Righting the Tasar after a Capsize

Righting the Tasar After a Capsize

Frank Bethwaite

About 1983 the Australian Navy purchased the first eighty of what are now about 160 Tasars, and I worked with their coaches to develop safety drills specifically for the Tasar. This took the form of sailing in extreme conditions (25 to 30 knots) and deliberately capsizing and recovering to prove what worked, and to learn what didn't work, when the chips were down.

We learned that in strong winds even a strong young man cannot swim an Inverted Tasar head to wind. The windage force is too great, and all the crew does is to exhaust himself or herself. So lesson one is to accept that the boat will lie crosswind, and don't try to do anything about it.

Lesson two was that in winds exceeding about 20 knots even two strong men could not right a Tasar "to windward" ie. with the mast downwind. The windage on the inverted hull and the two crew drove the boat downwind at about ¼ to ½ a knot, and the force of this flow of water onto the sailswas simply too great for the crew to oppose. Conversely, the slightest righting effort the other way, ie. with the mast breaking out to windward, rolled the boat upright very quickly.

Obviously, any boat righted with the mast to windward in strong winds will flip straight over the other way as soon as the wind gets under the sails unless you do something about it. What to do about it is that in extreme conditions one crew mounts the hull and, when ready, pulls the centreboard to leeward. The other goes first to the bow; then as the mast approaches horizontal moves aft under the jib and grasps the shrouds, and hangs on. As the boat rights this crew member is lifted out of the water outside the hull, and this weight prevents the boat from capsizing again.

This crew member then acts as a sea anchor and the boat is stable even in extreme conditions for as long as he/she hangs on. This gives time for the other crew member to board. He/she can ride the centreboard under the hull and emerge to windward, or board over the low gunwale from leeward, or swim around to windward and get in from there. The trap here is that when you are on the leeward side in extreme conditions the drift speed of the boat drags your legs and lower body under the boat. Even young sailors proud of their strength could not get in from the lee side in winds stronger than about 20 kts, so in the interests of avoiding exhaustion we recommended swimming around the transom and mounting from the windward side. The person in the boat cleans up as necessary. When ready, the boat can be rolled to windward to lower the windward gunwale for easy boarding of the second crew member.

My final tip comes from Air Force training with inflatable dinghies. The easiest way to board any raft is to kick your legs horizontal, lunge, and go in head down like a fish. If you try to get in with your spine vertical all that happens is that your legs go under the raft, and you become exhausted.