AskDefine | Define capsize

Dictionary Definition

capsize v : overturn accidentally; "Don't rock the boat or it will capsize!" [syn: turtle, turn turtle]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. To overturn.
  2. To cause (a ship) to overturn.

Related terms


(intransitive) to overturn
  • Dutch: kapseizen
  • French: chavirer
  • German: kentern
  • Spanish: zozobrar
(transitive) to cause to overturn

Extensive Definition

The common definition for capsized refers to when a boat or ship is tipped over until inverted. The act of reversing a capsized vessel is called righting.
If a capsized vessel has sufficient floatation to prevent sinking, it may recover on its own if the stability is such that it is not stable inverted. Vessels of this design are called self-righting.
Small dinghies frequently capsize in the normal course of use and can usually be recovered by the crew. Some types of dingy are occasionally deliberately capsized as it can be the fastest means of draining water from the boat.
In a storm, even large vessels may be rolled by being hit broadside by a large wave or "pitchpoled" stem over waves. This is normally catastrophic for larger ships, and smaller yachts can be lose their mast(s) and rigging (i.e. are dismasted) due to the drag as the boat is forced to roll over.
Among ship types, the RORO is more prone to capsize due to having large open car decks near to the waterline. The doors can leak letting in water, and as the ship rolls, vehicles can break free and slide down adversly altering the centre of gravity and accelerating the roll and possibly turning an otherwise recoverable roll into a capsize.

To Prevent a Capsize and Precautions to Take in a Dingy or Small Yacht

  • Head into the wind.
  • Release the sheets.
  • Be sure the centerboard is lowered all the way.
  • Lower the sails.
  • Secure the boom, haul mainsheet tight, haul jib sheets tight and cleat them.
  • Secure all gear.
  • If in shallow water consider anchoring. Do not attempt to anchor if you can not make the anchor hold.
  • Sit on floorboards.
  • Put on life jackets.
  • Keep an eye on the weather.
  • Locate nearby boats for help if needed.

In Competition

In competitive yacht racing, a capsized boat has certain special rights as it cannot manouvre. A boat is deemed capsized when the mast is touching the water; when it is fully inverted, it is said to have turned turtle or turtled. Good racers can often recover from a capsize with minimal loss of time.
A capsized kayak may be righted with an roll or eskimo rescue.
Motor life boats are designed to be self righting if capsized but most other motorboats are not.


The intermediate sailor is encouraged to capsize their dinghy in a safe location with supervision at least once to become acquainted with their boat's floating properties and the capsize process. The boat should then be righted, bailed out, and the sails reset, so that in the event of an uncontrolled capsize, the boat and its occupants are familiar with the procedure and may self recover.
Most small monohull sailboats can be normally be righted by standing or pulling down on the centerboard or daggerboard to lift the mast clear of the water. Depending on the design of the hull, the boat's righting moment will normally take effect once the mast is around 30 degrees from horizontal and help pull the boat vertical. Righting a Catamaran that is lying on its side involves using a righting line fed over the upper hull. The crew stands on the lower hull and pulls back on the righting line. In dingys such as the Hobie 16 it is imperative that at least one crew member assumes this task as soon as possible as there is a chance that the boat will turtle and then is extremely difficult to recover without assistance. In both cases, having a crew member lift the end of the mast out of the water may help speed the process, as the greatest challenge of righting a capsized boat is shedding the weight of the water from the sails. The bow of the capsized vessel should be pointed towards the wind so as when the sail starts to lift out of the water the wind can catch underneath the sail and help right the boat. Care should be taken not to let the boat swing all the way over and capsize on the other side, frequently with the crew on the bottom.
You must be careful doing this because it is possible for the boat to swing re-capsize to leeward, or with the mast pointing away from the wind. The best procedure for righting a boat can be found by practicing the righting procedure.

Famous capsizes

External links


George, M. B. Basic Sailing. New York: The Hearst Coporation, 1971. 82-89.
capsize in German: Kentern
capsize in French: Chavirage
capsize in Norwegian: Kappseise
capsize in Dutch: Kapseizen
capsize in Russian: Оверкиль
capsize in Swedish: Kapsejsa

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

be lost, careen, come a cropper, culbuter, fall, fall down, fall flat, fall headlong, fall over, fall prostrate, flounder, founder, get a cropper, go down, invert, keel, keel over, list, lurch, overset, overthrow, overturn, pitch, pitchpole, scuttle, sink, somersault, sprawl, spread-eagle, stagger, stumble, subvert, take a fall, take a flop, take a header, take a pratfall, take a spill, tilt, tip over, topple, topple down, topple over, topsy-turvify, topsy-turvy, totter, trip, tumble, turn a somersault, turn over, turn topsy-turvy, turn turtle, turn upside down, upset, upset the boat, upturn
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