Six things every yachtsman should know.
Theory and practice

Six things every yachtsman should know.

Do not go out on the open sea without knowing what to do in an emergency.
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What to do in a situation of a «man overboard ?» How to sail a yacht in a storm? The experts of the authoritative Sailing magazine give answers to the most important questions, without understanding which it is better not to go out to sea.

How does an inflatable life jacket work?


Most offshore racers prefer to use inflatable life jackets. They work a little differently than traditional, with foam inside.

The vest inflates when the spring in the filling system breaks through the carbon dioxide cylinder. This is due to both the dissolution of the capsule in water and the pressure on it. Specifically, the Spinlock Hammar system will not work until it is at least four inches (10 cm) submerged in water, as may be the case when the vest is exposed to rain droplets or splashes of water. And it will most likely work with a delay if your clotheskeep you afloat. Ideally, the vest inflatation sensors will only activate when the water flows directly into the cap, but during the last VOR they were triggered periodically by accident.

Most vests for offshore racing can be switched to manual mode. To do this, you need to unscrew the automatic flask to leave only the check. The vest that has been switched to manual mode should be marked accordingly, and it will react only when you pull the check with force.

Make sure that the vest fits you well, it also depends on the model. When buying, choose the right size (usually universal), and make sure you adjust the straps when you wear it. The chest strap should be tightened tightly without constraining any movements. Be sure to read the instructions or watch the video on how to put the vest on correctly. It will be tightened differently each time, depending on what clothes are underneath it (this is also worth paying attention to when buying).

Most inflatable vests are equipped with additional means for your safety - trapeze, inguinal straps, spray protection, lights, whistles, canatores. It is important to learn how to place the dodger on the vest correctly. No matter what color the vest is in, its inflatable tank should be a bright signal color with reflective tapes on top.

Once you've adjusted all the straps and inspected the dodger, figure out how the vest inflates, as this is its main function. First, find out where the receipt is: in case the system doesn't work itself, you'll have to activate it manually. Pay attention to the pumping tube on the tank: you need it to pump up the tank if the CO2 cartridge has not fully inflated it, or you can inflate it yourself if the cartridge fails. You can also use this tube to relieve some pressure if the bottle is too pressurised around the neck and makes it difficult to breathe (which is very rare).

The vest should be kept in working condition: dry after each use, before cleaning with a damp cloth from salt and dirt. It requires regular annual checks, and a cylinder of carbon dioxide and the flanks that punctures it, replace it, if the vest was used. How to do this is described by each manufacturer in instructions and/or videos.

If you decide to replace an unused vest inflation system (a new set will cost you approximately $50), use it first. In this way you will kill two birds at once - and practice in case of emergency, and the replacement of the cartridge will turn into an exciting adventure.

How to use a falsifier

The most important thing in the use of a falsefire is to choose the right moment to light it. If you want to increase your chances of being noticed, wait for a passing ship or a passing aircraft.

It is recommended to launch two rockets one at a time. The first one will attract attention, and the second one will indicate where you are. The parachute flare burns for 20-30 seconds, so one of these will be enough to be noticed and determine your location.

When you are able to attract the attention of potential rescuers, continue to give them signals in every possible way. Use flashlights, mirrors, swing your clothes around. Orion recommends that you keep enough signal lights on board to be able to provide 12 minutes of continuous burning. By using falsefires, you will help the rescue team to take a course for you on board.

A few tips to increase the efficiency of the false-fliers:

  • Stay as close to the boat as possible - it is much easier to find a man on a life raft or just in a vest.
  • Check the instructions on how to use the alarm lights before you need them. Otherwise, you risk wasting time and missing out on the opportunity to signal at the right time.
  • Remember that all rescue operations are based on the grid»principle«. That means the plane will fly over the same point several times. If you missed the opportunity to signal for the first time, be patient and wait for the plane to fly again instead of signaling for it to follow.
  • And remember: there aren't many fakes, so always take more than you planned.

Like riffing a grotto.

The grotto must be repaired in advance. It makes sense: when the wind gets stronger, the boat is heeled and the whistling in the ears of the wind is such that you can't hear the other crew members, which doesn't make it any easier.

Start by loosening the boom boom and topenant, then give the grotto halyard and lightly mine the grotto slightly below the level of the reefs you want to take. Then fix the tack angle on the new level, no matter how your boat is set up, and hit the front curtain with the halyard to the required effort. When the foresail is full, tie the aft corner and hit it so that both corners of the sail are in place and the lower curtain wall is full.

Roll up the rest of the sails you riffed and fade through the lovers. Yachts with lycpaz in gyke usually pack the bottom of the sail differently. Sometimes rubber bands are stretched along the boom to keep the mainsail from flying (Lazy Jack).

How to save the man who was overboard

Below is an extract from the manual for saving a man overboard the American Yachting Association.

  • The first to notice that a man has fallen overboard should scream «The man overboard!» and watch his position on the water.
  • It is necessary to throw a special module into the water as soon as possible, if there is one on board, or something floating. This will not only help the person to stay afloat, but will also indicate the place where he fell overboard.
  • If there is someone else on board, he should press the man overboard button «»on the GPS and notify the nearest boats on the radio.

Once all of the above has been done, the helmsman must decide exactly how to turn the yacht, not forgetting the weather conditions and crew capabilities. The maneuver should be arranged so as to be as close to the drop-off as possible. It is also important to understand that it is better to stop the yacht from the windward side: if you miss a little, the wind will blow you away in the right direction. There are several ways to do this:

  • Eight. Fall into the Gulfwind and walk from the man who fell out about three lengths of your hull. Make an overstack turn and go back on full course (this way you will cross the previous course), then, leaving about one length of your hull to the person, make another turn and walk up to him in the cool Gulfwind.
  • The Gulfwind and a full buckstag. If you were walking on a Fordewind or in a full tankstag when the crew member was overboard, these instructions are for you. Follow a few more hull lengths in the backstag, then drive until the sails are full. Make an overstack turn. After the turn, set a course for a point near the fallout.
  • Quick stop. This maneuver means stopping the boat as close as possible to the point overboard. If you're walking in a cool bodewind and hear the Man Overboard screaming«!»you have to bring your nose to the wind without stealing the stack and the yacht will stop instantly. Then spread out the jib and fall off, make a turn and go back to the right place. As you approach, stand in the Gulfwind.
  • Back under the engine. Alternatively, you could start the engine and go back for the fallout. But before starting, make sure that the ends are not thrown overboard so that they are not wound up on the screw, and when approaching, move the engine into neutral gear. Approach as if you were only sailing, in the Gulfwind. Stop the yacht a little beforehand and then engage the gear a little bit to get closer.

Hold the throw to throw the end of the overboard when it is in the throw area, as well as the gangway, trapezium and block system, so you do not have to manually pull it on board. You may have to use a boat or a skiff chair.

As with any rescue procedure, the main thing here is practice. A few training approaches with a vest, faucet or float will give your crew good skills, and when really needed, everyone will know what to do.

If you were overboard.

If you are overboard after all, there are a few important points that need to be completed as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of finding you. First assess the situation: if at the moment of the fall you were tied up with a long safety rope, determine whether someone from the crew on board will be able to get you out quickly, in just a few seconds. Otherwise, you may be dragged under water, and then you'll have to cut a sling.

If you are not tied to the boat, make sure that your vest is inflated, or pull the check. Extra equipment will pull you to the bottom, and if you are not wearing your vest or it does not provide enough buoyancy, try to take off your shoes if it is not too difficult. If you wear a personal locator sensor, turn it on as soon as possible. Make sure it is in working condition before using it.

In the event that several people have fallen overboard, do your best to find each other. This way you will become a more visible point for rescuers and one rescue operation will be enough. Get your hands together, it will also add buoyancy. This is what the crew of the Rambler 100 did when they were overboard due to the loss of the keel during the Rolex Fastnet Race.

When the first moments after the fall passed and you felt relatively safe in the current circumstances, the next step is to attract attention. Use a flashlight, a falsefire, a whistle, just wave your hands. If there is a firefighter, use it when you are sure that someone is looking in your direction.
If you see that in the near future there is nowhere to wait for help, try to stay strong and keep afloat face up.

Many factors affect the success of a rescue operation - your technical readiness for an emergency, your experience... but there is something you can't buy and learn - the ability to stay cool.

This is the most important thing, says Mark Wheeler, who fell overboard in a squall during the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac - 2017. He was racing a Farr 400 Meridian X, the wind was about 19 knots and reached 50 knots on the gusts when Wheeler fell between the lakers in the midst of work. The yacht was two miles away when they could smile the spinnaker and turn back. This situation happened on a rough night, Wheeler was in the water for over 30 minutes and whistled to help the crew on board in their search.

«I whistled as loud»as I could," said Wheeler.

Of course, the whistle on his vest helped Wheeler, but more importantly, he remained calm and collected until they found him.

How to deal with the storm conditions


Whatever your plans, the weather makes its adjustments, and a light passat, sometimes, is replaced by a barrage. And if you can't get away from it or wait, you have to deal with it somehow. You have to drift on one of three tactics: with sails, when the yacht gradually goes forward or falls in the wind, or without them.

Just lie back in drifting with sails more suitable for long keel yachts as well as heavy yachts. To do this, you need to stuff the staysail from the windward side and secure the rudder feather firmly in position so that the yacht does not spin or go forward. There will be a slight slope and the boat will be pulled down slightly in the wind. Ideally she will stand at 45° to the wind, with the mainsail and rudder arm in the correct position. It is not necessary to wait for strong winds, you can try to drift in normal conditions.

Drifting with the sails to make the yacht go a little forward means almost completely rip the mainsail and lie at a course of about 45°-60° to the wind. This tactic is suitable for most types of yachts. Its advantage is that you have control of the direction of the yacht and you are moving forward a little bit, but this is important when the coast is out in the wind. This method is also beneficial for those who are interested in being involved rather than just waiting for the weather to improve. To successfully drift the mainsail harder and arm the smallest storm jib or trisel. But such drift is not for the weak, the yacht and its crew will be beaten by waves. Hull strength is the only limitation for this tactic, offshore strong yachts are the best choice.

And the last thing you want to do is lie down in the drift without sails. It's only done under the most difficult conditions. You lower all the sails, leave the mast and cable, go down to the cabin... Whatever happens next may not be very pleasant. But when you board the waves in the open sea, you risk turning over. So all that's left is to go under the mast.

You can learn more about the intricacies of sailing a boat in stormy conditions by watching the video:


The article was published on May 1, 2018 in Sailing Magazine.

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