Sailed on the Concordia last year for 5 months, criss-crossed the Atlantic and went in and out of the Med. I knew her pretty well. Bill, the captain
when she sank, was our first mate for the majority of the voyage.
First off, let me say that Bill is a sailor in every sense of the word. Loves the sea, loves the theory, loves the practice. He's a ranch man on land. Very nice guy as well. Got us to do a lot of Coast Guard practices that we weren't before he came aboard, such as tying stopper knots as opposed to having a ton of people just hold the line, whilst we were making fast. Rest assured that anything that happened was in no part due to incompetence on his part.
You're right, the Concordia did have steel
spars all round. Rear mast
also functioned as an exhaust
(Was very hot to the touch sometimes when I had to climb it to grease the track!). It's entirely possible the water
flooded through there, and straight into the engine
room down below, as all of the masts were in the water
There are two superstructures on the Concordia - the forward one is a galley
(also used as a classroom), and the rear is specifically a classroom. Both have lots of portholes, in the style that the glass is embedded into the steel
frame which pivots. No storm covers on those. If it's hot at all, which it probably was that far down, usually some are open to keep a breeze.
Down below in the cabins there are portholes with storm covers. People closed them when they were napping - I bet most of them were open during the day. The force of the ships hull
smashing into the water could have been enough to break a few, although (I slept right by one), they were thick and sturdy so I'm not entirely sure that's what sank her.
What will be interesting to find out is whether the fore and aft sails
were up. If they were, that is a huge weight to pull out of the water (The Concordia had 10,000 sq ft of sail total), and I have no doubts it couldn't have righted itself. If they weren't, that leaves the jibs and the squares on the foremast, both of which would have functioned similarly (especially the jibs, of which a few were almost always up for air dynamics purposes).
The Concordia rounded cape horn in, I think, 04-05. I've been told stories that the yards on the foremast were dipping into the water. We took her pretty far over ourselves a couple times, but never close to that. What I'm trying to say is that she is soundly designed to handle a lot, and it would have indeed taken something extraordinary to capsize
her. I've read in other places that microbursts are just used as an excuse in tall ship capsizes, and I'm sure that, in the Concordia's situation at least, it was not an excuse.