerboard and go underwater as the boat comes upright to prevent the boat from capsizing again when you’re righting it with the mast pointed upwind. On the UFO you don’t need to go underwater complete the maneuver. Instead you can just hold onto both righting handles and hang out under the tramp and between the hulls of the catamaran. Details below.

  • If you find yourself on the leeward side of the boat as it comes upright, reach for the lower handle.
    • Note that you can get away with not doing this in mild and moderate breeze due to the UFO’s hullform stability.
  • Allow the boat to right on top of you, wearing it like a hat, with hands holding both handles.
  • Once it’s upright and stable, swim around or duck your head under the hull to get to the windward side and climb aboard.
  • If you want to make the CalUFOrnia Roll an even quicker maneuver, here’s how. Once you’ve grabbed the handle on the lower hull and are sure the boat is coming upright, release your hand from the top hull. You’re now holding on to the new windward hull, which in big breeze will get lifted up in the air as the boat tries to capsize the other way. Slide your head under the new windward hull without going underwater, pull the hull back down to the water and climb aboard.

Nick completes a CalUFOrnia Roll while demonstrating his capsizing skills to Laser Fleet #413, Newport, RI

Fully Turtled

  • Climb onto the boat and grab a righting handle.
  • Go to the hull opposite the righting handle and stand on the chine. You can use the main vertical and foil to steady yourself as you’re standing up.
    • Note, that you can hold the mainfoil on a UFO without cutting yourself as the hydrofoils come from the factory with dull, rounded trailing edges. Do not sharpen the trailing edge of your foils. It’s dangerous and will not be one-design class legal for racing.
  • Once standing on the chine of the hull, lean back. The boat will slowly come upright. Once it’s on its side, choose your method from above.
  • In order to right the boat from a full turtle as quickly as possible grab the windward righting handle and lean back from the leeward hull.
    • Wind and wave action will help you right the boat quicker. Once the UFO is on its side, you’ll do a CalUFOrnia Roll.
  • If you find the boat takes too long to right from a full turtle for your height and weight, you may need lengthen your righting handle line.
    • You want the righting handle to be long enough to right the boat from a full turtle easily, but not so long that your body ends up floating in the water when the boat is halfway up.

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