Join Date: Jun 2009
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Re: How do you feel about catamarans?
I'm sorry this is tardy. I'm in the process of retiring and moving and my world is in as much disarray as the inverted cats :-)
I cannot post copyright material unfortunately but I can provide enough links for you to follow up and read the personal accounts of people inverted in heavy weather. Later I will have my papers unpacked and I have more details.
However hopefully the following accounts will illustrate just how invalid the claims are that sitting on an inverted cat in heavy weather is even tenable as a survival platform.
This is not an exhaustive list. It would pay to talk to the Wolfstan institute in Southhampton UK they are a commercial arm of Southampton University that analyzes such disasters. They have also produced an interesting report ( 1999 ) on the causes of inversion after looking at 67 (Sixty Seven) cruising catamaran inversions of over 33' in length with enough information available to analyze the data. This was to produce a commercial code for sailing cats and the conditions of operation.
Anyway the following accounts are all horrific and my heartfelt condolences go to the poor families who are still devastated by the loss of their loved ones. The dead have no voice, the survivors are often emotionally shattered for a decade or more. And these shattered survivors are people who lost fellow crew not family.
The most recent 2013 that I'm aware of, was a Belize 43 Catamaran in the Med , they pushed on under power in a gale to try and make port, their props were fouled by a floating line, probably lost fishing gear, consequently they lost their propulsion which they needed to make port, they tried sailing, something broke, the sail shredded and they then drifted out to sea under bare poles. At that point they were not in distress. But they were not heard from again.The Cat was inverted and all 5 adults aboard died either unable to make the hull or washed off it. The intact inverted craft was washed ashore a few days later. The French coroners report probably won’t be released until next year.
April 2006 an Outremer 45 Catamaran also in the Med inverted in an estimated 30 knots of wind Off Cape De Creus in Spain. Of the 5 men and 1 woman aboard 4 died and two survived. The cat was broken up by the sea after being washed ashore. The coroners report is available.
I’d expect everyone to be aware of Richard Charrington’s ordeal on an inverted cat in 1995 when 4 of the 5 men aboard died. His story was widely circulated after the 2010 Sunday times biographical. A very graphical horrifying account.
The 43 foot Hugo Myers design Queequeg 2 was inverted in heavy seas 180 nautical miles south of Madagascar. Despite activating the EPIRB their location meant rescue was slow to arrive. Two Of the 3 men aboard died.
The Lagoon 38 that inverted in the Atlantic in heavy seas is another example although they triggered an EPIRB and were located one of the 3 men aboard died from exposure before they were rescued. The account is worth reading.
Another example was Catshot the 44 foot cat inverted in heavy seas in the Pacific of the Oregon coast, all 3 men died unable to remain on the upturned cat. The remains of a snapped tether was tied to the upturned hull. That is one of the few cats I’m aware of that inverted while laying to a sea anchor. The skipper was very experienced . Only two months before Catshot’s crew were killed another delivery trip gone wrong had killed, Steve Hobley in the 38 foot cat in the Atlantic.
The fatalities were due to the sea conditions that inverted the catamarans making them completely untenable as survival platforms. You will only be likely to survive if you can get inside the hull in a safe dry space while awaiting rescue.
If you sail offshore and get inverted by heavy weather, and there is no ship close by, or you your EPIRB isn't activated or doesn't work, then you can expect a high mortality rate unless the catamaran is specifically designed for inverted survival. Since that adds cost it's only going to occur if it's legislated. Note that an escape hatch is not designing for inverted survival it's to get out without having to dive.
I think we are also entering a phase of very dangerous designs both performance oriented and at the other end of the spectrum massive RV's with high centers of gravity sliding glass door and excessive windage.
It's important to cut through the hype of invulnerability and even equivalence to monohulls and instill some very conservative prudence even fear in cat operators. Otherwise the death rates will continue to climb.
Most importantly cat operators should deploy sea anchors early, shouldn't run with drogues if the forecast is bad and a sea anchor is likely. Several cats have capsized running towing drogues and have also had rudders fouled by drogue lines .
Thanks for the stats and your right, sometimes luck isn't on your side.
What about tethering a liferaft of the inverted multi. That way there is at least a good visual for the rescue team.
And how do you think this would compare to mono sinkings? Just recently I've heard of at least three monos with crew that were lost at sea. Not trying to be argumentative but I don't think there is a perfect boat.