Monday, November 19, 2012

Death Roll Stance

We had nice race wind last weekend with 12-14 knots.  I was driving a RIB safety boat and got to observe the Laser race leaders more closely (when sailing, I usually have a distant view of their sterns).  The Scottish fellow who lead most of the way (but who was overtaken on the last leg by our Kiwi) was impressive with his downwind sailing - working the small waves very adroitly. And at least twice he seemed about to succumb to a death roll but recovered nicely.

After the race we got into a discussion about downwind runs.  He said that for optimal performance you need to keep the boat just on the edge of control - with the vang off and the centerboard up.  With the twist in the sail, gusts will be pushing directly on the top of the mast and accentuating the leverage and setting up a death roll - so you have to be ready to react quickly.

He asked me how I would sit downwind and I showed him - sitting at the front of the cockpit to get the transom out of the water - but mainly sitting on my bum.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said - OK, now if I apply a little force here (pulling me slightly back toward the side of the boat) what happens? Quickly losing my balance backward, it was obvious.  

He showed me his stance for downwind in all but the lightest of breezes.  You basically face almost forward, with a four point stance.  Assuming you are on port tack, your left leg is bent, at the front of the cockpit, with about 3/4 of your weight on your left foot in the front left corner of the cockpit and some weight on your bum which is against and slightly sitting on the left side of the cockpit. Your right knee is behind, against the other side of the cockpit and your right foot is under the toe strap (from right to left) with your right foot touching the left side of the cockpit, ready to push against it.  You are nicely braced and balanced on four points - left foot, left bum, right knee and right foot.  You are ready to shift your weight to either side.

I tried it the next day and it works nicely for me.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. I haven't tried exactly that stance but I think it's certainly true that you do need a significant percent of your weight on your feet rather than your bum so that you can easily shift your weight if you feel a death roll coming on.


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