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post #445 of Old 03-05-2011
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Okay, so back to the JSD. As I said, I've been reading the Hal Roth book mentioned above and it has some very interesting (and complimentary) takes on the JSD.

As for the "you only deploy under bare poles" dictum above, this seems to not be so cut and dried according to the experts. So be careful. For example, Roth cites numerous examples where boats deployed the JSD while running with a headsail to maintain directional stability. One example of this was Egress II, a Discovery 42 that was caught in a 5-day Force 10 storm near Tonga. They kept the headsail up as they deployed, then doused it shortly after. They did fine. Then you also have Jeanne's mention of Tony Gooch who said:

He told me that before he deploys it he could well be running under a headsail (probably staysail) alone.
And, though most of the examples of the JSD usage on the JSD website mention that those boats were, in fact, running under bare poles at deployment, it does not seem to be any kind of "requirement", or even recommendation, in the actual instructions for launch:

Jordan Series Drogue - Launching and Retrieval

One of the design objectives of the drogue is that it may be launched with one hand under storm conditions without leaving the cockpit and that it will not foul even if the boat is rolling or yawing. This capability has convincingly been confirmed as described in Performance at Sea.

To prepare for instant launching, the drogue is faked down with the bridle end at the bottom of the bag and the bridle legs led up the sides and fastened to the attachments at the corners of the transom. The weight (chain) is at the top of the bag.

To launch the drogue, the chain is dropped overboard and the drogue permitted to feed out. Within a few minutes, the drogue will gently take hold with no abrupt deceleration.

Through many launchings the drogue has never fouled. In fact, this launching capability has probably saved the lives of a number of sailors.
So what's the big deal about bare-poles- or sail-up-deployment? According to Roth, it's all about the design of the boat and the timing of the deployment (i.e. - the conditions). His 4 "on-boat" tactics in order are as follows:

1. Reefing sails (Force 6)
2. Heaving-to (Force 7)
3. Lying a-hull (Force 8)
4. Running off (Force 9)

So in his method, bare poles come third. But he cautions that this method can be dangerous depending on the design of the boat, its windage, and the conditions (e.g. - it's easy to get beam-on to the waves). He uses the Banjo disaster as an example of how things can go bad lying a-hull. He also mentions that you can get a great deal of roll, making for a very uncomfortable ride.

Then comes 4 - Running off, at Force 9, which is pre-deployment of the JSD. He talks at length about using the sails (specifically the headsail) to help the boat maintain directional control:

In strong winds, a tiny hanked jib or staysail up forward will help the yacht stay on course. If the boat is still overpowered, try dropping most of the sail and show just the head.
So, it's clear that as conditions build, Roth recommends going from bare poles at Force 8 (to lie a-hull), to showing a bit of headsail to start running as conditions go to Force 9. Then if you have too much speed as conditions build to upper Force 9, lower Force 10 - he says you go to bare poles. It's this middle ground between lying a-hull and running under bare poles that can be the most dangerous in terms of a wave strike....unless you gain the downwind momentum through use of some sail.

Therefore, it all comes down to the timing of when you actually drop the JSD chain over the side. On the one hand, according to the examples, you can deploy it a little earlier (while running with a headsail but before you go to bare poles), or you can deploy it a little later (after you've doused all sail and are running too fast under bare poles). Both have been done successfully as shown in these many examples. Clearly, neither technique is "wrong".

Now let's look at Jeanne's case...

She was basically at Roth's step 2 with conditions building from Force 7 to Force 8. Also, bear in mind that this is the southern ocean off Cape Horn, where seas can be way crazier than localized conditions. The critical issue here, according to Roth, is that, again depending on the boat, you'll not be able to effectively run off under bare poles until the wind has built considerably. And depending on sea conditions, lying a-hull can be one of the most dangerous techniques.

So, Jeanne opts to skip step 3 and prepares to quickly deploy the JSD (i.e. - earlier in the process rather than later). The chain is secure for the existing conditions:

With the boat upright, even well-heeled, I made sure the chain stayed put without a problem.
She's waiting for the right time to move from step 2 to step 4 for deployment when she's struck by a wave and knocked down. The boat is now no longer "upright" - it's mayhem. During the knockdown (which happens while she's hove to) the prepped JSD deploys. Note that from that point on, she has no further knockdowns or serious danger, counter to what has been implied above. Obviously, its quite the opposite.

Not knowing the JSD has deployed, she tries to immediately move to step 4 and head downwind and drop the chain. Yet the mainsail won't fully douse - and as she tries to let out some more headsail to move downwind, the furling line breaks and the sail unfurls and flogs, so she has to douse it.

For a while, the remaining mainsail fights with the JSD which she now notices has already deployed. And though this would have been the point she would have actually dropped the chain over the side as would be the "proper order", she's fine, the boat's fine, it's all good. She sets the AP and goes to sleep.

The point is that it's all a matter of timing and situational judgment in horrific conditions far more than a matter of "strict technique". In fact, she was following the "proper technique" (per Hal Roth) for the existing conditions. And she had all the right equipment prepared and readied. What interfered with all this was a freakin' wave strike off Cape Horn (where "rookies" rarely survive) which resulted in a knockdown - which broke a lot of stuff on the boat (lines, cars, poles, etc.) - and which washed the chain and/or the body of the prepped JSD overboard. That's really the bottom line here IMUSO (in my usually superior opinion).

Jeanne sails very big. Jeanne handled a knockdown off Cape Horn, which even Hal Roth will acknowledge, requires serious seamanship. Jeanne rocks. She has earned respect.

End of story.


One other interesting thing from Roth's book is a pretty cool retrieval idea for the JSD (retrieval being its Achilles' Heel). Check this out...

The question he has is how the windlass would handle the cones. So who knows? But it's the coolest idea I've seen in a while. Anyone want to test it?

In the mean time, you really should read Roth's book.

Last edited by smackdaddy; 03-09-2011 at 11:01 AM.
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