the egotistical quest for an expensive thrill

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by deepkeeler, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. Milan
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    Milan Senior Member

    It's actually quite easy to design light boat which could provide ultimate safety. Hull - thick foam with thick structural skins, maybe with kevlar and similar for puncture resistance. Full flotation and narrow hull with deep fin and resulting positive stability to 180 degrees.

    In these days of full TV coverage of ocean races it's getting more difficult to keep insisting that slow, heavy displacement boat is only way to sail safely. Look at those boats in the roaring forties! They just keep racing in conditions which most of us would consider a survival storm. Also, when you see how hard these boats are driven there is little to complain about structural strength, even when something brakes occasionally. If exposed to such stresses, many strongly built traditional boats would suffer structural failures too.

  2. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    True. True. But those boats are basically going down wind. They are designed to go primarilly down wind at great speed (up to 28kts!). As long as they keep moving fast and in the direction of most of the waves, they will be OK. Wouldn't want to be in one of 'em with a lee shore in my path.

    Besides, I think the issue here is not so much that light boats are bad. They clearly are not. There is plenty of evidence based on many passages both famous and not so famous It's that extremely light, go fast at any cost, boats are bad. Particularily low cost production knock outs of such boats. I would feel much safer in a counterfeit escort than I would in a counterfeit porsche. These ultralight speed machines must be carefully engineered to be strong enough and even then they are not neccessarily designed for a long life.

    Basing 'boats for the masses' on these things seems to me to be inviting disaster. They may move from owner to owner, shedding parts along the way, until the last owner finds himself with an unseaworthy, unfixable wreck that still looks like a viable boat. It seems that the boats from earlier eras (pre late IOR) aged more gracefully than newer models. Many of the late fifties to mid sixties boats are still in use and still in good health wheras the late seventies and eighties boats, I've heard from some surveyers, are having trouble.

    When I went to The Landing School, the class took a feild trip to a yard that specialized in building carbon fibre sandwiched hulls. They needed special cradles lest the poppet pads poke through the eggshell like hulls. Ultralight construction is complex and prone to difficult to repair failures. The 'Open 60' class is a prime example of this. When these things get into trouble, they can cause very costly and risky search and rescue efforts. And often by countries , such as Chile, that can least aford them.

    I think the thing to look for is is whether or not it has a good range of stability, rugged but relatively simple construction, and a skipper who knows how to handle her in the worst conditons. Older designs, because of their vast underwater areas, great inertia due to weight, and heavy construction could simply stop sailing and simply take watever punishment the sea could deliver. The crew then could crawl below, batten down the hatch, and wait for conditions to improve. It would face being rolled just as the light boat would, but it would usually recover sooner and roll less often.

    Maybe that was the mistake made during the '79 Fastnet Race. Light boats being handled as if they were heavy boats. With their relatively shallow hulls, wide beams, and very small keel areas, I can imagine they got bounced about quite a bit. I read, in fact, that many were abandoned not because they were sinking, but because their 'furniture' broke away from thier hulls along with knife sharp GRP tabbing. And all of this scooted about inside a wildly girating dark cave of a hull which, even though not sinking, had plenty of water in it.
    Kind of like riding a barrel full of lose axes and kitchen knives down a waterfall.
    It seems that the boats that kept sailing, correct me if I'm wrong, did better.

    One boat, 'Grimalkin' I believe, had two sick crew members left behind by their three more fit mates. They were left to die in the cockpit. One of them did. The other was rescued the next day in a mastless, upright, and still floating boat (somebody please tell me if that boat was later repaired and put back into service). Still in the cockpit. Still in his safety harness. The three crew mates were lost along with their raft.

    I do remember reading about an incident where one 'open 60' skipper went to the aid of another whose mastless, keelless, but happily upright, boat was sinking. He got here just in time. And he had to go upwind in storm conditons (are there any other kind in the 'great southern ocean') to get there. He said he was amazed that his boat held together and that it was like driving a truck with square tires.

    I think your proposed boat would do well safety wise but would not be competetive with her beamier, lighter sisters, speed wise.

    And that's the problem.

  3. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    (EDIT - I checked press reports and Bob's recollections of Grimalkin were better than mine I threw down earlier. Thanks Bob. Here's the story from RORC).

    Re Grimalkin. She was running udner bare poles (ouch) and the skipper was down below on the radio when he was hit by a tin of food. He lapsed in an out of unconsciousness from time to time.

    The boat was then rolled and stayed upsides down for 2-5 minutes. One of the crew cut the skipper's harness but the skipper floated away.The two others trapped under the boat were found unconscious when it righted itself and assumed dead. The three fit mates who left were taken out of the raft by helicopter and survived. The boat apparently rolled later, reviving one of the guys and partly reviving the other. One of the sailors got them both back aboard but the other died later. I think a certain well-known sailing journo, then a teen, was the youngrest man on board - the skipper's son, if I recall correctly (but I may not).

    It's a nasty story, but the official report states that the study showed "little indication of any relationship between ballast ratio or length/displacement ratio and vulnerability to knockdowns" but there were "trends towards, for instance, wide boats being prone to knockdowns past 90 degrees".

    I know a bunch of guys who were in that storm. They all sailed through, rather than just sitting and waiting to get hit like Grimalkin. They all got through with very little damage. But still, make 'em light, tough and skinny (ish) sounds the right way for me.

    Agreed about Open 60s; I've only sailed one once but the designers and sailors seem to say that they are NOT good upwind in nasty stuff and are NOT all that hot structurally when it comes to going upwind. Nor are they much chop when it comes to accidental groundings, or round-the-bouy races if it comes to that.

    If you're talking about my proposed boat, she would (I think) be an IRC killer because IMHO the IRC favours slim boats (see the results of maxi canters, BB10s, Adams 10s, the 1909 Fife Eu Na Mara which won the Australian title, the Folkboat that had repeatedly won the biggest IRC afloat, etc etc) and we all know it favours comparatively stable boats.
  4. SailDesign
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    SailDesign Old Phart! Stay upwind..

    Fortunately, the Open class boats (of any length) were not intended to do many of these things. If the Aground Alone or Vendee Globe courses had moe upwind in them, then the boats would be designed and built to go upwind better - not that they are slouches upwind in the right conditions.
    As far as groundings and around-the-buoys stuff, well, Formula 1 cars make lousy commuters, too :)
  5. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    Yep, we know WHY they weren't "designed to go upwind better", but the fact remains that they weren't, doesn't it?

    The comment about round-the-buoys and grounding was aimed at the fact that some people seem to think that the Open boats are inherently superior for "normal" ocean racing which includes stuff like the typical Fastnet, Hobart, 180 milers, Spi Ouest, Chesapeake Bay High Points etc. Open 60 supporters have spent lots of time talking about the way the Opens can move at top speed through the southern ocean and surely another view can be put forward?

    I'm no expert but guys like Scott Jutson and Andy Dovell seem to know their Open boats and upwind performance. Scott's True Blue was a good upwind boat (doesn't it still hold the 50' AA record?) and Andy's Xena has possibly done more "conventional" ocean raciing with success than the other Open 60. Yet both have said that the Open style is NOT as good around the buoys as "conventional" boats.

    Which is fine, they are specialist boats, but quite often Open supporters seem to translate being better at singlehanding through the Southern Ocean into being a superior OVERALL design concept and (not that I'm an expert) that doesn't seem to apply in reality.
  6. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Quick Quiz:

    Which of these boats has a lighter D/L ratio? The well known "heavy cruiser" Kelly/Peterson 46, or the "lightweight" 1986 Farr One Tonner?

    Attached Files:

  7. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    Hmmmm, looks like a design 185 or 187, they were IIRC about 12,800 lbs IOR Disp. but of course that's less than true disp and it varies from boat to boat and from config to config. Dunno about the Peterson 46 - but isn't the fact that we traditionally calculate DLR from waterline length a bit misleading when we're dealing with boats with substantial overhangs like the Farr?

    Both nice boats. I think they really underline the difficulty of analysing real seaworthiness. The 2 Farrs that sank with loss of life (BP Naiad and the Japanese one in the Kenwood) make them sound bad, but there are literally dozens of these Farr 40 IOR boats running around the oceans and pushing hard, aren't there? I think one year the S-H had 14 of them or so, so the chances of some getting into trouble are statistically much higher than the Peterson 46 (only 3 have ever entered Hobarts IIRC). I use the S/H only as an example, of course.

    And IIRC the Melbourne (Aust) Farr 40 1 ton design 136 "Paladin" finished the Around Alone. She was a fairly standard boat of her day, very competitive (ie one of our reps in the Southern Cross Cup internatjonal series). Singlehanded racing around the world in a 40'er with no problems (IIRC) AND the ability to go upwind seems a good advertisement for a boat.

    It's all so confusing....... :-(
  8. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Heavier means we can build stronger and more rigidly , it means we have more inertia to damp the accelerations of the waves and the boat is therefore more comfortable, We are not so restricted in weight for topsides, decks, superstructure and rig so we can design them far stronger and still have excellent stability while maintaining high strength.

    Heavier means you can stow all the cruising gear and not make the vessel unsafe. It means you can stow all that gear and not make the vessel slow.

    It means you can ground, collide with and be towed off a sandbank or reef without major structural damage.

    For cruisers grounding is an inevitability of life, so are mistakes, you will sooner or later end up running into a rock or colliding with something significant. Too many modern hulls are simply too light to stand the stresses thus imposed and will need significant repair after such an event.
  9. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    A couple of queries, Mike;

    (Oh and to others who object to the length of these posts - 1, you do not have to read them (2) these are not simple issues.)

    About "Why does heavy have to be slow? Speed depends mainly on stability to carry sail, wind strength, sail area, and waterline length these are all far more relevant than Cp, WSA and displacement."

    Can you please provide us with information on fast heavy boats of the style you are advocating? While heavy boats can move well, I would be interested to know of those that have demonstrated racing performance (in terms of elapsed time) that can compare with good lightweights.

    I know many owners of heavier raceboats are VERY vocal that they don't get enough rating reduction for the extra displacement they cart around. An example of the superior speed of light boats could be the old half tonners (just because I have a chart handy). The first Farr was a tiny 27'er. Compared to East Coast 31s, Cavalier 32s etc she was 5' shorter, about 50% less stable, carried 70% of the sail.

    So the Farr had less of the factors you count as speed producing, yet she was clearly faster. Sure, there were some rule trade-offs but the lesson has been repeated time and time again. Rating rules give very generous credits for those who add weight. Going to my handy chart again I see that adding 4" forward depth (about 600 lb to a 7300 lb boat) to an old half tonner gained it 48ft2 of sail - close to 10%. But the boat with the bigger rig was slower.

    Personally I agree that heavy boats can be fairly quick on a racecourse and it's fun to see because they offer choice and diversity. They are also very competitive under IRC - but I can't find any that keep up (on elapsed time) with comparable lightwieghts. One example may be the Swan 45 - sophisticated and well campaigned but, IIRC, similar in speed to the lighter and smaller Farr 40 and not competitive with the IC 45 which is older but lighter.

    Secondly, why are "stresses ....actually lower in a boat with a higher roll inertia."? And don't quite a few designers of various objects, from 747 wings on down, use flex as a way of handling stresses?

    I'm not attacking you, merely asking for more information as this is not an area I'm really familiar with and I would like to learn more.
  10. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Design 185, yes. The displacement number I have is slightly more than you quote, and the IOR DSPL was generally 10% or more less than the true displacement.

    OK, it was a trick question. Of course the Farr boat is lighter. However, drop on the crew weight and the boats become VERY close in D/L. The KP46 being so close to the "full race" boat would surprise most people, especially since it is often compared to "crab crushers" and hailed as one of the great world cruisers.

    You are somewhat correct on the overhang issue. Both boats have substantial bow overhangs. The IOR boat definitely has more useful stern overhang. The point remains, one of the much admired world cruisers from 20+ years ago was really a "light" boat (in the "Racing" scale according to some of the books written around the time). There is no reason that with design and technology advances a boat built today can be lighter still without problems.

    Racing and Cruising are two different things, and people need to keep that in mind in these discussions. You push a race boat much harder than you would your home in similar conditions. Also, not all people on a racecourse are skilled sailors, hence problems like the Fastnet '79.

    I remain in the opinion that ANYONE going offshore should be bonded to cover the cost of their rescue. Why should I, or the residents of Chile or the UK or Aus or NZ have to pay for people who go ill-prepared off on their dream. This includes singlehanded racers (who are actually breaking the law, another subject) and mom-n-pop cruisers.
  11. D'ARTOIS
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    D'ARTOIS Senior Member

    That is, a rock hard conclusion and justified till it's last word!
    We remember Isabelle Autissier clearly, who came into a sort of distress, caused by the ill designed/manufacturing of her boat when she was finally rescued by the brave Aussies who envoyed a frigate to her rescue.
    When the claim came in, a zilth fraction of the real cost - the French party remained silent, never paying their debts.

    Let them die in piece - they are not worth the trouble, it cruel, it's hard, but very soon it is reality.
  12. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    I don't think anyone should be left to die, but they should be responsible for thier actions. The racers get a lot of attention, but there are more rescues of non-racers every year. Some are even in "heavy" boats.
  13. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Be careful about discussing THICK foam cores. Cores can and do shear. The thicker the core the more difficulty it will have in shear resistance.

    I believe end grain Balsa is much better in shear. The naysayers will point to the many poorly built boats with balsa problems, rather than look at the well built balsa boats that have been around for more than 30 years without a soft spot to be seen.
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  14. D'ARTOIS
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    D'ARTOIS Senior Member

    I take my responsibilities. Next to shore, ok, i'll fire a rocket or so. But in distant waters, like Isabelle's 40'th circular, no - I'll take my loss - no way that I will cry for help!

    That's me.
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  15. Vega
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    Vega Senior Member

    I have seen recently a televison documentary about Rescue situations. The subject was the dayly work of a French rescue life-boat and they have filmed a lot of real situations along the French coast. What has impressed me was that in almost all the situations, it was just inexperienced sailors that have just got a little bit of unpleasant weather and panicked. I didn´t see really stormy conditions and I have even see a boats being towed to port. In that one the 50/60 old skipper said that we has alone with his wife, that it was too windy to sail and that the motor of his boat could not go against the wind and the waves (trying to make way to a port), so he sent a mayday.

    Each year there are more calls for help, costs are increasing and I believe that it is inevitably that something changes...and it will not be for better.
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