Another take on offshore preventers

I was delighted to see John Rousmaniere’s article in a recent issue about the permanently installed preventer on the boat Capella IX (A new wrinkle in preventers Issue 136, March/April 2004). This is a subject dear to my heart and is important to amateur and professional sailors alike, in as much as accidental gybes have claimed lives in such “offshore” venues as Cowes Week, the Marion-Bermuda Race, Erie Yacht Club Lighthouse Race, and the USCG Academy sailing team’s spring practice. During an accidental gybe on an offshore racer, no helmet is strong enough to protect a sailor’s head or neck from the force created by the mainsheet or boom as it sweeps across the boat. In the USCG Academy incident, the gybe occurred while merely maneuvering in the New London boat basin.

The force that initiates the gybe, however, is much less and, as pointed out to me by Phil Garland of Hall Spars & Rigging in Bristol, R.I., does not require heavy-duty gear to prevent. Garland’s solution (he does not claim authorship of the idea) is rigged on our Morris 46. It is simpler than the one illustrated on Capella IX. Half as much line is needed because the control lines on each side go from the middle of the boom, forward to a block on deck by the lower shrouds, then back to a line stopper by the helmsman (the leeward line is hand-tightened). This system avoids the extra gear on the foredeck required by the preventer on Capella IX, where the preventer lines go from the end of the boom forward to a block at the bow and then back to the cockpit on the other side.

Garland’s preventer is very crew-friendly, as we have learned in a variety of weather conditions encountered in two Newport-Bermuda Races and two trans-Atlantic crossings. We leave it rigged permanently, as on Capella IX, this being the most important feature of such a device.

Edwin G. Fischer, M.D., is the fleet surgeon of the Cruising Club of America and lives in Newport, R.I.

By Ocean Navigator