Saturday, August 08, 2015

RS Aero Capsizes - Mission Accomplished

It was getting to be a bit weird.

Prior to the RS Aero North Americans in Oregon a couple of weeks ago I had sailed an RS Aero about 18-20 times, but I had never had an unintentional capsize.

I had done some deliberate capsizes in order to make sure I knew how to do capsize recoveries. But in all those days of sailing the RS Aero I had not capsized accidentally once.

My two friends in the Boston RS Aero fleet had lost their capsize virginity almost as soon as we had our our own RS Aeros back in May. But not me.

Maybe you could say that if I never capsized I wasn't trying hard enough. You could be right. Whoever you are.

My streak had to end some time...

I have to admit that the ease (or not) of doing capsize recoveries in an RS Aero was one of the things I was most concerned about before committing to buying the boat.

When I tested out the RS Aero in Minorca last October, I reserved one session just to check out capsize recoveries, partly because I heard that the sailors there were having difficulty with it.

Sure enough, as I wrote about in RS Aero - Capsize Recovery, I discovered that I couldn't get back into the boat over the side; I had to re-enter over the transom. And I also found that if I let go of the capsized boat it sailed away from me at an alarming speed. Having said that, the boat in Minorca didn't have grab rails and that feature on the production boats would surely help with side entry. And the boat in Minorca did have a mast head float which prevented it from turning turtle, which would probably be a good thing if some aged sailor was swimming to catch up with it.

So I still had reservations about the boat after Minorca...

When I returned from Minorca, I read on the RS Aero class website some excellent posts about capsize recoveries in the Aero and watched some videos on the same topic.

There were some specific techniques that were different from what would work in the Laser. Go to the front of the daggerboard so the gunwale is not so far to reach. Grab the daggerboard near the boat - because if you grab the end you will never reach the gunwhale. Use a leg kick to aid re-entry. Use the grab rail. Put the boat sideways to the wind and sheet in a little to prevent the boat from coming over on top of you in a side re-entry. And if you really are too heavy to do an over-the-side re-entry then use the transom.

Even so I wondered how easy capsize recoveries would be for someone my weight (and age and general lack of fitness.)

So when my friends and I had access to The Boat Locker's demo RS Aero back in March I did do  some practice capsize recoveries in the frigid waters of Newport harbor. I never did succeed in doing an over-the-side re-entry but coming back in over the transom seemed to work OK.

So now I was confident I knew how to do capsize recoveries in an RS Aero.

Except doing controlled capsize recoveries in light air is not quite the same thing as doing them in heavy air, or after an unexpected capsize.

My confident was dented a little more when my friend and I were out practicing at Lake Massapoag early in the season on a day when it was gusting up to 30 mph. I didn't capsize but my friend did and he was in the water for ages. At one point he lost contact with the boat and it blew away from him downwind. I was standing by in my Aero but could provide no real assistance. Eventually I decided to sail back to the club and come out in a safety boat or perhaps even call the emergency services. And just as I started back to the club, he managed to get the boat upright and climb back in it.


At the regatta in May both my friends capsized their RS Aeros (and did reasonably efficient recoveries.)

But I didn't.

My streak of no unintentional capsizes continued through the summer.

It got to be a joke.

I didn't like to draw attention to it or for other people to mention it. It might bring bad luck...

And then my luck ran out at the Gorge!

At the clinic on Friday, Peter Barton talked us through capsize recovery techniques. Useful refresher.

I did OK in the first race on Saturday. More or less in the middle of the fleet.

In the second race, on the third reach of the Z course, which was fairly broad, another RS Aero and I were sailing downwind on starboard tack when I saw an I-14 coming upwind on starboard on what looked like a collision course with the other RS Aero. I shouted a warning at the the other Aero sailor (who didn't seem to have seen the I-14 ) and headed up myself to get out of the way of both of them. In the process my boat broached and I disappeared under the water. When I surfaced I saw that the other two boats had somehow managed to avoid killing or maiming anybody or sinking either boat, and I proceeded to do a successful capsize recovery using all of those tips I had learned on the RS Aero Class website and from Peter.

Woo hoo! No longer a capsize virgin! I did it! I really was quite pleased with myself, even though my slow and deliberate capsize recovery had cost me a lot of places in the race.

I have noticed before that after capsizing once in a regatta, it somehow seems "easier" to keep on capsizing. I'm sure it's some mental deficiency of mine. One of many.

And sure enough in the third race I capsized at a gybe mark. Did another successful recovery. Woo hoo! Definitely pushed me way down the fleet though.

The wind kept on building and in the fourth race I capsized while trying to bear away at the windward mark. Woo hoo! The hat trick!

After doing my third capsize recovery of the day I was feeling pretty tired and...

  •  was wondering if I would have the energy left to do another recovery
  •  was pretty much at the back of the fleet already
  •  and I was lot closer to the launch area than the finish line.

So I retired from the race and sailed back to the beach.

As it turned out that was the last race of the day anyway.

Not a great day from the perspective of my scores, but at least I mastered one essential skill!

Mission accomplished!


Anonymous said...

Does the boat turtle easily (in light, medium or heavy winds)?


Tillerman said...

In my limited experience, I wouldn't say it turtles"easily" Most capsizes I have seen other people do are either dry capsizes (step over the gunwale) or if they go in the water they get to the daggerboard before it turtles. i have see some capsizes where the boat turtles but that doesn't seem to present much difficulty to the sailor.

If I understood Peter Barton correctly at the clinic I think he said that if the boat does start to sail away from you when it's on its side, just swim slowly after it (no need to panic) because it will eventually turn turtle and stop going away from you so fast.

Peter Barton said...

That is about right. The RS Aero does not turn turtle easily, but it does turn turtle - there is an important balance here.
You don't want it to turn turtle easily as that will slow down a speedy recovery and could present an entrapment issue (although there is minimal equipment to get caught on here).
But you do want it to turn turtle eventually. Thus if you lose contact with the boat and are a very slow swimmer it will stop drifting once turtled.
A roll in to windward with the sail still in the air is likely to produce the fastest boat drift. However, it will rotate and turtle more quickly in this orientation as the sail is not resting across the surface of the water.
Once turtled recovery aboard is easy with gunwales to help climb back on amidships.
Capsize Drills;

Dion Alaniz said...

Tillerman: how much do you weigh? I'm pretty fit, but have a 230 lb. wrestler type frame. Anyway, I'm picking up my new Aero 9 this coming weekend and am just trying to gauge how much trouble I'm going to have w/ capsize recovery.

Tillerman said...

I am around 190lbs right now - sometimes hovering over 200. Will be interested to hear how you get on with capsize recoveries. I'm sure you will be fine going in over the transom if going over the side doesn't work for you.

I haven't given up learning how to do "over-the-gunwhale" re-entries using the method discussed in the videos on the Aero Class forum. Doing a windsurfer style "water start" might work for me. I just didn't want to experiment in the middle of the regatta so, used the method I knew would work there.

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