Mainsheet Magazine

The Death Roll  by the Secret Sailor

Some boats/crew have had a difficulty staying upright - So here is my guide to the DEATH ROLL…………………………


Step 1 – Realisation

The exact point at which you need to realise you're completely screwed on a downwind run will vary, and that point comes later with experience.
For some, it's the first moment the boat starts to wobble a bit, while for others its when the last twitch of the tiller was a bit too much or the yank on the mainsheet wasn't quite enough. Either way, knowing your moment - be it early or late - is paramount to both executing and recovering from the death roll.

Step 2 – Execution

The execution of the perfect death roll entails several key points; style, recovery planning and timing/placement.
The easiest – yet most overlooked element of the performing the proper death roll – is timing. The most opportune moments to perform this manoeuvre are directly to leeward of the windward mark and directly to windward of the leeward mark. Performing the perfect death roll at these points is certain to make you the hero of the day. It also serves to encourage others to join in the fun, and few moves are more satisfying than a death roll orgy set off by a textbook death roll.

Here are the possible methods:

Basic Skill Level: Get caught completely by surprise and ride it all the way down without a word, the look on your face will out you as an amateur.

Intermediate Skill Level: Let out a battle cry as you reach your moment and proceed to ride it down (points are deducted if you scream like a little girl).

Advanced Skill Level: Also called the 'spider monkey over the side combined with a swan dive.' This method shows the beginning of recovery planning as you'll now be on the correct side of your newly capsized vessel.

Expert Skill Level: Also known as the 'spider monkey front-flip handspring' and more complex than the 'spider monkey plus swan dive'. As you desperately clamour up to the new high side of your doomed, rolling vessel, you lunge at the Centreboard, hands first, just as the mast hits the water. This method can be risky as when slightly misjudged will result in a Centreboard faceplant or slug-slide down the side.

Professional Skill Level: The Railslide or the `Dunkley' is the pinnacle of death rolling. Initiated as the 'Spider monkey over the side', the death roller then pauses, balancing him/herself on the rail before sliding forward on it all the way to the bow, precisely as the mast hits the water. Bonus points are awarded for a proper rebel yell on your way forward.


Step 3 – Recovery

Your moment has come and gone, and now you've got to sort all the crap out and get going again. If time isn't of the essence, hoist your sorry ass up onto the centreboard, reach in the boat, grabbing the mainsheet and tiller, flip the main down and bob the mast until the mast no longer points into the wind. Wake up the rescue boat crew and call them over. Get into the club before the rest of the fleet.

Now take a moment and enjoy all the applause you're getting if you did it with style and perfect timing and remember to SMILE at the camera!

And yes, your water bottle and hat are now floating away...

Life on the Edge

Mainsheet Magazine is a collection of articles about Hollowell & sailing. Some are new, some saved for posterity from when we had a printed magazine. We are always looking for further contributions! Contact the webmaster.