Dry Capsize on a Quest
Dry capsize is a very useful skill. It means not going into the water on a capsize and getting into the boat as it comes up. The first part is relatively easy, but the second can be difficult, especially in a Quest.
I went out in some seriously high wind the other day, and I wasn't happy with my dry capsize skills. I hadn't capsized in quite a while, so I was a bit rusty on it. I could get the boat up, but not me in it as it came up. So it was time to practice, which I did.
If you're single-handing or with one crew in high winds, it's important to get someone into the boat when it comes up to get it under control, prevent a re-capsize and prevent it sailing away from you. That said, if you're out with a group of students or inexperienced crew, you shouldn't do it. You want everyone in the water after the capsize, especially if the crew is new to the situation. If they see you climbing up over the hull, they'll all want to do it, which will make your job righting the boat that much harder. Better to get everyone in the water and comfortable and go from there.
So let's assume you're single-handing and you capsize. Getting up on the hull as the boat goes over is no problem, as it happens pretty slowly. You can climb up using the mast as a step or even the hiking straps. When I practice, I find that it's pretty hard to capsize the boat without going into the water. I just have to keep pushing weight to leeward and then climb up when it's past the point of no return.
So you're on the hull and drop down to the centerboard. You should have thought how you're going to lever the boat up. There are several options, depending on how large you are. As yet, there are no righting lines on the Quest (coming, maybe). If you're large, you can just pull on the gunwhale to bring the boat up (I can't do that). The next option is to pull on the jib sheet against the fairlead, NOT against the sail (this works for me, 147 lb. male). That doesn't work for smaller people, so bringing the bow painter around the mast and using it allows you to get far out on the centerboard to bring the boat up.
All of this gets harder in wind and waves, of course. As you learned in your Junior training, you can make it easier by pointing the boat into the wind, either by having your crew be a sea anchor or by anchoring. You can drop the main while the boat is capsized. All of this helps. I will just try it and see what happens, anchoring if I miss twice.
Now you're out on the center board, and you want to bring the boat up and get into it as it comes up. The trick is to bring the boat up as slowly as possible, walking in on the center board as you do it, so that when the boat is at the "tipping point", you're right next to it and can throw your leg into the cockpit. Key Point. Don't do a belly flop into the boat. It might work, but it's a bad habit, and it could do serious damage to a fiberglass boat if you have a harness on.
A good way to practice this is in relatively light winds. What you want to do is bring the boat up very slowly. As you're out on the center board, watch the masthead float. As it comes up, try to stop it a foot above the water. Then hold it at two feet. Move in toward the boat as you do this. What you're developing is a sense of how much weight you need where to bring the boat up slowly. It's better to bring it up slowly and to have it go into the water than to bring it up too fast and not be able to get into it as it comes up. Balance it so that when it hits the "tipping point", you're next to the hull, so you can throw your leg over and into the cockpit and pull on the shroud to right the boat.
It all gets harder in wind and waves, but like other skills you can build on your light wind exercises. So go do it.
Thanks to James Clarkson who worked withi me a couple of summers ago on dry capsize in the Quest.
Good post, the goal of every new dinghy sailor: not getting wet during capsizes anymore! Couple things to add:
1) I think the main problem people have is waiting too long to try to get in, and now the boat's up and you're hanging off the side with one leg over. Your notes on doing it slowly are good. I would also add to start climbing in way sooner than you think you're able to. Like you say, as soon as the mast starts to come up, get moving. It's ok to move too soon and have the mast go back down to the water. Try again, you're already positioned for it.
2) When you do successfully get in, get your head DOWN. If the mast is into the wind the main is going to gybe FAST as soon as the boat comes up and the wind catches the sail. If you have crew laying alongside to get scooped in, tell them the same.
Thanks for the comments, Ryan. They make great sense.
I had been puzzling for some time about how to demonstrate capsize recovery to students, and I hadn't found a good solution. On the water, they don't see very much. I have done it off the dock, but usuallly the boat is sidways to them, so they either see you climbing up the hull or righting the boat, but not both, which is key for beginners.
Today I tried a new appraoch, not rocket science I have to say. I tethered the boat to the dock with an extended bow line(how fast can you tie a double sheet bend?), and did the demo there, about 10 yards off the dock. The extended bow line pulled the boat into the wind, so the folks on the dock could see both sides of the boat and both parts of the recovery procedure. I wouldn't recommend doing this in low tide (which I did), as we had to hose off a lot of mud from the sail and the boom, but I think it was a god way to demonstrate. I also wouldn't do it on a busy Saturday, or maybe off the relatively unused third dock.