How do you flip a Sunfish that has capsized?

Thread starter #1
I was wondering what to do if you flip your sunfish? Like what ropes need to be un done and what to put pressure on?


Upside down?
Staff member
Well, as indicated above, the daggerboard becomes your friend. Make sure it's extended all the way after you hit the water. If not, either pull on the end or push it down from the other end. An elastic tied to the top of the board should have prevented it from coming all the way out.
Climbing on the board is one way of getting the hull back upright. But, depending on your weight, pushing down on to the board may also get the boat back up at least part of the way.
If the boat has turtled, you need to grab the board near the hull and move your hands backwards to get enough leverage to get the boat on its side.
Practice, practice!

Here's a link to an earlier thread:
Some 'Googling' should give you lots more info, including videos.
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Thread starter #4
Thanks for help what do you mean by uncleating? Does that mean unhooking from bridle or something else. I'm new to sailing so don't know the definitions so well.

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Some boats have a swivel cam cleat that the mainsheet (line that controls the sail) runs through. Your boat may not have it. Make sure the line that controls the sail (mainsheet), the part that you hold with your hand, is not hooked to anything. Leave the bridle attached but make sure the other end of the line is not fouled on anything. Two reasons. The sail might go underwater and if it does, that line needs to run free as you pull the boat up or else the sail cups water and it will be hard to right the boat. Then when you get the boat upright you don't want that line cleated or else the boat could sail away.

After a capsize check that the main sheet is clear, then pull the bow of the boat into the wind, then swim around to the daggerboard and push or climb on the board to right the boat. If the bow is into the wind there is less chance of the sail filling with wind.


Well-Known Member
I've sailed catamarans, so I've had plenty of experience with what can go wrong. :confused:

The above has been enough to get me upright again with Sunfish, but would it ever be advisable to release the halyard?


Well-Known Member
Agreed: you'd have to tie a "figure-8" knot at the end of the halyard and mainsheet, but righting the Sunfish would be possible —especially under "impossible" wind conditions. There have been times when returning to upright was difficult and time-consuming to me.


Upside down?
Staff member
Yeah I see what you mean. To answer your question I don't know how you would right in high wind without trouble.
Signal Charlie recommended that you turn the bow of the capsized boat head to wind. That becomes more important in heavy breeze and waves. Other than a wildly flapping sail once the boat is back up, the recovery isn't much more difficult, IMHO.
One "added": When you stand on the dagger board to right the hull, don't put your weight on the tip of the board. Put your foot on the dagger board near the bottom of the boat, grab the side of the boat with your hands and lean back and it should right. If you put all of your weight on the tip of the boat, you risk breaking the dagger board or even damaging the dagger board trunk.

Alan Glos


Well-Known Member
Hobie makes a waterproof bag designed to be slung over one shoulder to increase one's righting-effectiveness if one's weight is insufficient. (Which is not my problem ;) ).

Beginners at capsizing Sunfish (also not my problem—I'm experienced at capsizing ;) ) should consider attaching an empty plastic bottle to the head of the sail.
The other week I was out and a sudden squall popped up. Went from 10-15 to 20-25 with some gusts up to 30. I went over and couldn't right. Well, I righted once and it went right back over (it was the end of a race and I didn't put it into the wind because I thought I could maybe do this quickly and still win). Anyway I spent about 45 minutes in the water with our rescue boat circling until the cops showed up and made me get in with them. My friends towed my boat back in without righting it. My upper spar bent (stuck in the mud, then I would get it unstuck), but we got it straightened. Anyway, the wind and the waves were such that I could not for the life of me right the boat, even with a buddy. I did try to put the nose into the wind, but I still didn't have any luck. I consider myself something of an old hand at capsizing and righting (my first year or two I capsized a lot). Oh well. Your mileage may vary, but I wanted to add my two cents that I find it MUCH harder to right a capsize in high wind. (For reference I'm almost 5'3 and about 120 pounds).


Upside down?
Staff member
Yes, I have been in a similar situation. Once you find out that the upper boom is stuck, the first order of business is to free that spar by pulling or pushing on the hull in the right direction. Depending on the bottom material (mud, sand, etc) and wave conditions, this can be hard.
Being a lightweight doesn't help of course, although it should make you go fast downwind :D
This is something to practice under different conditions. Last week I did a couple of practice rightings, and found the second capsize to take much longer than the first (because the spars/mast had filled with water. In fact, if I had weight much less than my 165#, I doubt I could do it.

This week I am going to put some butyl tape and re-install the caps to help slow it down. (the water, that is).


Well-Known Member
Check the full length of the spars for corrosion that has penetrated each spar—plus check the rivets as a possible point of leaking and seal them. Corrosion can be hidden under the sail clips.

Although 2-liters is more than you need attached to the head of the sail, here's a nifty Canadian-made gadget for attaching (and reattaching) a plastic bottle:

While I only have wooden daggerboards, Alan's quote makes me think about the new plastic boards, and are they subject to breaking? How about the aftermarket plastic boards on eBay?
Could someone explain the bottle to the head of the sail thing as if to a complete idiot, the idiot being me? What does it do exactly? Is that really enough to keep it buoyant enough to not turtle? So I guess about 2 litres is the rough displacement a flooded mast would have? And so turtling might most typically happen when the mast and/or boom flood?

See... idiot. Help me out.