I'm a new sailor, and have had trouble after capsizing my laser. should I be holding onto the main sheet line so that the boat can't sail away on its own?? Or dropping it so that the sail can luff ? My instinct is to hold onto it.
Well welcome to sailing! If you could fill in a bit more, we can probably offer more helpful advice. Like do you mean ...
1. As the boat is going over, and you're going into the water? ... ease the sheet as fast as you can. Try to let it run thru your hand without actually dropping it out of your hand. You may be able to prevent the impending capsize.
2. After the boat goes over, but before you right it? No need to hold on to the sheet- the boat will go nowhere on it's side with the mast in the water. Either climb over the rail + stand on the daggerboard; or if you fell into the water between the deck + the boom, swim around to the bottom side of the boat, get a hold of the daggerboard and pull it down, get your foot on it + your hands on the rail, and push the board down+pull the rail down, while climbing up+on top of the boat. No need to hold the sheet while you're pulling the boat up + climbing back in.
3. As you right it, and you're clinbing back in? First thing to go for as you get back on the boat, is get a hold of the tiller, to re-establish steering control, trying to avoid a couple things:
a) prevent the boat from heading directly into the wind, called being "in irons",
b) prevent it from swinging its bow THRU the wind, leaving you climbing up on the side that is now the leeward side,
c) prevent it from bearing away from the wind so far that it capsizes again
Hoping this helps answer your question but if not please try to explain a bit more about what stage specifically you're thinking about.
Thank you! So what I'm understanding is that I should hold on to main sheet until I'm in the water. Once the capsize has happened, and I'm working on righting the boat, then it's ok to drop it so that when I do right the boat the sail will luff. I didn't think of loosening the vane, but I guess that would allow the sail to move freely to dump the water as it is being righted. I was concerned that once the boat was up, but I was not yet in it, that it might get away from me. Is that ever a problem?
I think the only situation in which you want or need to hang on to the sheet is a downwind capsize or deathroll - you can end up a short distance from the boat when this happens. When you're sailing on a reach or upwind, a capsize is much less chaotic + you'll end up in the water within arms-length of the capsized boat. If you went into the water between the boom + the leeward deck, swim around to the back/bottom side + grab the daggerboard. No need to keep hold of the sheet at all in this situation. Get a hand on the daggerboard, + often it's helpful for me to put my toes on the rail that's in the water. Then grab the upper rail when you can reach it, and keep "climbing" + righting the boat ... they both happen at the same time.
Sometimes the capsize is slow + controlled enuf, that I can swing a leg over the windward rail + put that foot right onto the daggerboard, and bring the boat back up that way, usually with my upper body staying pretty much on deck+ in the boat. In this case I can often keep a hold on both the sheet + the tiller.
I've never had that problem. As I'm "climbing" + the boat comes upright, I almost always end up laying with my chest on the side deck of the boat, arms holding that handrail in the cockpit, and legs still in the water. In that position the boat can't/won't get away from you. But depending on the angle of the boat+sail to the wind, it might start heading up, tack thru the wind, or start capsizing again (either away from you-the same way it went the first time, or towards you). So the first thing I do is catch a hold of the tiller, to be able to steer a little, and prevent the boat getting on a bad heading, as I climb the rest of the way in.