I realise the statement about cats flipping is made in jest
- you have to be in some really, really, really serious stuff and be sailing pretty poorly to flip a catamaran. Catamarans do not flip easily ... the scenario of flipping would be more likely when the cat collides with a submerged object at speed in the 'right / wrong' conditions.
A more probable scenario would be dismasting
Most catamarans that flip (without engaging a submerged obstacle) are discovered to have been overpowered in very steep seas. One in South Africa
off the southern tip capsized ... was found floating upside down ... was in winds upward of 60 knots in very steep breaking seas ... was found with the main sail and genoa
fully up / out with no reefs
at all. The young crew member
onboard said they had reached such good speed that the cat literally left the wave face and was airborne ... unfortunately took the wind
poorly and came down on its side burring a hull
over! Fortunately all crew survived!
We have been caught in some pretty rough stuff, and ironically it was not us who were the most nervous in these conditions. Up to the time one gets to a position where it is necessary to deploy a chute (and that's the VERY last thing we would do), we 'SAIL THE BOAT' ... many cruisers we have sailed with in rough conditions pack their sails
away and are pretty surprised when they see us making good speeds with some sail out ... I believe 'speed is a friend' in rough seas ... and in that I am NOT
referring to seas on the bow or forward quarter.
In overwhelming conditions we always put the 'sea state on the stern or aft quarter' and offer some sail to the wind ... we reef the main all the way or pack that one away ... keep the genoa
out but reefed and keep the boat 'light footed'. The trick is to keep pressure off the boat and also prevent aggressive breaking seas from slamming into the hulls. A moving boat is less likely to be 'hammered' by the sea. Deploying a chute exposes the boat to being hammered by breaking waves and really IMHO should be used more when the captain
and crew are exhausted and need some rest.
The REAL danger
in rough conditions is tiredness ... thats when mistakes
happen! We were in a situation where our mates and ourselves once go caught in a 'squash zone' ... hurricane
force winds not in a circulating system ... they were on a mono hull
with no sails
up (bare poling) ... we were on a reefed genoa accelerating away from them. They saw us on the AIS
and called on the vHF
for us not to sail away from them as they were floundering at the mercy of the sea ... their mast
was in the water on a number of occasions ... we told them to get some sail out and 'DRIVE' the boat through / with the system. They were not happy but eventually found a way in those conditions to get some speed whilst we reduced a bit on our side to keep them in AIS
range. I cannot elaborate enough on the usefulness of cruising yachts having AIS Transceivers (send and receive) - its crazy to be without it!
Anyway, I remember our chat at a calm anchorage 2 days later where the couple said they could not believe the difference it made when they followed our advice
to expose sail just enough to put drive on the boat. One needs to get the boat into a position of DRIVE as much as possible and not flounder to the mercy of the sea!
The weather I am most afraid of ... and it happened to us before ... is huge, confused seas white cresting with no wind! It is usually a sign of a gale approaching but that can be quite a frightening experience and in these moments I am praying for the wind to reach us!