I find two things interesting. First is what an effective marketing tool these regs turn out to have been. The commercialization of recreational sailing has been an interest of mine for quite a while. Studying these regs and reading this post has filled in some blanks for me.
The second part is, I didn't realize any body outside of Europe cared about European regulations, but I guess when most of the big yacht manufacturers are in Europe, they get to control the market.
These standards, pretty much like all of the EU standards, were created to reduce trade barriers between countries. At the time that the Recreational Watercraft Directive was created, there were an array of different standards being used across Europe including two versions of Lloyds and some countries using ABYC. Because Europe was one of the stronger markets for sailboats, most manufacturers with an eye on sales in Europe and chose to bring their boats into conformance with the Recreational Watercraft Directive. The 'corresponding committees' included U.S. manufacturers and designers and one of the major meetings of the corresponding committees took place at Sname's Chesapeake Sailing Yacht Symposium.
It should be noted that France was playing hardball in the negotiations and pretty much held the line to keep the bar low.
Some of what I find interesting about the regulations, is they seem to be a little up side down. Here in North America, you get more rules associated with a boat as it increases in size. 6 flares for a 25 footer, but 12 for a 35, that sort of thing. But the Europeans work the other way around, they put increasing restrictions and limitations on boats as they decrease in size.
That does not particularly accurately reflect the way it works. Equipage pretty much works the same way that it does in ABYC. There is a reason for that. Much of the equipage standards came from a metricized version of the ABYC standards. But also, equipage standards are intended to be realistic for the use of a boat and the assumption is that bigger boats have more passengers and are more likely to venture further offshore.
Somebody mentioned earlier that boats on average are more resistant to capsize as they increase in size. How long is a piece of string though. Surely a 50 footer will be more resistant than a 35 footer, but the standard isn't set at 50 feet. Its set some where in the low 30s. No doubt more resistant to capsize than a similar boat around 25, but certainly less than a similar boat of 40 feet. So how long is a piece of string. Is it just coincidence that this string is roughly the same length as an entry level cruiser. That is one heck of a coincidence. Is this a marketing tool to encourage people to buy boats of a certain size. I don't know the answer to these questions, they are just questions.
Again this does not accurately reflect the way that this works. Length does figure into some of the formulas predicting the seaworthiness of a boat under the CE directive, but there is not a cut off point or even a hump in the graph of values as boats get smaller. In that stability increases exponentially (which is why bigger boats are proportionately narrower and shallower) as a boat becomes longer. As a result, the formulas that look at righting moment take length into account. On the flip side, the greater inertia of a larger boats means that impact forces on the hull and appurtenances also go up and so the regs are more stringent in their standards for larger boats.
Another thing that is interesting is the focus on ultimate stability, not just from the regs, but also in this discussion. A catastrophic loss of stability on a keel boat isn't really what keeps me up at night from a safety perspective. The things I worry about mostly have to do with stuff breaking and exposure to the elements.
I think that the focus on AVS is somewhat unique to this particular thread and not to the standards themselves. That may be my fault. Those of us who followed the process of creating the RCD, have commented that the standards are often less than was the standard position within the maritime science community at the time or what was considered good practice even. The AVS issue is an extremely clear example of how the rules were watered down, and so I was using AVS since it is such a clear cut example of where the design and science community was, vs the standards as enacted.
A boat can be sitting perfectly up right, but if a wave comes down onto a hatch and blows the hatch out in heavy weather, you are in deep trouble whether you are upside down or not. Hatches are a big one, but other stuff I keep an close eye on is rigging damage, steering damage and especially through hull issues. I hate through hulls. My current boat doesn't have any, not even for a head.
Again, there are scantling and design load modules within the CE that are pretty close to ABS and Lloyds.
This is another thing where things get weird, bigger boats have more through hulls, in some cases a lot more. I consider each of those to be a potential failure point, but back to the ultimate stability side of things- bigger is better under these regs, but not so big as to exclude the entry levels of Cruising Models, which need to be a certain minimum size, not for any safety reasons, but to accommodate a head, a galley, sufficient sleeping accommodations and standing head room.
Again, different parts of the CE standards treats boat size differently. You can make the case that it is possible to build a small boat that is purposefully designed to reduce risk and that would be more seaworthy than some of the floating overgrown tanning beds that are out there. The CE rules actually allow for that in much the same way that Coast Guard developed small rescue boats that can go through huge breaking waves as safely and maybe more safely than some of their bigger cutters.
But that gets back to the premise of this whole thread. The CE standards do not try to say that a boat that meets Cat A is well suited for sailing offshore. What it does say is that one EU nation cannot set a higher standard for boats that are deemed to be safe offshore than those in Cat A and thereby restrict the import of other member nations boats.
What you or I, what a competent yacht designer, what any experienced cruiser might call an offshore capable boat will include a broad range of features, and design priorities that are not even discussed within the standards, or which is set so low, that they would be seen as bad practice.
But on the flip side, on this side of the Atlantic we get to chose what we think of as an offshore capable boat. So you find people trying to make a case that because a Magregor 26M made it to Nova Scotia or the Bahamas, these are offshore capable designs.
By the same token, I bought my boat in part because she was single-handed into the U.S. from South Africa and that many of her sisterships had made long distance passages all over the world. When I bought her my long term plans included equipping her to be safe offshore, retiring and single-or double handing her to Europe to spend some of my senior years poking around the continent on her. But, despite the admirable record of these boats doing all kinds of long distance passages (for example South Africa to Scotland non-stop, racing one design across the South Alantic or a Pacific crossing the wrong way) very few people would consider a boat like mine to be an offshore cruiser and I fully understand that and that figures into my thinking. But, I would still take my boat offshore and properly equipped still consider her a reasonable choice for me to make an offshore passage.
Within reason and done reasonably responsibly, the choice of a boat and where we sail it remains our prerogative. But in making a decision such as this, part of the discussion needs to be about laying a cold and jaundiced eye on the realities of the matter. In that regard, the CE standards are barely relevant to the discussion. To me there are a broad array of requirements that I personally would look for in a boat that I was going to buy to go offshore that aren't in the standards. You and I might not agree on these which is why I might buy a different boat than you or Smack. (For example, I would consider it critical to have a crush block at the forefoot, and would not consider a boat with full liners suitable for offshore passage making. but hey that's just me.)
And that is where these conversations fall short. Whatever the standard and how ever in adequate it may or may not be, we each get to chose how much risk we are willing to take when we select a boat to go offshore. And what ever decision we make, we each end up betting our lives and the lives of our crew on our decision.
Hopefully, we bet carefully and luck out with the spin of the wheel. If not, hopefully we will be remembered for our virtues.....