Involuntary gybe

Involuntary gybeWhat should be done if, when running dead, and unfortunately "by the lee", the main-boom begins to come in, so that an unexpected gybe occurs?

First put the helm down. If this is done hard and instantly probably the yacht will so change her course that the main-boom will swing back again into its, proper position. Such an unexpected gybe cannot happen in a strong wind and sea if the helmsman has followed our advice and not run too dead before the wind.

We will, however, assume the accident to occur in a light wind or moderate wind with the main-sheet slacked right off and the spinnaker and topsail set. That is when this accident is most likely to occur. We have seen it caused by the wash of a steamer, and in light weather variable puffs occur, and in one of these combined with the roll, in comes the main-boom.

In racing, an involuntary gybe may happen when another astern or on your quarter is taking your wind.

For sailing before the wind the preventer backstay has been set tip
taut from the topmast head to the counter, to prevent the weight of the wind in the topsail pulling the topmast forward and also to prevent the forward strain of the spinnaker pulling the topmast over the bows.

Now for the accident. Unexpectedly in comes the main-boom. The order should be "Meet her hard, down the helm". Here is nothing more to be done.

Two things may now occur; most likely, if the helmsman meets her heavily and quickly, the main-boom will go back all right into its place before it comes amidships. If it does not the boom will come in with a good smash against the preventer backstay.

This may cause an accident, but probably will not, because by the time the boom has come approximately amidships, while the vessel is running, the wind is necessarily split by the sail being amidships, and there is little weight of wind pressing on the mainsail. What will actually happen is that the preventer backstay, which is a very strong wire stay (it is capable of holding up the topmast with the immense weight of wind in the spinnaker), will hold up the main-boom amidships.

The preventer backstay runs to the topmast head, and the topmast stay from the topmast head to the end of the bowsprit. So long as these two are taut we have a very strong triangle. Probably even though the boom strikes the preventer hard, if nothing is cast off nothing will happen. The helm having been shoved hard down the boom will rebound back into its place as the vessel answers her helm.

Some sailors hold that when a vacht gyhes accidentally you should immediately "cast off the preventer." If, however, this stay is let go, when the spinnaker is set, overboard will go the top-mast to a certainty! whilst the boom will come over with a wild crash on to the runner. Thus we consider that in the case of an accidental gybe the policy here outlined merely shoving the helm hard down and keeping the preventer taut is a simpler, safer, and more proper procedure than any other.