Trapeze Sailing for Beginners
Every novice dinghy sailor cannot wait for that first opportunity to sail a boat that has a trapeze. Although it may look like it, to the uninitiated, a trapeze on a dinghy is not an apparatus to perform airborne stunts.
A trapeze on a dinghy is a thin wire, attached to the mast, close to the top of the mast, which runs down to deck level, and has a ring on the end of it. The ring is hooked onto a hook on a special belt worn by the sailor, called a trapeze harness. Once hooked into the trapeze harness, the sailor is able to move out of the dinghy, to the extent that only the balls of the sailors’ feet are actually in contact with the boat.
Apart from a trapeze harness, a few other items are needed. It goes without saying that a suitable personal buoyancy device be worn. If there is enough wind to trapeze, there is enough wind to get hurt. You don’t want to get knocked into the water semi unconscious.
Footwear is all important, as this is your point of contact with the boat. Neoprene bootees are excellent, with light-weight rubber soled canvas shoes a close second. When getting into your trapeze harness, make sure it is on securely, and is tight enough. Stand upright. If you can slip your palm in under the hook, but are unable to make a fist, it will be just right.
Before going out onto the water you’ll want to adjust your clip height. Sit on the deck of the dinghy, in the position you would normally, and hook yourself onto the trapeze wire. Let the trapeze take your weight. You will be able to feel the deck under your butt perfectly, but there won’t be any pressure. In other words, if your butt is just touching the deck, you’re good to go.
Once out on the water, on a close-hauled course, you can step out. As with athletics, take off on your best foot. In contrast to athletics, when trapezing, your best foot is always your forward foot.
Slip your butt off the edge of the deck, and swivel your hips slightly, toward the front of the boat. Now draw your forward leg toward your chest, put your heel on the gunwale, and push off backwards. As you’re clearing the gunwale, you will be drawing your back foot under you, and placing it on the deck to help stabilize yourself. As your butt clears the gunwale, your back foot will be edging toward the gunwale, and by the time your butt is 12 inches from the dinghy, both your feet will be against the side of the dinghy. Push against the dinghy so that the balls of your feet are your contact with the boat.
With your feet about 12 inches apart, straighten your legs, not your body. Keep your front leg braced, and use your back leg as shock absorber or stabilizer. Get used to floating in mid-air in a sitting position. Let go of the trapeze ring, you don’t need it.
Now, bend backwards from your waist. It is daunting at first, but you will soon get used to the feeling of flying over the water with the side of your face just inches from the surface of the water. In time you will more than likely do a few head ducks, voluntarily or involuntarily.
If you sail, but have never been out on a trapeze, you’re missing an experience you will cherish forever.