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Rig Recovery

Recovering the rig is often perceived as the hardest and most energy sapping aspect of water starting, particularly in the early days when the rig often has to be recovered several times before a successful start. By learning and using a proper technique from the start, so that the wind helps rather than hinders, a large portion of this energy exertion can be avoided.

Despite the multitude of ways in which a rig can fall into the water, there are just two basic techniques you need to master in order to recover the rig - a combination of uphauling and these two techniques will enable you to recover the rig in any situation. The first technique lays the mast across the wind, then uses the wind to clear the sail from the water. The second technique involves lifting the mast from the tip, then progressively working your way down to the boom, lifting the rig as you go. With both techniques, life will be much simpler in the early days if you are wearing a buoyancy aid.

Prior to recovering the rig, make sure the board is upright. It doesn't have to be facing in the right direction at this point but with it upright, as soon as you have freed the sail, you can position the board and go. If the rig is still flying and in your hands but the board has turned over, you can often recover by lifting the mast slightly to lift the board onto its side, then pushing down violently through the mast foot to turn the board over. This sudden jolt combined with a well timed kick on the top of the board will often allow you to flip the board without having to let go of the rig.

The final skill with rig recovery is flipping the rig.

Once you have recovered the rig, you can go back to water starting.

Using the wind to clear the sail

Using the wind to clear the sail involves swimming the mast around till it is at 90o to the wind with your body just upwind of the mast. The mast is then grabbed and violently yanked over your head into the wind. This movement causes air to pass underneath the sail and frees the sail from the water. Once the sail is clear, you can use the rig to position the board as required to start sailing again.


Swim the sail round till the mast is at 90o to the wind, and you are upwind of the mast. In these pictures the wind is blowing from right to left.


Pull the mast up to the surface and take hold of it three or four feet above the boom.


Get ready to launch the mast over your head into wind.


Violently throw the mast into wind, trying to keep the trajectory as horizontal as possible. (If you have a vertical trajectory, the clew will stay in the water and the sail won't come clear.)


With the sail now clear, you can start shuffling your hands back down towards the boom ready to position the board.


To position the board, keep one hand on the mast a couple of feet above the boom, have the second hand on the boom.

This technique will work in all wind strength and can be performed in choppy seas. The larger the sail and the choppier the sea the more aggressive the launch into wind has to be in order to free the clew from the water.

An alternative to this technique for people with a low boom height is to use the back of the board to float the rig. Swim the mast round to the back of the board, then sink the board underneath the boom so that the buoyance in the board helps to free the rig. If you then swim the board and mast so that the mast is at 90o to the wind, you will get the same effect as the steps above. This technique works and certainly saves effort, however it is much slower and doesn't encourage you to learn the more efficient techniques which you will need as your sailing improves. For taller people who's boom does not reach the back of the board, a similiar method can be improvised by using the forearm as an extension to the board. With one arm, hold onto the back foot strap, then slide the mast onto this arm. Again, the buoyance in the board will help clear the rig as it is swum round to 90o from the wind, but not before a considerable amount of strain is placed on the forearm.

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Using the tip of the mast

If the rig has been completely sunk or has landed in a very inconvient position, it is often easier to recover it by using the tip of the mast.


Swim the rig round so that the tip of the mast is pointing into the wind. The wind is blowing from right to left in these photos.


Starting at the very tip of the mast, start lifting the mast out of the water.


As the mast starts to lift, the water progressively drains off the sail.


As the rig unsticks from the water, the wind starts to blow under the sail.


Keep lifting until the rig becomes completely free of the water.


Once the rig is free from the water, start working your way down the mast back to just above the boom, from where you can position the board ready for the waterstart.

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Flipping the rig

With water starting and rig recovery, the most important thing is to get the rig flying first. Once the rig is flying you have complete control over the board, sail and preparing yourself for your next leg. Like recovering the rig in the first place, flipping the rig is best done by using the wind to help you, minimising the amount of effort required by the water starter and preventing a fight with the wind.


To flip the rig, start with the board and rig approximately 45o off the wind. With the tail of the board close to your body so that the board can pivot round a point close to you. In these pictures, the wind is blowing from right to left.


Turn the board away from the wind by pushing down onto the mast foot with the mast hand and pulling up on the boom with the boom hand.


As the mast tip approaches the wind, the sail will start to power up and will want to flip itself. Allow the rig flip to happen by letting go with the boom and and allow the mast to rotate within the mast hand. The rig flip can be helped by moving the mast downwind as it is rotating.


As the rig comes round, swap over the hands so that once again you have one hand on the mast a couple of feet above the boom and the other hand on the boom.


By the time the sail has finished rotating, the board will also be on the new tack. Once again, control the board angle by either pulling or pushing down through the mast to pull the nose of the board into the wind or push the nose away from the wind.

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This page last updated: 13th Aug, 2020.

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