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First attempt to use the Xenon Trapeze

It was Weds evening and strong winds were forecast. In the event the winds averaged around 12 knots with some strong blasts and very sudden lulls. Not ideal for a first attempt at Trapezing in the Xenon dinghy.

This first occasion to test the trapeze was quite a learning experience. I preferred to have a fairly long trapeze line, just keeping my rear end off the gunwhale.  After hooking on I found pushing out was difficult. There is no obvious foothold to push out from. In the end I found putting my foot on the Jib Car block provided the best (only) useful foothold, so I used that to push out. using my front leg. The next  step was to get the other leg on to the gunwhale edge. Not too difficult. However getting the front foot on to the gunwhale edge to hike fully out proved too difficult for my first attempt.  Shifting my weight rearwards to release my front foot from the Jib car pulley foothold resulted in my being swung forwards around the shroud wires and landing on the bow.   Grandad felt like the fairy on a pantomime wire!  See the video clip below!

Fortunately helm managed to keep the Xenon upright with all this jiggling around and I managed to push off from the bow, still doing the Fairy Act although not very gracefully and a sudden gust heaved me back into the Xenon and I resumed my seat!   I have read of the need to keep the front leg braced against the motion of the boat and now I know why! The trapeze wire fastening at the mast head is well forward of the normal hiking position and has a natural tendency to bring a suspended body (Grandad) forwards. A good leading leg purchase is needed to counteract this.

Apart from my total lack of experience I noted a number of problems.  I was using the Zhik T1 harness. The reason for choosing this harness was that three of us intended using it and its Velcro type fastenings made it infinitely adjustable...... however while it is very comfortable in use it has no quick release hook and no means of fitting one.  At one stage of the above scenario I tried unhooking but simply could not. My weight kept the hook firmly on the Trapeze ring.  Purchasing a Trapeze harness without the quick release hook mechanism was a mistake. I do not recommend this harness due to the difficulty of unhooking in an emergency. In my next purchase of a harness the presence of a quick release hook (and I will want to test how well / easy it operates) will be the first priority.  There have been around 4 fatalities and one near miss involving the use of a trapeze. In every case the disaster was caused by the dinghy turtling and dragging the crew (in one case both) under the water.  A Xenon has never been involved in any similar incidents as far as I can establish. As you may have noted in several parts of this website we have always sailed using a double flotation pack and it is now some years since we actually turtled.  Still on this sombre theme;  the key action when someone becomes entangled is to keep the dinghy on its side. If Helm has managed to get on to the centreboard, which is often the case, helm should stay there!! and not jump off to render assistance to his crew..... with the terrible prospect of the dinghy then turtling.

Back to lighter things; The next problem was slippery boots. I was using light soft neoprene ankle boots. No zip.  I find these very comfortable for summer use. I have used them for several years and the soles have now lost the relatively little grip they had originally. As a consequence my feet could not maintain a purchase on the smooth Xenon gunwhale.  The Xenon is a broad dinghy, supremely comfortable to sail but although I am moderately tall (5' 11") my feet did not stretch to the centreboard casing and neither could I find an intermediate purchase point apart from the Jib car, from which to push out on the trapeze.

Another important point is that you need a good helm to control the Xenon in variable winds. Attempting to Trapeze without good boat control could be nearly as damaging to health as smoking. Note in the following video how helm releases the mainsheets, immediately countering my overboard weight and taking power out of the Xenon, and moved into the boat to keep it balanced - all the right actions.

In conclusion I enjoyed my first real attempt to trapeze and look forward to the next bout of strong winds to experiment further. Sadly  we have had the trapeze fitted for a year and this is our first opportunity to try our luck.  I hope we don't have to wait for a further year for suitable winds in sunny Kent.


If you have trapezed on the Xenon let us know how you did it. Have you found a technique? Add a comment or use the Contact Us facility to explain -I obviously could do with advice!