Recovering from Death roll


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Thread starter #1
I just had another brush with a death roll last weekend - too tired after 3hrs racing and not looking behind me for the gusts! But what advice would others have for trying to get out of this ? I know it needs very quick reactions but I was thinking of going out and deliberately putting the boat in to death roll conditions and trying recovery. I've seen some video clips on-line of someone doing this but was confused as it was also discussing getting on to By-The-Lee sailing.

Rule 1 I'm sure is to throw you're weight to the lee side and the video clips show the guy doing this.
But what should I do with the tiller ? I would have thought trying to bear up, ie to windward woul reduce the wind forces - this would mean taking the tiller with you to the lee side. But this other advice seems to be to "push the tiller downhill" ie bear away and get up to by the lee. I think the reason is that when the boat is already heeled and the rudder at a large angle, this helps to pull the back end down as well as bearing away.
1 - Preventing a death-roll

When going downwind, sit with your knees facing forward, left foot (if on starboard) on the port side of the hiking strap and kinda hanging on it, and then using only, and only, your shoulder and upper body weight to heel the boat to windward. Sit with your but on the edge of the cockpit and remember to face forward!

2 - Recovery

If you capsized to windward when on starboard tack, get on the daggerboard as quick ass possible. You then want to grap your mainsheet and pull the sail unto the other side (port tack) because yuou will not be able to right it otherwise.

3 - Tiller

I dont really know what to do with the tiller to prevent a dr but my coach said that if you put it hard towards you [(starboard) if on starboard tack] and then leap up to the leeward side [(port) if on starboard] then the boat should stay upright and there will be no need for swimming lessons that day.


Steve Cockrill has and article and some video clips on his site
Rooster Sailing
that are worth looking at.
Is that the video you looked at ?

There is another technique that hasn't been mentioned and that is when you are starting to capsize, to actually hike out, throw your upper body out to windward and into the water - this serves to:
1. Unweight the windward side which reduces the tendency to capsize to windward by reducing the heeling moment
2. Act as a pivot point (your upper body dragging in the water) which forces the hull to turn up into the wind.
3. Trims the sail in, again reducing the heeling moment

It does work ('ve done it) however timing is everything and it's takes practice to train your mind and body to do what is normally the exact opposite. The downside to this compared to what Steve shows is that it's a slower recovery method ie, you loose more distance.

Mac, regarding not being able to right the boat until you pull the mainsheet causing the boom to flop in the water - this is more a function of your weight, and wind strength. At 180 lbs in most conditions you can do the "California roll" which is to accept the fact that the boat will capsize again to leeward after righting, right the boat without worrying about the boom position, but hang onto the daggerboard as the boat rights itself and capsizes again - yes go underwater during this process, but when the second capsize occurs, you are already on the board and it's really quick to right the boat from there and hop in
Hmmm..I suppose you're right..I don't way anywhere near 180!! And california rolling, my coach has us try that on days when there is no wind to be found...I'm still working on it.
Originally posted by will162878
The simple answer is:

Have fast reflexes.

As per the Rooster page, moving your weight "uphill" and pushing the tiller "downhill" is the right "reflex". Read that page, practice, read that page, practice...

Laser sailing in a blow is all about developing instincts. The dynamics can change so abuptly that you don't have time to think.
certainly the best solution is prevention however,

There are various positions to sit in to make sure you can move your weight about the boat, one has already been mentioned, however I would say that if your going to death roll, simply moving your weight in isnt going to do loads, as there is a surprising amount of force involved, so...

Usualy the problem is instead sail setting. Ive heard from top instructors (and have followed this advice with success) that having too much cuningham on and too little kicker on produces death rolls, letting the cuningham right off, and adjsting the kicker properly so that the leech is flicking should be relatively stable. Certainly I have had few propblems with death rolls since.

Also, surprisingly, sailing by the lee is meant to be stable, altough I must admit I havnt tried this often in strong winds!

My philosphy is that if your spending all your time trying not to death roll, your not concentrating on sailing fast.

I know this is of no help once your in a death roll, I just wondered if you wanted to know any of this anyway! :p
Thread starter #8
Any point of view is worth hearing Kragen - thanks.

I appreciate hearing the tips on how to avoid the death roll and I assure you I'm following them all. As I said in my first post I think the main reason was I was tired and not looking out behind for the gust that hit me. It was also pretty light wind and I was chasing most of the fleet - I had the cunningham completely off as I always do downwind, but I'd also (for the first time) let the kicker off a lot more than usual - after reading somewhere that this was faster but more unstable.
As always the real answer is practice practice practice ( and keep a look out)
IMHO, Kragen is right. By the lee is, according to the aerodynamics, meant to be stable. Also cunningham tension will certainly cause rolling.

A tight cunningham moves the sail's curve right forward so the sail near the mast is pointing to the windward side of the boat, therefore causing a roll to the windward side.

A loose kicker will also increase the liklihood of rolls as it will allow the leech to twist in front of the mast so gain a windward component in the lift force.

Finally - if you dont capsize every so often downwind, it surely means you're not pushing the boat hard enough!
Asa newby, I haven't yet experienced a death roll (just give it time...) and I'm not exactly sure what one is. I gather from the posts that it is a downwind phenomenon, but I would be grateful if someone could tell me what happens. Is it a sudden thing, or does it gradually get worse to the point where it becomes uncontrollable? Would sailing a few degrees off dead downwind prevent one (like a 'training run')? Is it an uncontrolled gybe? All info gratefully appreciated!
Thread starter #12
.. and in the worst cases, as when a sudden gust comes from behind, YES, it happens VERY quickly. I've had a few where there was no oscillation, just a sudden, immediate dump to windward.:(
I got a chance to work on my death-roll today. Winds were an average of about 17 kn with variations from the low teens to nearly 25. Leaving the upwind launch site I dumped twice while I was getting the boat (and myself) together. The race was a three-times-around windward-leeward, so I had three ca. 1/2 mile downwind legs to play with. There was a substantial gust at least twice during each downwind leg, and a number of smaller ones. I could almost make the right-hand gate on a conventional (i.e. not by the lee) broad reach, so I was in a good position to practice Steve Cockrill's death-roll recovery technique of bearing away into the roll. I was amazed at how well it worked (especially given my relative inexperience with the technique). In fact, one of the biggest problems I had was over-compensating and bouncing the boom into the water! I don't have anywhere near the steering and balance that Steve does (Duh!), but once I got my reflexes dialed-in I was able to sail much more aggressively downwind.

It all came together in the final downwind leg to the finish. I was almost even with a small sport-boat as we started downwind. The only way I could overtake was to get up on a plane (the other boat had more waterline). Luckily, I got just the right mix of gusts and relative lulls that allowed me to plane on a broad-reach over to the right. and then work back to the left sailing by-the-lee and working the waves.

Maybe there's hope for me yet! :D


Geoff Sobering
to help avoid dethrolls you should trim the vang so the leech doesnt have a large hook,
you should also try trimming the sail from the block so when you jump across the boat to prevent
the boat from deathrolling you also trim the sail and that helps prevent the deathrol
When traveling directly downwind, sometimes you may be traveling on a course where the sail can even be considered to be on the wrong side of the boat, if the sail is let out too far, you can reach a situation where the predominant force is rolling the boat to windward, not to leeward (as is usually the case). In these instances, the boat seems to be unnaturaly tippy, what can quite easily happen, in the wrong curcumstances, is the force to windward pushes you over to windward, this is called a death roll. Theyre usualy very very quick, however as youre sailing downwind you can quite easily tell if the boat is unstable and very tippy, and hence probably prone to a death roll. In these situations you can pull the sail in and go onto a training run, however the dilema is that although unstable, this dead run can also be very fast.
also if you sail at angles bu going bu the lee or reaaching you are less likely to roll. think of it like snowboarding. you are more likely to fall when you are going down the mountain so if you go at angles to the waves you will be more stable
the thing is, when youre sailing by the lee, your'e no actually letting your sail out past 90, you do however need to let the kicker off loads.

The rolling is becaue with the sail past 90 degrees, the tipping force acts to windward, not to leeward (the sail is pushed back towards the boat), Its hard to describe, however in short, you only ever let your sail out past 90 in light winds.