Dave (goboatingnow), I suspect the principle reasons that many more people today are making significant ocean passages/circumnavigations than in the 60's have more to do with the improvements in technology, rather than the inherent seaworthiness of the yachts themselves. Here's my top ten list (in no particular order) for technological advancements that have made voyaging MUCH easier and SAFER than in the 60's:
1. GPS/Chartplotters versus Sextant
: Much less skill is required in order to get much more accurate fixes.
panels/wind generators: Allow sufficient electricity offshore
to not only improve diet and comfort (refrigeration, fans etc.), but also safey (radar, chart plotters, electric
3. Efficient/reliable roller reefing: Dramatically eases sail trim for varying conditions; reduces risk of going on the foredeck to change sails
4. ST winches: Again, eases sail trim.
5. EPIRBS/Satphones: Dramatically increases chances of rescue
if the worst occurs.
6. Watermakers: No need for strict rationing for consumption
, nor to avoid fresh water
7. Better weather
forecasting: And better equipment
for obtaining GRIB files etc. while offshore
8. Electric anchor
windlasses : And the electrical
reserves to use them permit
sailors to use larger and more efficent anchors.
9. Better and more readily available safety equipment
: life rafts, life slings, series drogues, production sea anchors, harnesses with inflatable
life vests, etc., etc.
10. Crusing rallies: safety
One could also speak about the number of available yachts at reasonable prices. Fiberglass
hulls and decks last much longer and cost much less (and require less skill) to maintain than wooden ones. This means that there is a HUGE used market of boats that are large enough to cruise
in comfort and that, due to the increased supply, are cheap
in relative terms.
Can we also say that the design of most modern yachts are also inherently safer? In most cases, no. The report on the Fastnet disaster reviewed stability and noted that beamier yachts that were only then becoming popular, tended to be much less likely to (or at least, much slower to) return upright in the case of a capsize
. The diagrams in the report (as I recall) showed the ideal as a relatively narrow hull
with relatively slack bilges, significant rocker and a full keel
Alfredj has already referred to the MAIB (Marine Accident
Investigation Branch) report into the loss of life on a Beneteau Oceanis
390. This boat, due to increased beam carried well aft, relatively flat underbody and relatively shallow draft
with a wing keel
, mirrors the design of most 'modern' production sailboats - albeit many of the latest boats have exaggerated those traits. Remember, this was a yacht promoted by Beneteau
as part of their 'offshore' series. The report concluded that:
"The stability characteristics of yachts of Ocean Madam's typce mean that once inverted they are likely to remain so until another sea forces the upright again."