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Some thoughts on capsizing from Captain Iain

How to do the "Eskimo" or "San Francisco" roll

Having sailed a Contender for a bit, which is a real pig to get up after a capsize, I learnt to do the "eskimo" roll. It is almost the only way to get a Contender up and it works really well in a Fireball in the following situations:

  • It's blowing REALLY hard, and even if your crew makes a superhuman effort as described previously the boat may be blown straight back over again…
  • If your lager drinking kebab-powered helm is considerably lardier than your dainty girlie crew, again the standard method may not work…
  • If you want to get the boat up QUICKLY so as not to risk drifting into danger, or worse, losing places…
  • If you want to look well 'ard and/or scare your crew and the rescue boat…

It goes like this:

  • Crew checks jib, main and kicker all released and holds either forestay or convenient spinnaker sheet so they cannot drift away from boat
  • Helm removes hat and sunnies and tucks into buoyancy or pocket (otherwise you'll lose them)
  • Helm ensures both bailers are closed (IMPORTANT!) and gets onto centreboard
  • Helm checks round and makes sure no other boats are about to pass close by
  • Helm double-checks the bailers are closed as they are GUARANTEED to open your head up for reasons described below...
  • Helm wraps arms and legs round centreboard and clings on underneath it, head towards the hull. He moves along to the end of the board…if it's howling (which is really the only time you need to do this) the rig will start lifting very quickly as soon as the burgee is clear of the water
  • OK, so the tip of the mast is moving very quickly as it's twenty foot up, but you on the centreboard will move much more slowly as you are near the centreline. As you start to go under take a deep breath and if possible keep your eyes open (this bit sounds really scary but it isn't, it does all happen quite slowly…)

Now one of two things will happen. Either...

  • If it's honkingly windy the boat will flip straight over the other way, you'll pop up on the other side on top of the centreboard, and nimbly jump up and right the boat from the normal mast downwind position.


  • The boat will right itself and sit there ready to go. Meanwhile, with your 50N of positive buoyancy you will float up under it possibly pushing your head & body against the hull next to the centreboard (good job those bailers are shut), so kick yourself away and aim to pop up on the windward side. Climb in and away you go (don't forget your crew!)


(Remember sailing Fireballs is dangerous and should not be attempted without professional ridicule. All the stunts featured on this webpage were performed by professional idiots and on no account should they be attempted at home. All sail numbers are purely fictional and any resemblance to any crews living or dead is purely coincidental. No sailors were harmed in the making of this production and Draycote Fireball Fleet is actively against the testing of gel coat on animals)