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You are going to do this, so you may as well know how to do it right. If the crew is on the wire, he/she should deliberately belly-flop into the mainsail - this is the ONLY really safe place to be, it's soft and won't damage anything. A quick crew can then crawl onto the mast at the gooseneck and leap over the boat onto the centreboard (let me know if you find anyone who can do this). A normal crew can swim round the back of the boat and grab the centreboard, or just lie on the mainsail looking smug. Obviously it is better still if the crew can just unclip from the trapeze when more or less vertical and climb straight onto the centreboard, but this takes some practice. It is also feasible to remain standing on the side of the boat, unclip, hold onto the trapeze loop at arms length and shift your centre of gravity (stomach & bottom usually) well out behind you, which can often retrieve the boat during that long moment before the mast hits the water.

The helm should be able to convert his natural sitting-out stance via an easy swing of the legs into standing on the centreboard. If this does not look feasible, just slide into the water and go round the back. Basically, the Fireball will stay on its side for 5 seconds regardless of what you do. Then the mast starts to dig in, and it goes upside down in another 10 seconds or so. You must use your 5 seconds to get into a position where you can start pulling it up. Stand on the centreboard, hold onto a sheet and lean back (don't go too far down the board or it may break).

If the kite is up, or the main or jib cleated, you are going to have to uncleat them before pulling the boat up. This is best done by whoever is in the water AFTER the bloke on the centreboard has got the boat lying nicely flat and stable. You can also pull the kite down at this stage.


Mast pointing downwind:

Swimming round the back and pulling yourself up onto the board

Or climbing over the top to get there - less effort if you can do it quickly enough

Note that the inactive bloke hangs around at the stern - generally to the rudder since there's not much else to hold on to. He would be more use at the bow pretending to be a sea-anchor and keeping the nose upwind. It's not easy to get there though - the boat drifts quite fast even on its side and you don't want to get separated from it.

If the mast is still pointing downwind, then as it comes out of the water you can climb back in.

Both upright again

and off we go, finishing off with a

Mast Pointing Upwind

quick gybe, just to show how cool we are

Given long enough, all boats will settle with their masts pointing upwind. In these cases, when you pull the thing upright you will be on the leeward side of it. It will then promptly capsize again leaving you in the stringy zone while it turns turtle on top of you. Oooh great fun (not !)

The crew is hanging around by the rudder again letting the good looking and talented helm do all the hard work.

As the boat gets near to horizontal, the helm explains to the crew that he's going to have to do something useful for a change.

Crew starts to swim into the cockpit

And hangs on inside (while Jez and Rosco saunter past, the b******s)

The idea is that the weight of the crew on what will become the windward side will stop the boat from simply flipping upright and straight over again. As the sail starts to come out of the water, the superhero on centreboard now needs to leap off to the stern or bow, or he risks the boat capsizing again on top of him regardless. The bow is the best place to aim for, but if you get it wrong then the boat will try to sail over your head. The stern is safer.

We all capsize occasionally, and learning to react quickly to get upright again is as much part of sailing as any other skill. If you can stop your boat doing any more than just laying flat for a moment or two, you can recover far more quickly and safely than if you allow it to go upside down. The trick is to know what to do, and to do it fast. And talk to each other while you are doing it - especially if you cannot see each other.

Remember, all boats capsize at some time or other. You should consider it your duty to capsize often enough that it doesn't feel like a disaster when it occurs, and that you don't feel nervous about the prospect of it happening again. It's all part of the fun.


Before anyone sues us, the comments above about it being OK for the crew to belly flop into the mainsail only apply if you have a dacron (white) mainsail, and not if you have a kevlar (grey) mainsail. We have determined empirically that if you land on a kevlar mainsail feet first you will go straight through it leaving a very big hole. If you belly flop onto it, the trapeze hook goes through it leaving a very small hole. These sails are 750 a throw so we can't recommend either of these. The best we can suggest is to dive past the helm's head so you go in the water behind the boat, or do that unclipping thing and just climb down. Or just don't use the kevlar main on a windy day. You know it makes sense :-)

For the very mad, there's also the Eskimo Roll. Personally I wouldn't be caught dead doing it for fear that I might end up, er, dead.

Thanks to David Hope for the pictures. Can you get some of me with the boat upright next time please