Will it Capsize?

Capsize – to turn bottom up, overturn.

Most of the time when sailors discuss capsizing, they are referring to “turning a boat over”, and they are usually talking about a small boat that is ballasted by the crew. For the most part, this terminology means bringing the mast level to the water or even down under water, so the bottom of the boat is exposed – but more importantly, the boat stops and is inoperable in a capsized position.

So – does the term “capsize” apply to an RC sailboat? Not really. The vast majority of model sailboats are ballasted by a keel. If the wind blows hard enough to knock the boat down (sails flat in the water), the boat will still recover on its own and continue to sail because the keel ballast is in position to right the boat as soon as the wind lets up a little. So you will often hear the term “knocked down” rather than capsize.

This is a classic picture of an RC Laser caught in a big puff going downwind. We call this roll to windward a “death roll” because it is a well known predicament on the full sized Laser where the skipper is usually on the opposite side of the boat from the boom, and as you can see, would be “in the water” at this point, and the full sized Laser would most certainly capsize on top of the skipper to make matters ever worse!  But in this picture, the model has a keel that is about to bring this RC Laser back on her feet. So technically the boat does not capsize, but is just knocked-down momentarily.  This is the moment the model skipper mumbles to himself “sure glad I wasn’t on board for that death roll!”  🙂

Since most models are watertight to the point they will not quickly fill with water when knocked down, they are not out of commission.  So the next time some one asks you, “will it capsize”, the answer is really “No”.  But don’t try to explain!