Kim Miller's Guide To Catamaran Capsizing
I never knew of the rivalry between monohulls and multihulls until I bought my Hobie. My path to enlightenment began while on holidays near somebody else's lake, and I had my Hobie 14t. Want to hear about it?
From Mystery To Training Wheels
Conversation One. (Wallagoot Lake, Jan.1996.)
|Kim||Hey guys, can somebody give me a hand to lift my boat off the trailer?|
|Well, we don't usually like multis around here, but I suppose we can help this once.|
I knew the guy was joking, sort of, but there was something real behind his comment. So what was the big deal?
Conversation Two. (At the Australian Hobie Nationals, Jan.1997)
|Kim||After sailing dinghies for twenty years then buying the Hobie I suddenly had a whole lot more stuff to learn.|
|Hobie Sailor||So how did you get up enough emotional steam to join the opposition and buy a catamaran?|
|Kim||I didn't know there was an opposition until I bought the Hobie. (Refering to Conversation One)|
So, other people had experienced it also.
Conversation Three. (Wallagoot Lake, Jan.1997.)
|Local||So, another person who needs a multihull|
|Kim||You ever sailed a catamaran?|
|Local||I used to, but I gave up my training wheels years ago when I bought a real boat.|
This guy was also being funny, as the joke was aimed at the local sailor with a Hobie 14 in the club race that day. (I smoked him, they're nice to visitors at Wallagoot Lake Sailing Club.)
Suddenly I had the answer. You know why certain monohull sailors don't like multis? Because we've got training wheels on our boats and training wheels stop you from falling over. So the answer is, learn to fall over and prove that catamarans can do it as easily as a Fireball or a Contender or a 505 or a Laser or a 49er or an MX-Ray.
To help you get accepted into the real world of real boats,
A Glossary of Catamaran Capsizing Equipment.
The best thing about the most efficient capsizing equipment is that Hobies already have it. You don't have to buy a thing, just learn to use what you already have. Hey, isn't that just like life?
Let's start with the easiest things first. You never thought of drain plugs as capsize equipment? That's because you don't use them properly. You probably drain the boat after sailing. Bad news.
Get some silastic and fix the plugs so they can't be undone at all. Then when the hull lets in a bit of water it will stay there. As the water level builds up it will begin to slosh around, fore & aft, fore & aft, fore & aft. That is what you need to hear. That sloshing will allow enough instability so that your boat can easily capsize in a gust when on a broad reach or quartering run through anything over a gentle swell.
What do you do in gusty weather with that long rope coming from the back crossmember? I bet you just hold it in your hand with the ratchet block clicked on. No wonder people speak of catamarans as having training wheels. Don't you have a cleat on your main blocks? Well, use it!
Is that wind getting gusty? Is there a nearby 505 still standing upright? A perfect opportunity to strut your stuff. Just cleat that main sheet then hands off. As soon as the next gust hits you'll show that 505 a thing or two about capsizing.
Yeah, yeah, I know, the Hobie 14/16 traveller is archaic, doesn't glide under load, and the bearings break out of the plastic bit. But it can still work for you as an item of capsize equipment. When on a beam reach and the windward hull is just kissing the water look at that traveller. It's closer to the outside edge than to the middle isn't it? I knew it.
When the wind is coming from the side the sail likes to be travelled out. This extra angle increases sail power (boat speed effort) and decreases heeling moment (sideways pushing effort). How do you expect to capsize if you decrease heeling moment? Do you think that Fireball just over there likes this angle of sail? It's a real boat, and is just about to go over. You can beat him to it, just move the traveller to the centre of the boat and maximise that heeling moment.
Have you got a mesh trampoline? Throw it away and buy a solid vinyl one. Then try this. Get in a good wind, say towards 20 mph or above. When you tack sit on the aft corner casting right through the tack. This will allow the wind to catch under the tramp and before you know it the whole thing will be going over backwards.
You'll feel it go, and your natural tendency will be to move forward. But if you want to show how easy it is for a catamaran to forget it has training wheels you must resist the temptation to move from that aft corner.
Here's where we get technical. Do you know what "weather helm" and "lee helm" mean? Weather helm is when the boat tends to steer itself into the wind (to weather) when you let the tiller go. Lee helm is when the boat steers itself off to leeward when you let go.
Most sailors prefer slight weather helm. That way if you fall off the boat it will turn into the wind and stop in irons. With lee helm your boat will sail itself off somewhere, leaving you behind.
Weather helm is also more predictable in gusty wind. A gust will make the boat turn slightly into the wind, raising the bows. Lee helm in a gust means the boat will turn with the wind and nose dive - capsize city.
People who play with their rudder rake generally want the rudders upright or angled slightly forward under the hull. This increases weather helm.
To use your rudders to help you capsize, get those adjusting screws all the way out so the blades point away from the back of the boat. Then the boat will have really heavy unstable lee helm steering and the next gust could have you joining that Laser with its mast lying along the water. A simple adjustment and you have become a real boat.
Now we come to what you've all been waiting for. How can you show a real capsize, a unique catamaran capsize, a specialised Hobie capsize, to those mono sailors? Pitchpole right in front of them, that's how. Only catamarans can do this, so they will get really jealous. Easy to say, but how do you do it?
Just shorten that forestay to keep your mast as upright as possible. You can even point it forward if you want to.
How does that help? Simple. To pitchpole easily you need the centre of effort as far forward as possible. This means that all the forces induced on the boat by the mast/sail are over the thin part of the hulls, especially on a Hobie 14 or 16. What happens when you push a thin edge into the water? It just keeps on going, down, down, down. That can happen to you as soon as the wind comes strongly enough from any quarter greater than 90 degrees to the mast and aft. Imagine racing up to a mark and pitchpoling right in front of the opposition. Wicked!!
How to Bolt on Your Training Wheels
And there you have it. A complete capsizing guide using the equipment you already have on your boat. But wait a minute. What about those who don't want to capsize all the time? That's easy, use the same equipment, but use it wisely. It's just like having training wheels on your boat.
|Drain Plugs||Drain your boat after every sail, don't let water build up inside.|
|Main Sheet||If it is gusty, don't cleat, just run the sheet in your hand with the ratchet turned on.|
|Traveller||If the wind is from the side, travel out.|
|Trampoline||In strong winds tack with your weight forward as you come through the eye of the wind.|
|Rudders||Don't sail with lee helm. Set up your rudder rake for slight weather helm.|
|Mast||The further back your mast is raked, especially on a Hobie 14 or 16, the better balanced your boat will be, and the better it will turn wind into boat speed instead of a pitchpole.|
Kim Miller, sailing, above or beneath the water, at Lake Albert. Wagga Wagga. Australia.