Keeping our pants up, when a new design goes wrong

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by Tcubed, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. Tcubed
    Joined: Sep 2008
    Posts: 435
    Likes: 18, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 318
    Location: French Guyana

    Tcubed Boat Designer

    I'm not sure if this is the right place to post or start this thread. I guess Jeff can always move it if it's in the wrong place.

    As there are a lot of fellow NA and ME and yacht designers here (i'm talking about those with boats that actually get made, not the dreamers - no offence) I think it would be interesting to air some stories , embarassing or otherwise of when the design process goes pear shaped.

    Now we perform all sorts of calculations and sometimes even model tests or prototypes, along with FE and CFD analysis to ensure that the boat does everything according to plan, but the sheer complexity of it all means that there are unfortunately cases of attrition.

    The issue is the following; designer X designs a supa dupah machine and then the boat loses its keel or breaks apart or rolls over and sinks unexpectedly etc. What happens to X? How can X protect himself? What are the repercussions? If it's designed to class, does that absolve in the absolute the designer?

    Example; remember "Playstation" in 1999 (i think) ? Irens designed this to go around the capes. I was looking at this on TV at the time and told my GF «no way will that survive the loop around Antarctica!» In fact i figured they would have problems with the masts. Instead, what happened was one of the bows broke right off during their shake down off of Cornwall. Cornwall can get very rough, but can't hold a candle up to the Horn, where this was meant to go.
    What happened to Irens? Nothing as far as i can tell. He continues to enjoy a reputation as one of the greatest designers on the planet (and deservedly so imho) .

    However, i expect there must be other stories out there of design mistakes which ended up costing the designers reputation, maybe worse.

    Any thoughts? Seems this could be a rich topic.

    PS is N. Irens on this forum? I've never noticed any post that could be from him, but this forum is pretty huge...
     
  2. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
    Posts: 6,317
    Likes: 318, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 300
    Location: Spain

    TANSL Senior Member

    In the process leading up to the sinking of a boat there are at least 4 possible involved: the designer, the builder shipyard, the director of the construction and captain navigating the ship (sometimes the same office may reside in the same person). Why do you think the sinking have to affect the designer?. Each one has a well-defined responsibility.
     
  3. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    The Titanic comes to mind. Who knows if the designer kept his pants up, since he went down with the ship.
     
  4. Tcubed
    Joined: Sep 2008
    Posts: 435
    Likes: 18, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 318
    Location: French Guyana

    Tcubed Boat Designer

    Tansl could you please elaborate more on how you would define the responsibilities of each.
    That is exactly the kind of thing i was hoping we could make explicit here.
     
  5. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    There was a new Coast Guard vessel being tested for self righting capabilities. In calm water they pulled it over on it's side, whereupon a fire extinguisher came loose and broke a window. The cabin flooded and the boat turned upside down. As far as I know, the only failure in the system was the extinguisher coming loose, but it seems a boat relying on windows for flotation is a design issue.
     
  6. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
    Posts: 6,317
    Likes: 318, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 300
    Location: Spain

    TANSL Senior Member

    The government of each country define the responsibilities of each, civil and criminal. The insurance companies redefine responsibilities and accident victims try to responsibilize the one which most money can afford. So I see myself little able to define responsibilities.
    What I mean is that a project well done can be poorly constructed. Perfect planned and perfectly constructed boat, can have an accident because the crew has handled incorrectly. All of the above have worked correctamemte but boat maintenance was not correct. So who is responsible?
     
  7. peter radclyffe
    Joined: Mar 2009
    Posts: 1,416
    Likes: 62, Points: 58, Legacy Rep: 680
    Location: europe

    peter radclyffe Senior Member

    some owners treat the sea as a casino, and pay the designers as gamblers to knock e.g. 40 kilos off to get another 100 th of a knot, as the rewards can be huge, these fair weather race boats are often not designed to last a month or a year or 10 years fatigued in rough weather
     
  8. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
    Posts: 2,306
    Likes: 189, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2281
    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer

    This is why Product Liability and Professional Liability insurance have become big business. For builders today product liability drives the design. Designers need to belong to a professional society to obtain professional liability insurance. Now the first question I get from builders is not about a design, it's about product liability.

    As you get involved in larger projects with bigger bottom lines, the lawsuits become more numerous. 20+ years ago when I was involved with mega-yachts and we had no insurance there was always some threat or other. Usually we were not the prime target of a lawsuit because we (the designer) had little in the way of available assets.

    A keel fell off, masts fell down, a rudder broke, a centerboard disappeared....In one case it cost us tens of thousands to defend our position, in the others it was just peripheral involvement. But it was distracting and hugely time consuming......
     
  9. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
    Posts: 6,317
    Likes: 318, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 300
    Location: Spain

    TANSL Senior Member

    In my opinion, to say such a thing, one should have a very strong evidence. It seems very unfortunate to say something, without evidence, that may disparage owners and designers.
    In any case, all that has nothing to do with the current thread so, I think, it is best to ignore that statement.
     
  10. Tcubed
    Joined: Sep 2008
    Posts: 435
    Likes: 18, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 318
    Location: French Guyana

    Tcubed Boat Designer

    Tad ; It's really tragic when "lawsuit mentality" gets to that point, paralyzing actually. I'm not too sure how one can constructively make a stand against that kind of thing though. I would enjoy reading more on that whole lurid side of things though; at my level it's something i have not yet had to deal with, so am curious as to how it works.

    Tansl; i think what Peter is saying is that in modern yacht racing the FoS get whittled down to the point were of course the attrition rate goes up, i think that is self evident enough that he does not have to back it up with evidence.

    Sam; cool story and a good example of one where it is kind of hard to pin the blame. Not that i'm in favor at all of the blame game, in fact i think it is symptomatic of a society with an immature mindset. Whatever happened to accepting **** sometimes happens and moving on?
    That being said, i do think there are a lot of rather iresponsible designs out there. And yes, a lot of windows never belong on any boat that is meant to be all weather capable.
     
  11. Ilan Voyager
    Joined: May 2004
    Posts: 1,251
    Likes: 170, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 758
    Location: Cancun Mexico

    Ilan Voyager Senior Member

    Playstation/Cheyenne has been designed by Morelli and Melvin. Nigel Irens did not "committed" this design. The big cata got several records and made a circumnavigation in 58 days. I think you are making a confusion with another boat. Maybe are talking of a design by Thomson...

    Mr Irens is not member of this forum and I guess he is far too busy to spend one minute on any forum, with his numerous projects.

    Liability risks depend on the destination of the boat; one off race boats being by nature"experimental" objects pushed to the far edge, breaking is normal. Apart a big mistake like miscalculation of efforts or characterized bad building, nope for liability, at least in Europe.

    I'm a bit surprised about the Coast Guard vessel sunk because of a broken window, because these "military or assimilated" small vessels must have glasses able to resist to a 9.0 mm bullet, and/or 3 to 6 meters column of blue water impact plus several other miseries menacing their integrity. These "glasses" are in triplex or multi-layered composites, and do not shatter. Plus these windows have special supports absorbing most of the impacts. Nope to break it with even a 50 pounds extinguisher and big muscles. If the glass was really just a car "securit" glass on a simple rubber joint, that was a characterized mistake, but I cannot imagine a NA designing this kind of boats making such an error. The issue of windows is known since ages and amply documented.

    Liability with yachts and working boats it's a different matter. With yachts that may be delicate in countries like the USA, where lawyers proliferate like cockroaches in a dirty kitchen, so there will be always a tricky lawyer who'll try something even if it's stupid and absurd, simply because of the US judicial system it will be simpler and maybe cheaper to give up some money.
    Burt Rutan's case is illustrative of the judicial system of liability in USA. Happily in France the article 700 NPC allows the judges to fine heavily the abusive behaviors, plus condemn the "abusor" to pay all the judicial expenses, including the lawyers, experts and other fees of both parties, add also indemnities; the sum can become nicely high. The lawyers in France can only charge fees on the acts done by them and it's strictly forbidden to be paid on the results. Breaking this rule will cost the license of the lawyer. So a liability case in France (and UE) must be solidly based on strong proofs.

    With working boats, as the NA and NE have guidelines; precise norms, classification societies, a big bunch of rules from local to international plus decades of experience, they have little probability to be involved in a liability case. Furthermore they are insured, and they are "covered" by the different inspection organisms, either private and public. Finally the most annoying thing for NA and NE is when the boat does not reach the requisites, mainly speed and consumption or has insoluble problems of vibrations for example.
     
  12. Corley
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 3,770
    Likes: 188, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 826
    Location: Melbourne, Australia

    Corley epoxy coated

    I think that the OP is thinking of Team Phillips which was an Adrian Thompson design, as far as I know Playstations bow never broke off and it wasn't designed by Irens either, Morelli & Melvin designed PlayStation I believe. I'm not sure whether it put a stop to Adrian's design career but he designed some beautiful and fast racing multihulls like the next generation ORMA 60 trimaran "Paragon". Race boats are a different breed and are as light as possible breakage was a pretty common occurrence as they attempted to work out how best to engineer the materials for a design and at the same time keep it light. Even recent racing multihulls and monohulls are not completely immune to structural failures. Think Cheminees Poujolat IMOCA that broke in half and sank and the Multi50 trimaran Prince de Bretagne that had multiple beam to float join failures. It's also worth keeping in mind that designs are often engineered by another company not the designer so that adds an extra layer to the question of liability.
     
  13. michael pierzga
    Joined: Dec 2008
    Posts: 4,862
    Likes: 115, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1180
    Location: spain

    michael pierzga Senior Member

    What has become of Nigel Irens ? All reference to him has been removed from the internet ?

    And the examples given for boat failures are not real world.

    The scantlings of a boat are to overcome known forces. Data for racing yachts is only therotical. To many unknowns.
    If a designer chooses to specify a robust strucure ,as a safety factor , the boat may be non competitive.

    The classic example is the canting keel. Steel or Carbon ? The designers know that carbon is dangerous . The client insists on cabon because its light.

    One of the reasons for the push to one design in the 60 ft ocean racing fleet is to ensure that certain structures of the hull are designed to robust scantlings.
     
  14. rxcomposite
    Joined: Jan 2005
    Posts: 2,178
    Likes: 271, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1110
    Location: Philippines

    rxcomposite Senior Member

    As far as I can remember when I read the article on the playstation breaking in half, the blame game was pointed to the builder. Something about the method of lamination. I read it was put back together, relaminated, but a tad heavier. "A tad heavier"? Maybe they added reinforcement to compensate for un anticipated load they encountered?

    Sure, it designed not to break with anticipated load (derived statistically), but what if that instance, the load encountered was higher than anticipated?
     

  15. michael pierzga
    Joined: Dec 2008
    Posts: 4,862
    Likes: 115, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1180
    Location: spain

    michael pierzga Senior Member

    Loads are unknown...hull slamming.

    On the internet ,...i was not able to find it....is a study performed on one of the french 60 footers . Scientific instruments were fitted to record panel deflection from slamming. The results were far in excess to what was anticipated.

    Ill google a bit more. The study was performed in New Zealand.
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.