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Old 16-12-2006, 00:56   #1
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no right way, right?

Has anyone read "Fastnet Force-Ten" by John Rousmaniere or the story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, "Fatal Storm" by Rob Mundle? These are both great heavy weather tales and more importantly they take an in depth look at heavy weather tactics. What was unique about these two survival situations was that the culmination of everyone's harrowing experience resulted in a pool of data. This data gave us how many ships entered the races, how many were knocked down, capsized, dismasted, and of those vessels which one's used which storm tactics: same storm, relatively same boat size, different outcomes.
To make a long story short all of the data lead to the conclusion that there is no real "right way" to ride out a storm. Generally speaking it is more effective to use active tactics (deploying a drogue, going to bare poles, or reducing canvas and trying to dodge breakers) than to use passive tactics (lying a hull, heaving to, or using a sea anchor). In the end the experience level of the crew was the determining factor which lead to either a boat's survival or demise.
I am curious about people's thoughts on this topic.

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Old 16-12-2006, 02:17   #2
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Have read both boooks and has sons out there on that Hobart race. I'm one who prefers to push on in heavy weather as opposed to heaving to - but every situation has to take account of all circumstances etc and I don't think there is ever one 'single solution' to choose from.
For me the key is doing what you feel is right in the circumstances to the best of your ability - and hopefully gaining some partial experiences in semi heavy stuff before you encounter the really big one.
If you are confident - and what you are doing feels right - then it probably is right - for you.

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Old 16-12-2006, 10:21   #3
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If you are confident - and what you are doing feels right - then it probably is right - for you.
I would have to agree with that statment. It's just too hard say what way is right or wrong because no storm is ever the same and no seaway will ever be the same. Factors differ everywhere from winds, tides and ocean depths which all result in a different wave type and thus resulting in a different way to sail.
Plus there are two big difference that puts these races apart from us cruisers. The crew is in a race mode all the way up untill survival mode and even then, there is always in the back of the mind "we are in a race".
the boats are mostly high speed race boats that make them very difficult to controll because the thing wants to move so fast and it's built so lightly it's like racing an egg shell.
So although those two events give good info and data, some of that data is also misleading for us mere mortals and our cruising boats.

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Old 16-12-2006, 12:00   #4
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Crew size is another HUGE factor. When you read of cruisers in trouble, fatigue is nearly always a factor. Ergo in heavy weather the two man boat has more reason to slow down or stop and rest.
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Old 16-12-2006, 18:10   #5
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"Heavy Weather Sailing" by what's his face does a pretty good job of demonstrating that it depends on the boat, crew, and conditions.

I even have a video here at my home about heavy weather, and it spends the entire time talking about running before, because "yachts today don't have heavy displacements and full keels, so new tactics are needed."

Which is true if you're my neighbor on the Hunter, but our HC weighs in at over 14 tons with a nearly full keel, so if you throw nasty weather at me, I've got a much different boat to work with than a lighter displacement / fin keel boat like a Hunter or Ericson.

A HC will heave to very well, and with a cutter we can roll the yankee and reef the boom mounted staysail, making being on the foredeck much less insane (than being on the bowsprit, as an example).

It also depends on how confused the sea is, your proximity to shipping lanes and land, and if you're maybe trying to get the hell away from a storm that is only going to get worse.

You'd take much different actions in 35 knots of wind if that's as bad as it's going to get, or if it's the far outer edge of a full cyclone that you're trying to run away from.

Boiled down though, I think everyone can agree that for a heavy displacement boat, with a crew who knows how to heave that particular boat to, and can do it well, that is going to fit the bill most of the time that things get quite spooky.
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