Ted Brewer's "Comfort Ratio" seems to be a useful indicator of yacht performance in our experience. For more information see (click on) Crunching Numbers.
(I apologize that this is cut and paste from an earlier piece I had written but it applies here.) Its seems that as soon as someone posts a question about stability or the seaworthiness of some particular boat, that a well meaning responder mentions the Capsize Screen Formula and the Motion Comfort Index and sends them to Carl's Sail Calculator. And no sooner than poster questions the seaworthiness of some boat, that someone cites the Capsize Screen Formula and the Motion Comfort Index in that vessel's defense or prosecution. But as I have explained many times in the past, (and I am about to explain yet again) these surrogate formulas tell almost nothing about how the reality of a boat's likelihood of capsize or its motion comfort. In fact they provide so little indication of a boat's behavior that to rely on them in any way borders on the dangerous.
Both of these formulas were developed at a time when boats were a lot more similar to each other than they are today. These formulas have limited utility in comparing boats other than those which are very similar in weight and buoyancy distribution to each other. Neither formula contains almost any of the real factors that control motion comfort, the likelihood of capsize, or seaworthiness. Neither formula contains such factors as the vertical center of gravity or buoyancy, neither contains weight or buoyancy distribution (of the hull both below and above the waterline), the extent to which the beam of the boat is carried fore and aft, and neither contains any data on dampening, all of which really are the major factors that control motion comfort or the likelihood of capsize.
I typically give this example to explain just how useless and dangerously misleading these formulas can be. If we had two boats that were virtually identical except that one had a 1000 pound weight at the top of the mast. (Yes, I know that no one would install a 1000 lb weight at the top of the mast.) The boat with the weight up its mast would appear to be less prone to capsize under the capsize screen formula, and would appear to be more comfortable under the Motion Comfort ratio. Nothing would be further than the truth.
And while this example would clearly appear to be so extreme as to be worthy of dismissal, in reality, if you had two boats, one with a very heavy interior, shoal draft, its beam carried towards the ends of the boat near the deck line, a heavy deck and cabin, perhaps with traditional teak decks and bulwarks, a very heavy rig, heavy deck hardware, a hard bottomed dingy stored on its cabin top, and the resultant comparatively small ballast ratio made up of low density ballast. And if we compare that to a boat that is lighter overall, but it has a deep draft keel, with a higher ballast ratio, the bulk of the ballast carried in a bulb, its maximum beam carried to a single point in the deck so that there was less deck area near the maximum beam, a lighter weight hull, deck and interior as well as a lighter, but taller rig, it would be easy to see that the second boat would potentially have less of a likelihood of being capsized, and it is likely that the second boat would roll and pitch through a smaller angle, and would probably have better dampening and so roll and pitch at a similar rate to the heavier boat, in other words offer a better motion comfort....And yet, under the Capsize Screen Formula and the Motion Comfort Index it would appear that the first boat would be less prone to capsize and have a better motion when obviously this would not be the case.
There are some better indicators of a vessel’s likelihood of capsize. The EU developed their own stability index called STIX, a series of formulas which considered a wide range of factors and provides a reasonable sense of how a boat might perform in extreme conditions. Unfortunately meaningful results require a lot more information than most folks have access to for any specific design. The Offshore Committee of US Sailing developed the following simplified formula for estimating the Angle of Vanishing Stability (Sometimes referred to as the ‘AVS’, ‘limit of positive stability’, ‘LPS’, or ‘Latent Stability Angle’ ):
Screening Stability Value ( SSV ) = ( Beam 2 ) / ( BR * HD * DV 1/3 )
BR: Ballast Ratio ( Keel Weight / Total Weight )
HD: Hull Draft
DV: The Displacement Volume in cubic meters. DV is entered as pounds of displacement on the webpage and converted to cubic meters by the formula:
Displacement Volume in Cubic Meters = ( Weight in Pounds / 64 )*0.0283168
The Beam and Hull Draft in this formula are in meters. These values are entered in feet on the webpage and are converted to meters before SSV calculation.
Angle of Vanishing Stability approximately equals 110 + ( 400 / (SSV-10) )
It should be noted that the AVS is only one indicator in evaluating the likelihood of capsize, meaning it only predicts the point at which the vessel wants to turn turtle. It does not predict the amount of force that would be required to heel the vessel to that limit, nor does it predict how the shape of the boat might encourage wave action to roll the boat closer to the angle at which it no longer wants to return, nor does it predict how likely a boat is to downflood at a comparatively small heel angle.
At this point there are no simple formulas for these things. Bob Perry's key points are exactly right, that to really understand the seaworthiness of a boat, you need to understand the likely behavior of its hull form and its buoyancy and weight distributions. And even then, you also need to understand that no matter how seaworthy a boat may seem, when things get extremely bad out there, the biggest factors affecting seaworthiness can quickly become skill and luck.