D/C-4 Catamaran, Lagoon


Catamaran, Lagoon

46' x 25' x 11 Tons

48" Dia. Galerider

Force 9 Conditions

File D/C-4, obtained from Dr. Tim King, Elkhart, IN. - Vessel name Ariel, hailing port Juneau, Alaska, Lagoon catamaran designed by Jeanneau, LOA 46' 3" x Beam 24' 11" x Draft 3' 11" x 11 Tons - Drogue: 48" Diameter Galerider on 350' x 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 70' each and stainless steel 5/8" swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 300 miles SW of Cape Finisterre, Spain, with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Speed was reduced to about 3 knots during 24 hours of deployment.


Dr. Tim King had a Valiant 41 monohull named Foggy Mountain. In June 1989 Foggy Mountain won a fifteen-round bare knuckle fight with a life-threatening storm in the Gulf of Alaska. No drag devices were used. It was a survival saga, with fatigue and hypothermia playing significant roles. At the height of the storm King and crew witnessed enormous "holes and pyramids" on the surface of the sea. In an article appearing in the Jan/Feb 1990 issue Ocean Navigator Tim King wrote that some of these "holes" were 30 feet deep. They were barreling along at 30 knots and it was only by blind luck that the boat didn't fall into one. Dr. King has since sold the Valiant and purchased a Jeanneau Lagoon 47 catamaran. In March 1992 he and crew took delivery of Ariel in France and set sail for the U.S. The boat was equipped with an 18-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor and a 48" Galerider drogue. En route to the Canary Islands they ran into a gale and used the Galerider to slow the boat down. There was a copy of the Drag Device Data Base on board and crew members took turns reading it during the gale! Transcript:

Like all catamarans, Ariel tends to be very fast on all points off the wind. Specifically her fine entry and rapid flaring of the hulls allows her to surf without difficulty. The majority of the steering, even during surfing, was handled by the Autohelm autopilot. After 48 hours of building wind conditions, we found ourselves sailing under a broad reach with maturing seas. Our speeds were consistently 15-20 kts. under jib and/or triple-reefed main. The ride was relatively smooth except for the slamming of occasional waves under the bridge deck. The boat handled exceptionally well during prolonged surfs under autopilot control.

At 0600 (on the beginning of the 3rd day of the gale), before sunrise, the boat was lifted by the stern on the crest of a very large wave. There was a slight hesitation as the boat approached the crest, whereupon a second wave apparently augmented the first one and lifted us even higher up the new crest. (This second wave must have come from about 30-60° off the prevailing wave direction). Three things then occurred. First, the now confused breaking wave crest broke over the dinghy davits (the dinghy was stored upside down on top of the davits) and crashed chaotically into the cockpit (which rapidly drained off due to a well-designed drain system). Secondly, the boat was turned sideways and heeled some (10-25° ?) to starboard. The boat apparently then slid sideways for a short distance, being carried on the breaking crest of the wave, until the leeward hull and keel finally dug in. Thirdly, poised as she was at the crest of a larger than normal wave, she took off at an angle down the face of the wave and reached a speed clearly in excess of 20 kts. (We did not see the knot meter, but judged the speed from the vibration of the hull/rudder system.)

It was at this point that it was decided to deploy the Galerider in order to slow the boat down and prevent uncontrolled surfing. The Galerider was deployed via a bridle and 2 x 100' lengths of rode. Extreme care was taken in its deployment, but there were no injuries or hardware problems (remember, it was still dark). The result was that the vessel immediately slowed to 2-4 kts. and no surfing occurred at speeds greater than 5 kts. This slower speed allowed cross wave patterns to more easily catch up to us and pass by, thus creating more bridgedeck slamming and leeward hull pounding, but NOT with the intensity that had occurred while surfing. The boat would not self-steer in these conditions and continued to require an active autopilot. She was, however, well-balanced under bare poles and the autopilot did not have to work very hard.

Daylight showed us a sea with multiple well-developed wave trains coming at angles off the beam and stern. During the next 12 hours we saw several wave interactions that could have accounted for our early morning incident. However, it was never repeated while under drogue. Speed and steering were well under control. The yellow drogue could be seen (fully submerged at all times) under the surface about two full wave trains behind. After 24 hrs. it was winched in without incident and we proceeded under jib and triple-reefed main in 28-30 kts. of wind.

I think in retrospect a slightly longer rode would have prevented some of the bridle's vertical "slapping" of the waves as the rode stretched and contracted. There were, however, no chafe or hardware problems. We were well-prepared with the proper equipment, shackles and rodes. Therein lies the key to success.

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