Category Archives: Drogues on Trimarans

Trimarans deploying a drogue or speed limiting device from their sterns

D/T-1 Trimaran, Steinlager


Trimaran, Steinlager

60' x 52' x 5.5 Tons

Seabrake MK I

Force 11+ Conditions


File D/T-1, obtained from Sir Peter Blake, Auckland, NZ - Vessel name Steinlager, hailing port Auckland, Maxi racing trimaran designed by David Allan Williams, LOA 60' x Beam 52' x Draft 5' x 5.5 Tons - Drogue: Seabrake Mk I on 300' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and 30' of ½" chain - No bridle - Deployed numerous times in the Bicentennial Round Australia Two-Handed Race with winds of 55-70 knots and large, confused seas - Vessel's stern yawed 10°.

Sir Peter Blake is one of the most experienced sailors on the planet earth (500,000 blue water miles). His heavy weather experiences span the entire gamut of gales and storms on board every conceivable type of small craft both monohulled and multihulled. Victor Shane had the privilege of interviewing Peter on the telephone just after his team won the America's Cup on the New Zealand yacht Black Magic in May 1995, in San Diego. The interview revolved around a number of subjects. Here is a transcript (by permission):

The 1988 Round Australia Race: The Bicentennial Round Australia Two-Handed race started on the 8th of August 1988 from Sydney to Sydney [anti clockwise], with a number of stops in between. You go up inside the Barrier Reef to start, go round through Torres Strait to Darwin, down the Indian Ocean to Fremantle, and then come along the Great Bight of Australia to Adelaide, down to Hobart, back up the east coast of Tasmania, back through the Bass Strait towards Melbourne, and then through the Bass Strait again up to Sydney.

The Seabrake [MK I] was used in the first storm, which occurred within the first twelve hours of the race. We had winds of 55-60 knots from dead behind against very big seas because of a south going current. The wind was southerly and the set was going south so it built very big seas. We used the Seabrake again between Fremantle and Adelaide, across the bottom of Australia. We used it with a vengeance there and it definitely saved the boat and the crew in a full force winter storm coming in from the Southern Ocean. We used it again between Adelaide and Hobart, along the bottom of Tasmania, again with a severe weather front coming through, and then later on we used it again between Melbourne and Sydney, just coming up round the corner from the Bass Strait turning north. On this occasion we were beating into it with reduced sail when my partner Mike Quilter suddenly yelled at me as I was down below getting ten minutes of sleep. He said, "come up quick," and in about two minutes the wind went from 25 knots northerly to about 50 knots southerly. And so the Seabrake went over the transom straight away, no sails set, and the sea still coming from the north, but the southerly wind was driving us hard into those sea, so if we hadn't slowed the boat down I think it would have broken up.

The worst case scenarios were on two different occasions. One was on the day we started the race [8 August], and if I hadn't had the Seabrake I wouldn't be talking to you now, probably. And the other occasion was the day and a half before the finish, when I think if we hadn't had the Seabrake there was no way we could have slowed the boat and the lightweight racing trimaran would probably have self-destructed, again because the wind changed and we were being driven headlong into northerly seas by a 50-knot wind from the south. These were very big breaking seas, real breaking waves collapsing down their full fronts.

Using the Seabrake without a bridle the trimaran steered very well [without autopilot]. We pulled the centerboard up and the boat basically blew down wind with the Seabrake off the back. It was really great, no keel to trip over, no roll, no yaw, nothing, just straight downwind, fantastic. Multihulls are very good like that, much better than monohulls. No need for bridle, just a single tow line coming to a great big winch.

 In extreme conditions an improperly positioned drogue may come flying out of a steep wave face when boat is surfing down another steep wave face. Positioning the drogue on the back of the next wave will help prevent this. The use of chain next to the drogue will help as well.
In extreme conditions an improperly positioned drogue may come flying out of a steep wave face when boat is surfing down another steep wave face. Positioning the drogue on the back of the next wave will help prevent this. The use of chain next to the drogue will help as well.

The drogue pulling out: On a few occasions we found that when we started to surf very hard the Seabrake broke free of the seaface behind. Depending on if we had it at the right distance behind the boat or not, it sometimes broke free and nearly caught the boat up. I mean it came whistling through the air like a rocket and we severely damaged the first one and replaced it with another, which we then tied all our anchor chain to, between the rope and the drogue - probably about 30' of ½" chain - then it was just fine and didn't pull out any more. We broke the original Seabrake up because it wasn't designed for such a large boat (we had a 400 sq. ft. wingmast on Steinlager) and that particular Seabrake was designed for boats up to 45 feet I suppose, and a bit heavier. But it did a marvelous job nevertheless. Once we added the chain it didn't pull out any more and it worked well.

ENZA: Far more recently we did a run around the world with a boat called Enza, New Zealand. We broke the record for non-stop around the world on this 92' x 43' catamaran. We went around in 74 days and 22 hours, and really I think there's a lot more to be learned from that, an enormous amount more than the Round Australia Two-Handed Race, mainly because it's fresher in my mind. At one time we were in sustained seas that we estimated over 60 feet, totally breaking down their fronts. And on the second occasion, when we had all warps out, not only did we have 40-50 ft. seas coming from behind, but also seas of 50-60 ft. coming at right angles from the port beam and it was a nightmare. We just about lost the boat on two occasions at that point going down the mine, until we got the drogue out the back and then suddenly we could relax. That really was a matter of survival. It was an "if we don't get the drogue out we're not going to be alive" scenario. There was no maybe to it that time.

We spent quite a bit of time in the last 24 hours from the finish in full Atlantic storm conditions on Enza and we used what we had on board, which was all of our anchor chain and every single bit of rope we had, strung in a bight off the back and that worked fantastically. That was just as good. Two bridles, made up from 300 meters of rope on each side, and then right at the end we had all of the anchor chain, which was I suppose about 30 meters parceled up, and around that we had wrapped the anchor warp and seized it all up so that it made like a big bundle, but a heavy bundle, and that worked extremely well. It wasn't as easy to deploy as the Seabrake, however, took a bit of getting out and a bit of getting it back. The Seabrake we used to throw over with no hesitation, and it no doubt saved us on a number of occasions just because it was so easy to use.

Sea anchor or drogue? I've got my own view, and not just the facts. I've been hove-to in cyclones, I've run before, I've used trysails, I've dragged things, I've been beam on, you name it, on every sort of vessel. To me the biggest thing is that you must be prepared. I think that a lot of people get into problems because sometimes these weather patterns creep up on you and then suddenly it really is very nasty and you haven't quite realized it, and then to get out the necessary drag device, whatever it may be, is almost too late. By then people are seasick if it's a cruising boat, or they're not too used to it, or not necessarily experienced. So to have something easy to put over, such as a Seabrake, or whatever drag device you are using, I think that is very important. I have never layed to a sea anchor in earnest, but I can see that it might be reasonable. I tried lying to a sea anchor with my own trimaran once. We used a jet aircraft drogue parachute, but the trimaran had a big wingmast, and we could never anchor her conventionally by the bow anyway, having to anchor her by the stern instead. And we finally blew that parachute out, there was so much load on it. So I don't think there is any fixed answer to a set of conditions, though I think that if you've got searoom I, personally, would always go with a drag off the back. But if you haven't got searoom you haven't got an option. On a number of occasions in the Round Australia Race, on Steinlager, we would be on a lee shore with nasty weather coming in and we would actually keep an eye on the geography of the shoreline, even though it was a hundred miles to leeward, knowing that if conditions were to really turn bad we weren't going to be able to go to windward - no boat goes to windward in a storm - and we were going to have to run downwind, and the best thing probably would have been to find a place that didn't have steep cliffs and run the boat up on beach as far as possible. Run it up on a sandy beach and just get off the thing.

Quartering the seas? I don't necessarily go along with the idea of quartering the seas [with drogue in tow]. I think that it depends on what you are on, and if you're on a multihull it's definitely much better to be running squarely downwind, because if you're running with the wind on the quarter you're likely to dig a bow and loose it much more easily. Better to run absolutely downwind [in a multihull]. It's dangerous to take the seas on the quarter, and much, much better to take them square on the transom; that's in a multihull - a trimaran or a catamaran. A monohull, I think, is a different scenario, and I might agree with the quartering idea.

Lying A-Hull: I've hove-to in some really extreme conditions. I'm happy to sit there, but would be absolutely against lying a-hull anywhere. I don't think lying a-hull is a mode of survival that one should contemplate if conditions are really severe. In moderate conditions, if you're not too worried about the sea state, maybe it's OK. But lying a-hull in a storm is a recipe for being rolled, or having the deck or the cabin top stove in and heavy water come inside. I think that the other approaches are better. Even though lying a-hull is natural and sort of easy, I definitely don't think it's a tactic that people should use, unless they haven't got another option.

D/T-2 Trimaran, Newick


Trimaran, Newick

31' x 26' x 1.5 Tons

5-Ft. Dia. Shewmon

Force 9-10 Conditions

File D/T-2, obtained from Thomas Follett, Orange City, FL. - Vessel name Galliard, Val ocean racing trimaran designed by Richard Newick, LOA 31' x Beam 26' x Draft 5' (2' 5" board up) x 1.5 Tons - Drogue: 5-Ft. diameter Shewmon (sea anchor) on 200' x 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 80' each and 1/2" galvanized swivel - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 300 miles east of Cape Cod, with winds of 45-50 knots and seas of 12-15 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10-20° during 48 hours of deployment.

This is one of several files Victor Shane was able to obtain from Thomas Follett. Follett delivered hundreds of boats all over the world. In February 1985 Follett and crew were delivering Galliard, a Newick Val 31 ocean racing trimaran, to Villa Mora, Portugal, from Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts when they ran into a heavy gale some 300 miles east of Cape Cod. Follett deployed a 5-ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor off the stern - in drogue fashion. The boat was hove to the Shewmon for 48 hours, during which time the sea anchor must have withstood over 40,000 wave cycles. Transcript:

A crew of two and heavy load of stores. Boat was essentially a daysailor and not suitable for the North Atlantic in October, and we ended up returning to Norfolk. About 300 miles ESE of Cape Cod a NE breeze came up and increased to Force 8 or 9 with rough seas. Streamed a 5' drogue with a bridle to the stern ends of both amas [floats]. Bit of nuisance with the stern of the aka [main hull] jutting out and all cluttered up with antennas and with a spade rudder hanging down. Managed to get part of the bridle under the rudder at one time and this took some time to sort out. Unlike Rogue Wave [see file D/T-3] there was not enough windage on Galliard. Finally had to set a storm jib in order to reduce the tendency to surge forward and then snap back, as though tethered to a rubber band. Caused the drogue to collapse after a time and we had to reel it in for a sorting out. In general, however, we lay quite comfortably about 20° off the wind and very few seas broke aboard in spite of the heavy load of stores and crew. No damage to the drogue, except for the swivel, which got crosswise somehow.

Before 1981, Tom Follett was using warps and other makeshift drag devices during his deliveries. Typically the setup consisted of two lengths of rode, with a bit of sail or chain in the bight. The arrangement proved itself quite satisfactory when Follett was delivering lightweight multihulls. Here is a transcript of a report involving one such occasion:

Vessel name, Bonifaccio, 41-ft. trimaran designed by Dick Newick and built by Damien McLaughlin for a French owner to sail in the Double-Handed Trans Atlantic Race from Plymouth, England, to Newport, R.I. in 1980. Used warps (3/4" braided nylon) from both ama sterns with a 10-ft. piece of 1" chain in the bight. Each warp was about 200 ft. Wind about Force 8 from SW (blowing us in the right direction, i.e., towards Plymouth) with heavy rain. Rough sea. One part of the bridle led through a snatch block on the Ama stern and back to a cockpit winch. Very easy to handle the whole mess and the boat rode very easily. Not necessary to steer. Fresh breeze only lasted one night and we were back in gear about noon the next day. Fair amount of drift. About 2 knots, more or less.

General comments: The trimaran configuration makes the use of a bridle difficult when streaming a drogue off the stern. If one could get around to setting things up with the wind about Force 4, life would be easier. But unfortunately it's often Force 8 or more before one gets around to it. Then the difficulties are magnified and one often ends up doing it all wrong. The ideal system would be one which is easy to sort out, does not put too much strain on the boat or fittings and holds the boat fairly steady while riding easily. Not exactly compatible factors.

D/T-3 Trimaran, Newick


Trimaran, Newick

60' x 34' x 8 Tons

5-Ft. Dia. Shewmon

Force 10 Conditions


File D/T-3, obtained from Thomas Follett, Orange City, FL. - Vessel name Rogue Wave, Maxi ocean racing trimaran designed by Richard Newick, LOA 60' x Beam 34' x Draft 8' (board down) x 8 Tons - Drogue: 5-Ft. Diameter Shewmon (sea anchor) on 100' x 3/4" nylon braid rode. - No bridle - Deployed in a gale in shallow water (50-60 fathoms) about 80 miles west of Tunisia with winds of 50 knots and unstable seas of 15 ft. - Vessel's stern lay at a 25° angle during 36 hours of deployment with very little drift.


This is the second of two major reports obtained from veteran delivery skipper Tom Follett (see also previous file). The occasion of this file led to the publication of the Shewmon Paper, Sea Anchor - Rode Tactics (1986, Shewmon, Inc.)

Multihull sailors may recall that Rogue Wave once belonged to the late, great Phil Weld, whose previous 60-ft. trimaran Gulfstreamer was capsized by a rogue wave in the Atlantic, later to be picked up by the Russian ship Boreas and taken to Odessa, where she collected dust for many years. Some time after Phil passed away, Rogue Wave was purchased by a wealthy individual of the United Arab Emirates. Tom Follett and crew were delivering the big tri when the incident occurred.

Rogue Wave departed Almerimar, Spain, in February, bound for Sidi-bu-Said, Tunisia. Two days later and some 100 miles north of the African coast - in shallow water - she ran into an Arifi (a cousin of the Scirocco), packing 45-50 knot winds. The waves were about 15 ft. high and 200 ft. from crest to crest. Rogue Wave was doing about 10 knots on bare poles with her 117 sq. ft. wingmast feathered when the 5-ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor was jettisoned over the stern.

The crew had led about 100 feet of the rode through some deck hardware to three cockpit winches, thinking that they could let out more line afterwards. When the sea anchor took hold it brought the huge trimaran to a jarring halt, yanking some minor hardware out of the deck. The three cockpit winches held, however.

Tremendous tension was noted in the rode, "too great to risk paying out any more line after we got the thing made fast," quoting Follett. Notwithstanding, the sea anchor held the stern into the seas for 36 hours, until the storm abated. According to Shewmon, "When the sea anchor was retrieved, many of its longitudinal seams were found ruptured despite its tug-tested 10,000 lb. pull rating. The wind force on the boat was well under 1,000 lbs., so what caused the other 9,000 lbs. of pull?" Dan Shewmon then draws from Bowditch table 3303 showing that the circular surface water particulate speed for the reported 15-ft. waves must have been 3 knots.


Orbital rotation can cause extreme high loads in the case of large sea anchors, or small ones used as medium pull drogues.
Orbital rotation can cause extreme high loads in the case of large sea anchors, or small ones used as medium pull drogues.

When the boat was moving downwind on a crest at 3 knots the sea anchor must have been moving upwind at 3 knots in the adjacent trough. This adds up to a divergence of 6 knots, "which explains the missing 9,000 lbs. and the ripped out hardware and ruptured seams." (Quoting from the Shewmon paper, Sea Anchor - Rode Tactics.) The trouble appears to have been caused by a rode that was too short. Had the crew tied off 400-500' of rode (instead of only 100') the initial shock and the subsequent system loads would have been a great deal less. (Walter Greene seems to have run into a similar problem in File D/C-1).

Rogue Wave spent a few weeks in Tunis and then departed for Crete. About 100 miles from Sicily she ran into a Gregale (a cousin of the Mistral). This time Follett used a smaller, 3-ft. diameter Shewmon drogue. Transcript:

About a hundred miles or so east of Sicily, we streamed our smaller (3-ft. diam.) Shewmon drogue in an easterly wind of Force 7, in order to avoid plugging to windward. Worked much better. Lots of shipping about and we could maneuver with the engine whenever necessary [drogue in tow]. Didn't stop us but slowed us down a lot and was very comfortable. Not nearly as much strain (of course the wind was only about Force 7) and we could easily vary the length of the rode.

EPILOGUE: Tom Follett passed away shortly after Victor Shane obtained invaluable feedback from him. He was a close friend of Richard Newick and delivered many of Dick's fantastic wind machines to exotic places all over the world. During his lifetime he made fifteen Atlantic crossings and numerous other passages, successfully negotiating a variety of heavy weather situations in monohulls and multihulls.

Tom knew the sea. He could discern subtle differences between gales and compensate for them ahead of time. He knew when to heave-to in a H-28 monohull and when to deploy a drogue on a 60-ft. racing trimaran. We are very fortunate that just before passing he left some of his priceless knowledge to us.

D/T-4 Trimaran, Newick


Trimaran, Newick

31' x 26' x 1.5 Tons

4-Ft. Dia. Conical Drogue

Force 9-10 Conditions


File D/T-4, obtained from B.J. Watkins, Arnold, MD. - Vessel name Heart, hailing port Richmond VA, Val ocean racing trimaran designed by Richard Newick, LOA 31' x Beam 26' x Draft 5' (2' 5" board up) x 1.5 Tons - Drogue: 4-Ft. Diameter cone (unknown make) on 200' x 1/2" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 75' each and 1/2" galvanized swivel - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 300 miles NE of Bermuda with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed excessively - Damage and risk of capsize lead to the abandonment of the boat.

In order for a medium-pull drogue to take greater control bridle should be attached to the extreme outboard ends of the floats. (Review also Figs. 22, 23 in Section 4 for options relating to the attachment points of low-pull drogues that may require hand steering).
In order for a medium-pull drogue to take greater control bridle should be attached to the extreme outboard ends of the floats. (Review also Figs. 22, 23 in Section 4 for options relating to the attachment points of low-pull drogues that may require hand steering).

B.J. Watkins was singlehandedly sailing Heart from Annapolis to England to participate in the 1988 C-STAR (Carlsberg Singlehanded Trans Atlantic Race). Her intent was to become the first American woman ever to finish that race. "That is not what happened, unfortunately," writes B.J. in an article entitled The Agony of a Premature Defeat (March/April '88 issue of Multihulls Magazine).

B.J. departed Annapolis on 9 April 1988. On the third or fourth day out the boat hit something, damaging the rudder. A week later, 380 miles NE of Bermuda, Heart ran into a whole gale. B.J. set a 4-ft. diameter, conical drogue - unknown make - off the stern.

While the cone was too small to pull the bows into the seas (B.J. had tried that once and the boat just laid beam-to), by all tokens it should have done a good job of pulling the stern into the seas. But it did not. Why not? Likely because of the incorrect attachments points of the bridle. Heart was practically identical to Galliard (file D/T-2), both trimarans being Newick Val 31s. The difference was that Tom Follett deployed a 5-ft. diameter Shewmon with a bridle leading to the extreme outboard ends of the floats, whereas B.J. deployed a 4-ft. cone with a bridle secured to chain plates located on the cross-arms, inboard and forward.

The cone may have been on the wrong part of the wave train as well. In order to keep the stern aligned into the full blown gale B.J. found that she had actively to steer the Val trimaran. The pull of the drogue was not constant. Now and then the yacht would surf down the face of the steeper waves. To steer risked further damage to the rudder. To not steer risked a broach and possible capsize. The barometer kept falling. Components began failing. The seas built up and finally started to break over the small trimaran.

The situation became untenable and B.J. had no alternative but to turn on the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). She was taken off the crippled trimaran by the Dutch container ship Charlotte Lykes.

B.J. Watkins had spend about $50,000 in preparing her boat, which was uninsured once it was 200 miles from the U.S. coast - a bitter loss. A transcript of the DDDB feedback submitted by B.J. Watkins follows. It includes portions of related correspondence with Donald Jordan (by permission):

I have enclosed a copy of the correspondence I had with Donald Jordan. I hope this is helpful. Mr. Jordan and I have reached the conclusion that the reason the sea anchor did not pull the stern to the seas was because of the location of the attachment points. We feel that they were too far forward on the boat and too far inboard....

[From the Jordan correspondence]: I cannot tell you exactly what size drogue I had. It was a cone shape, approximately 4 feet in diameter at the widest point. It was original equipment which came with Heart, so I do not know the exact measurements. I had attached snatch blocks to half-inch "D" shackles whose pins formed the pins for the turnbuckles on the mast rig. The bridle lines ran through the snatch blocks to the primary winches. I am at a loss to explain why the boat did not ride stern to the wind. My experience with Heart prior to rigging with the wing mast was interesting. I had on a previous occasion deployed the sea anchor from the bow of the main hull, no bridle. This was done in Long Island Sound, 50-knot winds, 5-8 foot seas, no bridle. Heart laid beam to the seas at that time. We had the board up but the rudder was in place. Dick Newick suggested that possibly if we had raised the rudder we might have then set bow-to. The action of the sea anchor at that time prompted me to investigate further. We added the bridle and decided to try stern-to.... I agree that the best arrangement is to attach the bridle to special reinforced fitting provided at the aft ends of the amas.

UPDATE: Two years later B.J. Watkins and her teammate Boots Parker were participants in the 1990 Two Handed Transatlantic Race on the 45-ft. Peter Spronk catamaran Skyjack. On their way to England they lost both rudders (the shafts had been fabricated out of aluminum instead of stainless steel). And, while attempting to limp to the Azores on one spare rudder they ran into two Force 8 gales!

However, this time B.J. had an 18-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor on board. In the second gale she deployed it. The orange parachute pulled the bows of Skyjack into the teeth of the gale, parking the boat and minimizing damage.

In a subsequent telephone conversation with Victor Shane, B.J. said that the parachute sea anchor performed in a most satisfactory way - it was a morale booster and it allowed them to "call time out" in a difficult situation.

D/T-5 Trimaran, Kelsall


Trimaran, Kelsall

30' x 24' x 1 Ton

18" Dia. Conical Drogue

Force 9-10 Conditions


File D/T-5, obtained from Michael Redvers Golding, Slough, UK. - Vessel name Gazelle, hailing port Poole, Dorset, modified Stripling 28 trimaran designed by Derek Kelsall, LOA 30' x Beam 24' x Draft 4' (12" board up) x 1 Ton - Drogue: Custom-made 18" diameter cone on 200' x 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 40' each - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in mid-Atlantic with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with the helm lashed - Drift was estimated to be about 25 nm during 10 hours of deployment.


Transoceanic racing skipper Mike Redvers Golding has been in many offshore gales. In 1989 his slender racing trimaran Gazelle came to grief off the Shetland Isles during the Round Britain Race. In an article appearing in the December 1989 issue of Multihull, he recounts the harrowing events that led to the loss of his boat (reproduced courtesy of Multihull):

We were only 20 miles off the Shetlands, a lee shore, and 30 miles from our turning point, the infamous Muckle Flugga. Once round the headland we could head off south toward Lerwick.... I would normally have lain to the drogue in these conditions but the lee shore was far too close for comfort. We had spent some time beating, which although painful felt very safe until we could no longer climb the mounting seas.... The noise level rose to fever pitch as Gazelle was picked up by another nasty sea.... It was a slow sickening roll, not at all what I had imagined, with a crash as the port float met the water.... Water rushed below, filling the boat to chest level.... Then came the immortal words, "We've capsized."

Golding and first mate activated the EPIRB and took to a life raft. They were later picked up by a Scottish Search And Rescue helicopter and taken to Lerwick. In the same article Golding writes, "Our proximity to land prevented me from lying to the drogue, although I am sure that this would have prevented the capsize, having ridden out storms with Gazelle which were of equal magnitude, although in the open ocean." Victor Shane contacted Michael Redvers Golding about his previous use of the drogue and Golding then sent the following for inclusion in the DDDB. The drogue was an 18-inch diameter cone, custom made by a sailmaker. Mike used it in an Atlantic gale while participating in the 1988 CSTAR. The cone reduced the speed of the lightweight (2,000 lb.) trimaran from more than 12 knots to about 2.5 knots, with steering generally unnecessary. Transcript:

I have experimented with many methods of lying a-hull and lying to drogues, and must confess that I have reached no definitive conclusion. For simplicity I now consider that there are three basic weather conditions which the skipper must prepare for:

1) HEAVY. It is my opinion that in the event that the weather is unlikely to deteriorate further it is often the safest course of action to sail on with a well prepared boat, an alert helmsman and a linear reduction in sail area.

2) SEVERE. With a multihull it is often necessary to only take the edge off the most extreme turns of speed. In this situation it is prudent to tow warps or lay to a drogue over the stern, which slows the boat to an acceptable speed, preventing surges and reducing the risk of tripping.

3) SURVIVAL. When conditions reach the ultimate for a given craft it seems logical that a strong sea anchor system with a bridle over the bows is the best of a bad lot. As you know survival conditions are rare, though consideration must be given when setting up the boat in the previous category as to whether or not the situation will deteriorate to survival condition, as re-organizing the boat may be both difficult and dangerous.

I will state again that it is my confirmed opinion that Gazelle would not have capsized had we been lying to the drogue. At the time we were too close to a lee shore and the drogue we carried would have only slowed us to around 2.5-3 knots. No doubt there are sea anchors which could have slowed us further, however I doubt that my decision would be much different taking all the factors into account.


Victor Shane forwarded literature on para-anchors to Golding. Had Gazelle been equipped with such a device she would probably have been able to stand off the lee shore, the currents off the Shetlands permitting. The 43-ft. catamaran Ariel did as much in file S/C-6A.

D/T-6 Trimaran, Searunner


Trimaran, Searunner

31'x 18' x 2.2 Tons

Sea Squid Drogue

Force 7-8 Conditions

File D/T-6, obtained from Donald Longfellow, Garden Grove, CA. - Vessel name Take Five, hailing port Ventura, CA, Searunner trimaran designed by Jim Brown, LOA 31' x Beam 18' x Draft 6' (3' board up) x 2.2 Tons - Drogue: Australian Sea Squid on 130' x 7/16" nylon braid tether with bridle arms of 30' each - Deployed in Papaguyo winds in 100 fathoms of water about 30 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, with winds of 30-35 knots and seas of 8-10 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with autopilot steering - Speed was reduced to about 5 knots during 18 hours of deployment.

Another reminder that the Australian Sea Squid is no longer available. Transcript:

The Sea Squid was deployed 18 hours after leaving Costa Rica and approximately 30 n.m. off the coast of Nicaragua. The seas had grown during the night as my distance offshore grew, and by morning I was becoming concerned about the way the occasional cross waves would knock the stern 40 degrees sideways to the primary wave track as the boat accelerated down wave faces. Neither the electronic nor the mechanical autopilot was quick enough to correct this and I was in no mood to start hand steering. Still, I didn't feel safe risking the boat getting beam-to on the wave faces, especially when it was traveling at over 6 knots. Top speeds down some wave faces were 8-10 kts (double-reefed main up, sailing almost dead downwind.) I didn't want to go bare poles, but I wanted speeds kept under 6 kts. and the yawing reduced. It seemed like an appropriate time to baptize the Sea Squid (it was already hooked up, ready to go).

Over the side it went with no noticeable shock when the line went taut. The effect was immediate and quite apparent, speed down wave faced maxed at 6 kts. (curious though, my ambient speed remained nearly the same as before, 4-5 kts.versus 4-6 kts). Yawing was noticeably reduced. The self steering was now able to handle conditions, allowing me to get much needed rest (singlehanding). Occasionally the Sea Squid would briefly pull free when it was on a wave face. This removed tension on the bridle with unfavorable results. It wasn't a major problem, but I felt it could have been under heavier conditions. Seems to me this could be rectified with the addition of some chain to the drogue's line. There was a Galerider drogue aboard, but I never used it during that trip. It is one size larger than the company recommends for my boat displacement (36" dia. instead of 30"). If I had encountered heavier conditions than the one above, I would have used the Galerider instead of the Sea Squid. There is no doubt in my mind that the sea conditions on that day presented only two reasonable options for my boat: para-anchor, or running down the swells. I would no sooner leave on a cruise without my para-anchor and drogues than I would leave without secondary anchors and heavier headsails.

D/T-7 Trimaran, Searunner


Trimaran, Searunner

37' x 22' x 7.5 Tons

Series Drogue - 120 x 5" Dia. Cones

Force 8-9 Conditions


File D/T-7, obtained from Philip & Marilyn Lange, Longwood, FL. - Vessel name Kuan-Yin, hailing port St. Augustine, trimaran, designed by Jim Brown, LOA 37' x Beam 22' x Draft 6' 11" (3' 6" board up) x 7.5 Tons - Drogue: Jordan series, 120 x 5" diameter cones on 200 x 3/4" & 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 75' each and 10' of 5/8" chain at the end of the array - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 500 miles east of the Bahamas with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 20-30 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was 18 nm during 46 hours of deployment.


Kuan-Yin was en route to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, from St. Augustine, Florida, when she ran into a gale. Philip and Marilyn Lange deployed a Jordan concept series drogue consisting of 120 x 5-inch cones. The drogue was homemade, with instructions received from Donald Jordan himself. See also Marilyn Lange's technical article and illustrations on how to fabricate a series drogue with an ordinary sewing machine, appearing in the March/April 1997 issue of Multihulls Magazine (back issues available from MULTIHULLS MAGAZINE, 421 Hancock St., Quincy MA 02171 - Tel: 617-328-8181). Transcript:

This was Kuan-Yin's maiden sea passage - and first long passage for captain & mate. Our gale was never mentioned throughout its duration on HF WWV! We were not prepared in advance. Wife/mate assembled Jordan series drogue components in our center cockpit and threaded bridle through aft snatchblocks (#3 Lewmars) and around transom, while I steered to avoid broaching. (Her Lirakis harness saved her at least once.) We used 10 feet of 5/8" chain as the weight on the end of the drogue. The Jordan series drogue deployed easily, and immediately slowed us down from 8 knots to 1.6 knots under bare poles. Our strongly-built stern lifted easily and smoothly to the oncoming waves. An occasional breaking wave dumped several quarts of seawater in, around the [stern castle] window gasket. Although the rushing and pounding noises were terrific below, we were able to rest because the movement of the boat was quite regular and predictable. We set a timer to remind us to freshen the nip [let out a few inches of line to shift the wear point and minimize chafe] and wrapped towels around potential chafe points on the bridle as it led to the Anderson 40 winches mounted on either side of our stern companionway.

The pressure on the drogue line alternated rhythmically between the two arms of the bridle - the tension was surprisingly light and the bridle winches could be adjusted easily. Our Autohelm wheel was bent when our first efforts to secure the rudder with line worked loose. The cheeks of our snatch blocks took a lot of wear. It took both of us to haul in the drogue hand-over-hand. Other than one wear point on the bridle it was in perfect condition!