Welcome to the UKWA Home Page Forums General Capsize and recovery

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    This is a note to all those who have never capsized and recovered their Wayfarer, especially in windy conditions. The message is – do practice in calm conditions and work out how to solve the problems I encountered.  It also includes a question about what next but the following may prompt a few questions of your own.

    A couple of weekends ago we crossed to the Isle of Wight in conditions which, in retrospect, were probably a bit too lively.  During the return we were surfing down the waves, two reefs in, reduced genoa with probably a bit too much centreboard down.  During an interaction with a yacht who did not give way until very late (no criticism because we should always watch the other vessel and plan for her not doing what the ColRegs say) we capsized.

    Wave height was probably about a metre and a half and the wind was in the F4/5 range (yes I know we should not have been out there), thanks to her buoyancy tanks being well-sealed, the inverted hull was riding very high in the water and we found it next to impossible to climb onto the hull to reach the centreboard to right her.  The problem was the height to climb to reach the centreboard and the extreme slipperyness of the hull combined with waves knocking us about making it very difficult to get a grip on anything. Mine is a Mk2 with no real lip between deck and hull moulding to stand on.  The bilge keels do not offer enough of a ledge to let your fingers grip.

    I threw over a genoa sheet as a righting line over to my crewmate and we got her up once but as you might expect in the windy conditions and despite my best efforts she capsized again. My crewmate managed to climb over the transom and wriggled his way to the centreboard but we could net get her beyond the mast parallel with the surface. I had a mast floatation bag but because she was reefed down it was a long way from the top of the mast.

    Eventually a yachtsman standing by called the lifeboat out (my VHF having floated away) and once the Hamble lifeboat arrived we made a further two attempts to get her up, trying the direct approach with boathooks and then towing her inverted to corkscrew her up.  I went back in the water twice to try to use the lifeboat as a tug to pull her up but these were unsuccessful and  eventually we had to abandon her as we were suffering a bit from the cold and were very tired.  The lifeboat crew insisted (correctly) that we were the casualties and needed to get ashore to get dry and to warm up.

    Because she was on the edge of the shipping channel the lifeboat had to tow her to shore, inverted and backwards using the outboard bracket as a purchase. I was on shore getting warm and dry so I was not there to request more care, as they approached the shallows the mast broke and they left her, still inverted on a shingle beach at Calshot RNLI with waves washing over her. We recovered her and took her home but the cost of repairs to the damaged deck and the replacement rig and sails is more than the insurance cover so she will be written off.

    My question is if I were to buy a Mk4, would I have had the same problems? I plan to go out on the Solent again but is the Wayfarer the right boat for me?  The Mk4 has that lip between hull and deck and gives you somewhere to put your feet to improve the righting moment when inverted but does the Mk4 float as high as the Mk 2?  I would definitely invest in a Secumar flotation device at the top of the mast.

    So please, if you have not yet capsized and recovered your Wayfarer, do try it out in calm conditions to make sure you can solve these problems.  If you do go out on the sea do not underestimate how the waves will make life much harder for you.



    Dave Barker

    Mike, this sounds a very unpleasant experience and it’s good to hear that you were/are OK. This is a subject that deserves to be thoroughly discussed, so thank you for describing your experience. There is a written article by John Mellor in the Technical section of this website (you need to be logged-in) with a lot of useful information about capsizing different marks of Wayfarer, but as you point out there is no substitute for personal experience and practice (in controlled conditions).

    For what it’s worth I would recommend a Mk1 (wood or composite, ideally) as a replacement, if you’re up for another Wayfarer, partly for the way that it sits in the water when capsized, but also because it makes an ideal cruising boat – legroom under the thwart for sleeping, short front benches  (storage) and a nice-looking boat.

    Best wishes!


    Good on you for sharing your failings, it should help everybody. When i practised on it’s side recovery (solo) on a lake I was surprised how easily my wooden boat popped up again. When i unintentionally capsized at sea (on It’s side again) with crew on a windy, wavy sea there was quite a bit of weight in the bottom of the buoyancy tanks, my crew was on the low side and as soon as he came high side we righted. I’m gonna find the article Dave mentions & read it but I feel very happy I have a woodie. Btw, the mk4 has superseded woodie as best for racing so woodys are a bit more affordable these days (mine was £2000 all-in in 2016)

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