Dartmouth High sailors tackle capsize training

By Douglas McCulloch | Mar 20, 2018
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Dartmouth High students work together to upright a boat during capsize training.

While most Dartmouth High spring sports are holding indoor practices, the sailing team is already out on the water despite temperatures near freezing.

The first day of the spring season for the 24-member sailing team included a swim test on March 19. The next day, teammates boarded their sailboats for the first time, but they didn’t stay dry for long. It was capsize drill day.

“It’s new people’s first time ever being in a boat, so what do I do to them? I dump them in the water on the first day,” said Head Coach Peter van Colen.

Learning proper techniques to intentionally cause and recover from a capsize are valuable skills, which is why he started with it on the second day of the season.

“The importance is in basic safety,” van Colen said. “It also reinforces communication. It builds trust between the two crew.”

In a race setting, in addition to unpredicted events, intentionally capsizing and recovering the sailboat can also be advantageous. It’s faster to execute a capsize instead of manually bailing water out of a flooded sailboat.

With the water temperature at 40 degrees in Padanaram harbor, it was cold for sailors despite gear including drysuits and gloves. Lucy Tibbals, a third-year team member, had to dive into the water during her drill.

“It was really cold,” Tibbals said. “I regret not going on the centerboard.”

Sophomore Jack Sullivan is brand new to the sport, and got his first experience during the drill. Although he didn’t quite know what he was doing, it still went well, he said.

“I’ve never been sailing before,” Sullivan said. “Some of my friends are doing it so I thought it would be fun.”

This season, van Colen has high hopes for the sailing team. There are between 10 and 11 new sailors this year. Most have never been in a sailboat before. Three highly skilled skippers and between four and five backup skippers are returning this year at varying grade levels.

“We have the opportunity do do very well this season,” van Colen said.

A sailing team member is helped back into a sailboat. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Sailors work in the freezing waters of Padanaram harbor. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
(Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Students get their sailboats ready to head into the water. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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