Zephyr Capsize Testing

Yesterday’s weather more than obliged for Zephyr’s capsize testing. A passing low front brought rain squalls and plenty of wind. The average wind speed was 14kn with gusts over 20kn. In Zephyr’s short time on the water I don’t think she’s experienced more than 7kn or so.

We thought we were going to have the river to ourselves but as we were launching the sailing club nearby started putting out buoys. A flock of Lasers came out to play with us. We pushed off the dock and hauled the main. Pretty much immediately we realized we were over powered. Way too much cloth up and the sail was set about as baggy as I’ve seen it. Any creases from storage snapped out of it in a few moments. I was on the mainsheet and Derek had the tiller. The gusts were crazy and I was spilling wind right and left. Each time I’d spill Zephyr would pop right up from her heel, then the next gust would catch the sail and press her over just as fast.It was quite the rodeo.

On raising the sail off the dock it was pretty white knuckle with the sail and yard end dipping into the water. Not wanting to repeat this I suggested that we go over to the dock which happened to be pretty much in line with the wind. We missed our first approach and couldn’t tack because of the windage of the hull so we had to execute a quick jibe mere feet before a mudbank. Zephyr pulled right through. I’m still amazed at how easy jibes are. We aimed for the center of the dock and kept up a little more boatspeed to make the landing. The wind was pushing us so much that even with the way we had she wouldn’t round up into the wind. Nose to dock I just powered the sail up and we tucked her along side. Derek stepped onto the dock and wrangled the lines while I lowered the sail a little and tied the jiffies. I don’t have any nettles installed yet so I used the tail of the reefing line as one right in the middle. For the rest of the day the sail gave no indication of needing more nettles.

Reef in we set off. She was a whole new boat! She’d pick up her skirt in a gust but wouldn’t go on beam ends. We tacked around some to get the feel of it and then to not worry the Laser people we cracked off downwind to really put her rail down and put her over. The only way we could get close was for Derek to sit on the low side and really sheet in. Time and time again we put her rail under and had water gushing by right under the coaming. At just this critical juncture the rudder is damn near out of the water so you lose steering and she she turns herself into the wind and just pops up. Brilliantly designed! When you get your SCAMP in the water you have to do this. It is so confidence inspiring.

Over She Goes

It was clear that the only way to put her over was to shift more weight to leeward so while the rail was down I stepped down to the seat and water started coming over the coaming and over we went. Derek was still sitting in the seat floating on his back and I jumped into the water. On thinking of it now, I haven’t swam around and righted a sailboat since I had a Sunfish at age twelve. I didn’t even think about it and swam around the stern (we had the port side in the water). I grabbed the lower skeg and then reached up for the centerboard. All I had to do was hold onto it and Zephyr came right up. To my surprise Derek had climbed back in and was lying in the seat when I did so so he was already in the boat. He tossed me the stirrup and that’s when I got my camera out. We got a good sequence of me coming into the boat with the stirrup. Totally easy by the way.

More details

After the righting we had 30+ gallons of water in the cockpit, mostly aft. Derek sailed us away capably while I opened the seat hatch and got out the pump (one of those tubes with the plunger in the end and a hose that goes over the side). When a gust would hit, we’d get the free surface effect from all that water and when we heeled there was inches of water on top of the leeward seat. I’m happy to report that my Russell Brown seat hatches with the sikaflex bedded gaskets worked flawlessly as did the round Bomar hatches in the sole.

Going back to before we reefed, there was one time when we were on a reach and a big gust came and we buried the bow a bit. Nowhere near putting the deck in but that was definitely an “awareness moment”.

After the capsize I started bailing and then Derek finished it off. About 10 minutes total. I’m all for putting in some sort of venturi bailer. If I was solo, I would have been dead in the water and bailing instead of sailing. Failing those working well to remove the water I’d be installing one of those mounted bilge pumps with the handle (e.g. Whale Gusher). Once we were bailed out I took the helm and Derek went forward to dry off and put a dry top on. With his weight forward under the veranda I had to scoot aft to keep our trim right. I was not quite to the back but maybe a foot from the transom. He said it was nice under there while I focused on watching for gusts and keeping Zephyr relatively flat. Then it was my turn………holy cow. It was so incredibly nice under there. I took off my jacket, PFD, and top and toweled off. Even though the wind and rain were inches away, it was so calm under there. I can really picture some bad condition sailing and having the off watch under there warming up/staying warm. Derek mentioned that the sailing instructors kept watching us as we sailed by. I bet they were saying “Weren’t there TWO guys onboard when she went downstream?”. Anyway, an obvious yet not appreciated until you do it aspect of the veranda is that the dry clothes go in the B3 hatches. That means those items STAY dry when you open the hatch and rummage through the dry bag.

Lessons Learned

– You have to push the boat to the limit to get really comfortable with handling it
– Move the lazyjack line all the way forward to the cabintop to make sure that yard doesn’t get away from you
– Work hard at staying warm and dry. It’s easier to stay warm than to get warm.
– Practice! reefing, putting the rail under, preparing the boat, stowing everything securely, keep yourself fed and watered
– Practice more! Develope a “what if” and “plan b” habit while you are out there.

This sail made the third out of four where someone actually came over and said “Is that a SCAMP?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *