Heavy weather design a crapshoot??

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by hiracer, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    With regard to the continuing debate here and elsewhere on modern lightweight boats versus more traditional heavy displacement, I note the following:

    The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race Review Committee report, summarized by Peter Bush, committee chair, reported the following as one of the significant findings: "There is no evidence that any particular style or design of boat fared better or worse in the conditions. The age of yacht, age of design, construction method, construction material, high or low stability, heavy or light displacement, or rig type were not determining factors. Whether or not a yacht was hit by an extreme wave was a matter of chance." (Ref: Rob Mundle in Fatal Storm, Publisher's Afterward p 249. International Marine/McGraw-Hill Camden, Maine.)

    I see the experiences in the Sydney-to-Hobart race cited in favor of one design philosophy or another. Yet the "official" report according to Mr. Bush favors no particular design philosophy.

    Obviousy, construction quality matters. And I presume poor design quality (lack of stability, easy pitching, etc.) cannot be ignored. But beyond a certain quality level, it seems to me that survivability of these gigantic storms is a product of luck and crew ability, not design philosophy. Luck seems to be as big a factor as any.

    I'm reminded of the photos in Dashew's tome of where the Coast Guard took pictures of a large wave knocking over a Morgan OutIsland 41. Did not seem to me that design or crew ability or anything else had much to do with it. Wrong place, wrong time--pure and simple.

    Design is important in terms of speed, comfort, habitability, etc. But surviving storms seems to be the least important objective for design because there isn't much evidence that design matters. But you would never have guessed that by some of the comments here.

    Agree? Disagree?
     
  2. SheetWise
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    SheetWise All Beach -- No Water.

    I assume when you say "surviving storms" you mean staying afloat and living.

    Being knocked over is not sinking -- I think any boat can be knocked over. There has to be a structural or design failure that allows water to enter the hull before it sinks. Of course design and engineering matter.
     
  3. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    With minimal design competence, meaning that the boat: is adequately strong, has an adequate range of stability, and is correctly laid out for its type, and, most of all, handled by a crew that thoroughly understands its likely behavior in all conditions, I must say I have to agree.

    As you see, there is almost a paragraph of stipulations here. In the real world, I would bet that at least one or two of them would be missing on a significant portion of any racing fleet.

    That being said, as a 'hobby designer' I am hard put to design a craft that can stand fifty foot high breakers and yet have any kind of useful sailing rig.

    If I ever venture out on the ocean in a boat of my own, I will always try to remember That no matter what I do, the sea is more than capable of destroying me. But with good understanding of my vessel and judicial timing, I hope I can expect that likely hood of that happening to be that of winning a super lottery.

    Deliberately confronting disasterous conditions lowers the odds of ovoiding such an occurrence tremendously.

    As with the 'Hobart race disaster' as well as the infamous 'Fastnet Disaster' more than twenty years before, it appears that the very bad conditions sprung upon the fleet with little or no warning.

    As every sailor knows; such things happen.

    Bob
     
  4. FAST FRED
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    "That being said, as a 'hobby designer' I am hard put to design a craft that can stand fifty foot high breakers and yet have any kind of useful sailing rig."

    The problem is direction, a 50 ft wave can be survived by many cruising boats , if they have taken the proper precautions, for their style vessel.

    Sea anchors , towing warps , oil , et all.

    The "racers" are attempting to best the situation , not merly survive.

    The racers know the helicoptor will be out for them, as needed ,
    the cruisers don't have that assurance, and sail more prudently.

    FAST FRED
     
  5. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    FF:

    I think much of what you say is true. But I didn't mean a fifty foot wave. I meant a fifty foot 'water jet' from a much larger wave.

    I have just recently learned of so called 'rogue waves'. These waves are several times higher than surounding waves and are so high that they are unstable. They break almost as soon as they are formed and have such limited life spans that one could strike a vessel and another vessel less than a mile away would not even know of its existence.

    Such a wave is suspect in the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald, a large ore carrier that sailed on the Great Lakes. It was sailing through a very big storm and suddenly sank. Another ship of the same type was a few miles behind her. That ship survived. The wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald was found with its bow rightside up. The bulworks and railings were severely bent and twisted like they had been hit by a giant sledge hammer.

    I don't know if the surviving ship had similer dammage and I would love to find out. If it didn't, then I think I would be safe to assume that the Edmond Fitzgerald was struck by a 'rogue wave' and that her skipper and crew were completely blameless in her demise. The other ship, by the way, was headed in the same direction.

    It is only within the last twenty some years that rogue waves were even acknowledged by shipping officaldom (long after the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald). Up until then, they were considered legends made up during rounds of intense libation by captains and crews.

    That all changed when an officer on the bridge of a large oil tanker managed to snap a picture of one just before it hit his ship. Using reference points on the ship, they were able to determin its height. It was almost 100 ft high.

    Bob
     
  6. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    I have spoken with men working the container ships between the west coast and Alaska. They told me about waves that swept two or three layers of containers off the deck of the ship. I forget how high the deck is on those ships but it's pretty high. None of them thought they were going to make it home.

    Rogue waves have also be correlated to sea mounts.

    But rogue waves are, by definition, a rogue event. Storms happen with much greater frequency. What interests me is that no particular design approach seems to present less or more survivability when one stops listening to the rhetoric and starts looking at the facts. Survivability comes from construction quality, crew ability, and mainly luck, as best as I can tell.
     
  7. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    I wouldn't say that. Probably it's all the way round. Boats are always designed to safely sail in certain amount of weather (With a competent crew, of course). That's why the RCD has 4 design levels as well as other regulations have theirs, being in them always an oceanic class with the highest requirements. On top of that, oceanic boats are (or should be) designed precisely to survive knock downs. Design has to have intrinsecal properties as to give competent crews a high probability of saving their lifes when that happens. So design is of course important.
     
  8. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    "But surviving storms seems to be the least important objective for design because there isn't much evidence that design matters. But you would never have guessed that by some of the comments here."

    Well if nothing else I would say one design parameter trumps many others:

    SIZE

    Long before the 'survival' storm conditions set in the size of a vessel has much to do with the beating a crew gets as conditions deteriorate. When in the last extremity how exhausted are the crew? Is it the lack of buoyancy forward in a particular design which caused the fatal pitchpole, or an exhausted helmsman who failed to steer out of a fatal situation? Did a tripped deep keel cause the roll, or a exhausted crew beaten into simply laying ahull when some steering could have saved them?

    I never did finish that great Roth article in Cruising world. In the first bit the passive storm strategy is presented, lying ahull, rest, etc. The lead into the second installment describes the time when the freight train sweeps of breaking waves dictate that the crew must steer to survive.
    I have never been there but who doesn't wonder about it? I limit my fears to sea monsters but prepare my small ships so that when the sea has stripped all the heart is still there- she steers, sails and does not leak.

    T
     
  9. usa2
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    usa2 Senior Member

    I dont think its a matter of design. What exactly is one supposed to do about a rogue wave which you might only see once in a lifetime, and when and if you run into one, it is probably at least twice as high as the boat? Any boat should be able to survive a storm, if the crew slows the boat down and they dont get hit by a rogue wave. It is a very tall order to ask for boats designed to survive rogue waves intact. At the very least the rig will be lost, and small boats can be pitchpoled and sunk if the waves are high enough.
     
  10. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    I agree and disagree, as I tried to allude to in one of my earlier posts. Clearly, a certain level of design quality is important. For example, if the boat is not self-righting, that design defect can kill. Same for construction quality.

    But my point is that once one gets to a certain design and construction quality level, at that point the argument whether light displacement or heavy displacement survives storms better is a false argument. Both survive storms, and both don't.

    There are other reasons to favor heavy or light displacement, for sure, but I'm not focusing on them here.

    Yet the survivability of storms is frequently used as the PRIME reason to favor heavy or light displacement. I don't think the facts support the supposition that one design philosophy (heavy versus light, pick your flavor) is favored in storms.
     
  11. JPC
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    JPC Junior Member

    I agree with you, HiRacer - setting aside things like steel drums, I don't think there are designs that are hands-down more storm competent.

    I've been in some heavy weather, but nothing like the sorts of conditions that we're talking about here, so I'm just a hopeful guesser as well.

    Within the reasonable range of likely designs, I think that the crew remains the most significant factor in a vessel's ability to deal with heavy weather. With that in mind, the requirement from the boat is to do what a boat is supposed to do so that the crew can do their job. -sounds sort of obvious, but I think a lot of boats have wandered away from this basic point.

    Would it be fair to re-cast your question as looking for the design characteristics that promote survivability when the crew is passive? That seems to be what a lot of people look for when they're talking about capacity to deal with heavy weather -the ability of the design's capacity as a lifeboat.
     
  12. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Here some interesting Dudley Dix's thoughts:

    "...Back this up with my experience and observation of others from 4 racing crossings of the South Atlantic (3 times in large fully crewed fleets and once double-handed in a small fleet) and I come to the conclusion that there is one major factor which contributes to the ability of the boat to deal with extreme weather. That is the need for an experienced, level-headed and capable skipper, with a thorough knowledge of the abilities and limitations of his own boat. Such a skipper will bring his vessel and crew through almost anything. In contrast, even the most seaworthy of boats may be at risk in moderate weather without a competent skipper....

    ....I believe that the other important requirement is watertightness. In the recent MTN Cape to Rio Race an apparently seaworthy 41-ft monohull was lost. The cause was not established without doubt but is thought to have been through a leak from the anchor locker. That should not have sunk a competently skippered well found boat, yet it did. Those of us who have experienced it know that it can be very difficult to locate a leak, with water running behind hull liners or inside GRP stringers and coming into the boat far from the actual leak. Even if water comes straight into the hull through a puncture or a broken skin fitting, it can be very difficult to find the problem if it is not found quickly, when you can still see the flow direction and follow it back to the source.

    Whatever type of boat you have, know its strengths and limitations, and seal the leaks."
     
  13. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    Yes, a boat that doesn't leak would be nice in a storm. That's the kind of minimum threshold of design and construction quality I was speaking about. Doesn't matter what the boat's relative displacement is, because if your boat leaks you just might have some problems in a storm.

    JPC poses an interesting question of whether relative displacement matters when the crew is disabled and the situation shifts to using the sailboat as a quasi-life boat. I think here the availability of a sea anchor, drogues, and chafe control, etc., become very important, as small boats perform much better with these aids than without from what I've read. I used a sea anchor once in moderate seas just to see what happens, and was favorably impressed. I think these tools again negate the relative displacement argument.

    Bntii makes the valid comment that size matters more than most other factors. Bigger boats require bigger waves for knockdowns. But the counter argument is that a smaller boat may be easier for the crew (H&W) to control. The Pardeys certainly make that argument. It think when using sea anchors and the like, this is true. In any case, size is generally a function of wallet unfortunately, so in many cases (like mine) there are very real limits to using size as a storm defense.
     

  14. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    IMHO its just a whitewash.

    The response to the Fastnet disaster was to commission Marchaj's study. Much of which you can read in "Sea worthiness …" the conclusions still stand and are still ignored by the go-fast racing fraternity (sorry fellas).

    Here we have a committee report that vindicated current racing design philosophy ... what a joke. How can a vessel that foundered with only 110 degrees vanishing stability not have a design philosophy problem ??? mind you 115 isn't much better.

    The best crews in the world couldn't help but founder in some boats out there. Then there’s the engineering nightmares of some racing yachts. But I’ll leave that one.


    A decent design philosophy would see deaths only from isolated drownings after being accidentally swept from the deck, not wholesale loss of crews.
     
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