Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: CT/ Long Island Sound
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SeaAnchors/Drouges How and Why
Never assume anything. A sea anchor or drogue IS used to slow you down. But not when you you''re sailing to windward. A sea anchor might be deployed after you have taken all your sails down, because it''s blowing 60 to 80 knots. (Just about any sail - even a 14 oz. storm trysail - would tend to blow to bits in such wind.) The windage of the spars & hull will be causing you to "sail" at perhaps 6 to 8 knots. Waves catching the boat can add to the speed cause it to rush down into the trough, where it can pitchpole. You do not want this to happen. Boats that pitchpole often have their decks ripped open as the mast hits the water, twists out of the step and then breaks under the leverage of the boat upside down on top of it. This is why the Offshore Racing Council requires all lockers and batteries to be able to be secured for a 180 degree roll. In many cases, the next wave fills the boat, and down she goes. You don''t hear much about those cases. Slowing the boat down with a drogue or with lines, or lines tied to buckets, or anchors, helps to keep this from happening. The bow doesn''t get buried in the trough because the boat''s speed is reduced. There is some discussion as to whether it is better to deploy sea anchors from the bow or the stern -- to have the bow or the stern into the waves. Each boat is different in this regard. It may also depend upon the steepness and speed of the wind and waves, as to which would be most effective.
Essentially, you do not want to be out in conditions that would require a drogue. But if you are, you''ll be glad to have one. I''ve been out three times in 50 knot squalls, luckily in protected waters where the waves were minimal, and they passed within an hour. In one Chicago-Mac race, the wind drove us at 8 knots under bare poles while the anemometer registered 50. If we''d been in a storm at sea that had had time to develop waves, we''d have needed to do more.