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Old 25-09-2008, 20:45   #1
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how common is pitchpoling?

Specifically to the 35-45 foot range catamarans. I have been told the larger ones don't have much of an issue. I am assuming the captain is competent and the boat is one of the production cats (FP, Lagoon, Privelidge, etc.). Is this something that pretty much requires and screw up to have happen or can wave conditions out of your control do it? And more importantly, how often do you hear of it happening?

No flame war, I am not a mono-only guy, just trying to see what others personal experience has taught them concerning this topic. Thanks!

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Old 25-09-2008, 21:11   #2
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Old 25-09-2008, 22:27   #3
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If you don't surf down the front of waves, it's unlikely that you will ever reach speeds that would make a pitchpole happen. You need a lot of energy to get a boat to flip end over end. To get all that energy on board, you need to be moving fast, and then you need to drive the bows under the water. That's not so easy to do in a cruising catamaran. As long as you aren't surfing down the waves, you are fairly safe. For me the rule of thumb is simple: Sail slower than the waves so that they pass under my yacht, and I am usually fine. If I pile on sail and start surfing down the front of waves, then I am setting myself up to where a pitchpole could occur. I consider that to be pilot error on my part.

I have seen pictures of a pitchpole on a yacht in which they were flying a spinnaker out in front of the yacht, and the wind suddenly jumped to over 40 knots. The spinnaker didn't blow out, and it forced the yacht into a pitchpole.

I sail in a conservative manner, and I regard pitchpoles to be pilot error. Although it's exciting to surf down the front of waves at 18 to 20 knots, I don't like putting myself into a situation where a mistake by the helmsman or autopilot could result in a pitchpole.

I read about one backwards pitchpole on a catamaran lying to a parachute sea anchor. In this case, the parachute bridle was attached to cleats on the forward crossbeam. The yacht had a wave strike on the bow, and the impact ripped the crossbeam out of the boat, and pushed the boat backwards. The large sugar scoops on the stern dug into the water, and a backward pitchpole happened. To me, this was also pilot error. On most catamarans it's unsafe and unwise to lie to a parachute with parachute bridle attached to cleats on the forward crossbeam.
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Old 25-09-2008, 23:02   #4
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Hi Dave, do you think its unsafe to lie to a parachute sea anchor under any circumstances, or just having it attached to cleats on the cross beam? Thanks Glenn
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Old 26-09-2008, 00:53   #5
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I often see the advice not to surf down waves to avoid pitchpoling, but I think the ability to surf down waves saved me...

Sailing alone off Italy in a 30' trimaran, a huge wind came from behind in a matter of minutes. I got the mainsail down, then took off the Autohelm and hand steered with just the working jib up. I was wondering if the wind, having arrived so suddenly would drop away as quickly, so I waited a little while, mulling over getting the storm jib up instead. I was headed directly downwind, and going in the right direction, so I stayed with it.

I don't know what the wind speed got up to, but I know that at anchor in a gale, my wind generator would put out 4 amps. I was getting 4-6 amps ( I'd never seen it above 4 before, and it sounded like a helicopter! ) and I hit 25 knots once, and above 20 knots many times. So a gale plus 25 knots. This was amazing to me, as I had rarely had the boat above hull speed ( it was an old design, too heavy, undercanvassed, and my sails weren't much good ) and had only occassionally hit 14 knots surfing.

However the boat handled perfectly - though of course I had to hand steer. I'm sure one wrong move with the tiller would have been disastrous, but on the other hand, I had never seen such steep waves, and so much surf on the top - I was usually just below the tumbling surf, and very glad that the waves weren't getting a chance to crash over the boat.

The boat never got close to ploughing into the wave in front - if it got too far down a wave front, I'd lose a bit of wind in the trough, the wave behind would catch up again, and the boat would accelerate.

Those conditions lasted for 3 hours. I was glad later, that I never got the storm jib up. I think the speed I gained with the working jib saved me from those waves. I wouldn't have wanted to be going slower.

The wind did switch off as fast as it arrived. I guess I'd sailed into the middle of a low. I ended up becalmed amongst huge waves that were simply going up and down - no forward motion in them. The boat just went up and down with the waves. On the way down, I was almost weightless, and at the bottom of the troughs, it felt as though if I just reached out from the deck, I could touch the water on any side. I slept and 12 hours later, there was still no wind, the waves were just the same, and there was 4 inches of snow on the deck and ice in the rigging ( it was January ). Finally, the wind arrived from the opposite direction, but that's the start of another story.

The point being, in those conditions, I am convinced that surfing down the waves at high speed saved me, and I wouldn't have wanted to be going slower.
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Old 26-09-2008, 13:07   #6
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I imagine the distance, and shape of the wave is what made the difference?
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Old 26-09-2008, 13:44   #7
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I was just 30-40 miles out from Italy, headed for Gibraltar when the wind hit - so there wasn't that much of a fetch, and with the suddenness and strength of the wind, the waves were very steep, but there wasn't any underlying swell. I had hundreds of miles of searoom.

Perhaps if the waves had been coming from more than one direction, it would have been a different story, and wouldn't have been here to tell it.
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Old 26-09-2008, 14:55   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxingout View Post
On most catamarans it's unsafe and unwise to lie to a parachute with parachute bridle attached to cleats on the forward crossbeam.

Hello Dave,

As a newbie, I spend time wondering what techniques to use in extreme weather. I was wondering if it would be most wise to place a parachute along either side of a 40-50 ft CAT. In this way a confused sea that might hit you abeam would not be able to toss you over and the chutes would also hold you down from waves stern and aft... your thoughts?
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Old 26-09-2008, 15:36   #9
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No fair to talk about poor racers. Top right, Silk II. IIRC the article in the magazine says there is a bowman pinned to the deck underwater.

Beken of Cowes - Posters

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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxingout View Post
I have seen pictures of a pitchpole on a yacht in which they were flying a spinnaker out in front of the yacht, and the wind suddenly jumped to over 40 knots. The spinnaker didn't blow out, and it forced the yacht into a pitchpole.
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Old 26-09-2008, 15:36   #10
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Dave (Maxingout) has an article about storm management. STROM MANAGEMENT FOR CRUISERS

I think he was saying it's unsafe to attach the bridle to the forebeam, as it isn't designed to handle those size loads in that direction - it's meant to handle forestay loads. You can tear out the forebeam, as happened in the scenario he mentioned.

He has some solidly engineered bridle attachment points on his bows. It's more usual to use a sea anchor to keepthe boat's bows into the waves - boats are longer than they are wide and much less likely to be turned over taking waves from the bows or stern, than from the beam.

In answer to the original question,pitchpoling happens quite frequently to racing boats, especially smaller ones. It's very rare for cruising boats though, whether monohulled or multi.
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Old 26-09-2008, 16:34   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn C View Post
Hi Dave, do you think its unsafe to lie to a parachute sea anchor under any circumstances, or just having it attached to cleats on the cross beam? Thanks Glenn
How well a parachute sea anchor works on your boat depends on the design of the yacht and the strength of the attachment points for the parachute bridle. A parachute works extremely well on Exit Only, our Privilege 39 catamaran, but on other yachts I can't guarantee that it would do such a good job.

The crossbearms on most production cats aren't designed to handle the loads imposed by a parachute sea anchor bridle. If you use a parachute sea anchor and attach it to a place that isn't designed for those loads, you are courting disaster. You will rip out the crossbeam or rip out the cleats.

Not all cleats are created equal. When I had my Westsail 32 in a tropical storm in Puerto Rico with sixty knot winds, the Westsail pulled every single cleat out of the dock, and they were big cleats with large bolts holding them in place. It was very impressive.

After seeing those four substantial cleats fail in much less than survival conditions, I did not feel comfortable attaching my parachute bridle to either the crossbeam or the cleats on the bow, even though they looked substantial. That's why I created and installed parachute sea anchor chainiplates on my bows that were through bolted to massive backing plates.

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I realize that I did a bit of overkill with the parachute sea anchor chainplates, but I wanted a secure way of attaching the parachute bridle in a manner that was free from chafe, and I wanted to know that the attachment point would never fail in a storm. My chaiplates worked awesome when I deployed my parachute sea anchor in a storm north of New Zealand.
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Old 26-09-2008, 16:55   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capcook View Post
Hello Dave,

As a newbie, I spend time wondering what techniques to use in extreme weather. I was wondering if it would be most wise to place a parachute along either side of a 40-50 ft CAT. In this way a confused sea that might hit you abeam would not be able to toss you over and the chutes would also hold you down from waves stern and aft... your thoughts?
I'm not exactly sure what your question is. It sounds like you are talking about having a parachute set off your port or starboard beam.

If you are talking about setting the parachute off the beam of your cat, I think that would be unwise. You want to present the bow of your catamaran to the seas rather than the beam. Tons of water hitting the side of your catamaran could quickly cause structural damage. I have a friend who took many hits on the beam when lying ahull in a cat, and it knocked the interior lose from it's attachments to the hull. He ended up with a galley that was not attached to the hull.

Confused seas will always be a problem for any yacht, whether they are lying to a parachute, pulling a drogue, heaving to, or running free. That's precisely the reason that you must never let the eye of a storm pass directly over your yacht. If the eye passes over, you will get pounded by seas from every direction. When a storm heads your way, you should do everything possible to sail away on a tack that is 90 degrees to the predicted path of the storm. The farther you are from the center, the less severe the winds, because wind speed drops off rapidly as you get away from the eye. But even more important in terms of comfort and survival, you need to be located on only one side of the storm during its passage so that you get seas that are mainly from one or two quadrants. Then you have fighting chance to survive without damage.

If you lie to a parachute on one side of a storm, you won't have as great of a problem with crossing and confused seas. Your parachute will probably work as advertised and will hold your bows into the predominant wind and sea direction. But if you let the eye of the storm pass directly over you, the parachute will orient you to the wind, but the seas will be coming from many different directions. That's the recipe for chaos and damage to your yacht.

I hope that answers your question.
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Old 27-09-2008, 02:18   #13
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Thanks guys,

that helps a lot, and something I need to be aware of when looking for the next boat. I have just read the latest edition of Adlard Coles Heavy Weather sailing, and it was very interesting about tactics and options, but not to the level of detail you guys get to on actual attachment points. Although I have covered quite a few blue water miles in my mono cruising and racing career, I have never been in any extreme weather, (force 7 or 8 maybe, but no real dangerous seas) maybe I was just lucky, but hearing what people have done in real situations is always valuable.

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Old 27-09-2008, 04:07   #14
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The only time I have nearly pitchpoled was when racing a Norseman 43 in the Capetown to Rio race. In a squall with full sail we got the bows under as far as the maststep and the rudders clean out of the water. A very frightening experience 1000 miles from land and a real shock to us all. Particularly as it wasn't THAT windy and we were (theoretically) a very experienced crew.

A few years earlier I raced with Graham Goff on a 26ft Firebird when we won the UK multihull championships. Many times we had to dump the spinnaker sheet, occasionally the main, when sailing offwind at speeds in the high 20's and in 25 knots of wind. The Firebird we sailed had a 40ft mast and weighed 1500lbs so was quite an extreme boat. Yet I didn't feel as powerless to prevent a capsize as I did that day on the Norseman.

We all felt that the fault lay with the boat. It had extremely fine low freeboard hulls with little reserve buoyancy. A boat to avoid.

You can read more about it on my website

www.sailingcatamarans.com

Of course that isn't to say you cannot pitchpole a catamaran (or maybe not??) Look at this youtube video.

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Old 13-05-2014, 17:49   #15
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Re: how common is pitchpoling?

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Originally Posted by pir8ped View Post
I often see the advice not to surf down waves to avoid pitchpoling, but I think the ability to surf down waves saved me...
And this guy: WILD RIDE - YouTube

I spent a large portion of my early life in the waves surfing. The safest place to be in a breaking wave is in front of it or pushed along by it.

Racing catamarans seem to be another matter. Just a modern cruising catamaran if not overloaded and balanced towards the rear seem to surf rather than pitch pole.

This is really good to read real world experiences. I've said it before but Polynesian ocean going catamaran designs probably were designed to surf not heave to or tow a sea anchor.

Around the World racing has catamarans competing. Do they surf or ? when the seas get angry?
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