In the last few years there have been at least two well-publicized cases of series drogues, based on Don Jordan's research and design, deteriorating after as little as ten hours' use in strong gale and/or storm conditions. And who knows how many other cases have gone unreported.
The problem is that the cones fray at the edges, to the point that it is questionable whether the drogue would function as intended in another deployment.
That said, I need to make clear that, as far as I know, this problem has not resulted in any actual storm damage to boats.
This problem is of huge concern to Phyllis and me, both because we recommend the Jordan Series Drogue™ (JSD) as the ultimate storm survival device, particularly for short-handed crews, and because we own one ourselves.
Given that, I have had email conversations about the problem with:
- Dave Pelissier, owner of Ace Sailmakers, manufacturer of the Jordan Series Drogue™.
- Stuart Letton, owner of one of the drogues that deteriorated badly over a comparatively short deployment, albeit in a nasty blow in a nasty piece of ocean.
- Roddy Coleman, principle at Ocean Brake, who make series drogues based on Don Jordan's designs.
- Tony Gooch, hugely experienced offshore sailor, including a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation via the Great Capes, who has deployed (and maintained) a home-built series drogue multiple times in very heavy weather. Tony also inspected serial-circumnavigator Jeanne Socrates' drogue, the other publicized failure, and shared his observations.
Here's what I learned, together with what Phyllis and I intend to do about our own JSD:
Thanks for the research into this, another example of why I hold your advice in such high regard. I don’t see it necessarily as a failure of the original design or construction techniques but rather ongoing product development based on real world experience. The JSD also has it’s detractors and no doubt I will see this being raised as evidence of unsuitability when heavy weather tactics are discussed on forums. I have been convinced on the merit of the JSD for a log time now and as I get ready for longer voyaging and purchasing a JSD it’s great knowing that I can call on this information to get a good product.
I must admit, when reading your article, my initial reaction was one of surprise that the edge of rip stop nylon would have been used untaped. I have seen a few spinnakers made from rip stop fray badly along the edges of a tear if the sail starts flogging.
Well said, Alastair. I have been one of those looking to buy a boat-appropriate sewing machine for general sail and canvas work and to make my own JSD, and, despite the added labour suggested by these refinements, I would not hesitate to incorporate them. I, too, have seen poorly taped or untapped fabrics shred rapidly in a blow, and it always struck me as a poor economy to avoid this on a mission-critical piece of gear like a JSD.
Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you are not letting the forum blather influence your decision.
May I ask when these findings were made and when you fed back the info to the two companies? I ordered an Ocean Brake for 17t disp in late 2015 and the codes were remarkably heavy duty with folders and stitched ends. No deployment as yet.
This only came up in the last year. And, as you point out, clearly the problem has been fixed for quite some time by both Ace and Ocean Brake. Consequently I did not feed back them. Rather the other way around, in fact.
Bottom line, I’m satisfied this is a solved problem and making that clear, as well as sharing our own plans for fixing our older JSD, was my purpose in writing the article.
A few detailed questions that might add some light, or not. I’ve done considerable drogue testing up to gale conditions, but not with a JST. My focus was on emergency steering and conventional drogues, sometimes in series.
1. Were the cones damaged along the entire length, or only the sections that were nearer the waterline? These are the ones that take the worst beating, since those deeper in the water are more consistently loaded.
2. How many cones on what size boat? I personally been told of a sailors shredding a JSD because he reduced the number of cones to make it work more like a regular drogue. He wanted to slow to boat to 5-7 knots, not 1-2 knots. The JSD was never designed for this and the cone design is wrong for high speed. Cones become unstable above about 2-3 knots.
3. How much leader before the cones started? If this is reduced, too many will be in the impact zone, above the water, battered and ineffective. The the boat will also move faster, circling back to issue 2.
Yeah, rip-stop is too light. I made and tested many 1/3 scale drogues in the process of researching drogues in storms, and even when made of Sunbrella (I had it), they started to show wear after 20 hours, anywhere I had skimped on stitching. On the other hand, these were only for testing and I didn’t need them to last longer than 20 hours–I was done. I did reinforce the front edge with very light webbing, mimicking the behavior of their big brothers. The commercial drogues (Seabrake, Galerider, Delta Drogue) have more hours and remain undamamged.
I would like to see more testing of 2 drogues in series. This had a lot of advantages in testing, similar to JSD but without many of the hassles and complications, and a few sailors have used the system. The second drogue greatly increases stability and eliminates pull-out, while the system remains very adjustable and much easier to recover. The first is typically 200-350 feet back, and the second 100-150 feet farther. But it needs more cruiser testing in extreme conditions, which I actively avoid.
Hi Drew, An interesting idea, using two (or three) commercial drogues in series. We have the SeaBrake for use as an “active” drogue for OVER EXCITING downwind legs, as an emergency rudder and for assistance when heaving-to. I considered using the twin/triplet option as a “passive” drogue, because our SeaBrake is very well made, robust and easy to store. But I discounted this as being more complex than the JSD and un-proven. Here was my reasoning which could well be flawed – I am open to correction Drew: The SeaBrake is designed for the load to be attached in-front (the chain weight is attached and then the drogue – the other way round than the JSD). For the front drogue to function correctly, and not close shut at the back under load (thus stalling out), it would need the second section of drogue line to pass through the centre of the first SeaBrake drogue (a la JSD) and shackle to the terminating splice of the first drogue line. It would then need to pass through the rear webbing eye of the SeaBrake to keep it centralised to prevent chafe, and so continue to the second (and maybe third) SeaBrake. Conceptually, that was all straight forward and do-able. But then how to retrieve this hybrid drogue set-up? There is no way our large SeaBrake would retrieve around a sheet winch. It would necessitate retrieving the first section until the first SeaBrake was near the stern, attaching a stopper rope, bending on a retrieval line, unshackling the first section of drogue line, then putting the new retrieval line to the winch, releasing the stopper, and hauling in the second section. But the first SeaBrake would still be connected to the second section of the drogue line through its rear webbing eye and would need to be shuffled along until both SeaBrakes were retrieved together. I concluded this operation under load was quite difficult and hazardous. I was also concerned that no one had done the maths on this before me – did I simply calculate the surface area of a 132 cone JSD and replicate that surface area when sizing the two or even three SeaBrakes? I wasn’t sure, because the SeaBrake relies on a unique dual opening design for much of its efficiency, and so this may not be comparable to the simple cone construction in the JSD. Finally as you said in conclusion, it is hard if no one has done the LIVE testing to say how it would work in breaking wave conditions. So we have gone for both – the SeaBrake and a new 2016 ACE Sailmaker hybrid (Vectran and Braid) drogue. As John alluded to, Dave was prepared to help me out to “persuade” me to buy a completed drogue, rather than buy the kit-set cones. By the way all the ACE cones are Dacron, turned over and over-sewn on the leading edges. The rear edges look heat sealed. I am very confident that this version will… Read more »
To answer your questions. As I understand it:
1. There was damage for the entire length, although Dave at Ace did speculate that wear can be worse at the inboard end due to surface effects.
2. Both of the series drogues and the bridles in question were built to Jordan’s specs and correctly sized for the boats.
Seems to me that this is a pretty simple issue of not hemming combined with too light a cloth. Fix that and follow Jordan’s design and all is good.
By the way, I really don’t like the idea of substituting two drogues in series or any other of the many ways people (often on forums) speculate about “improving” Jordan’s design. As far as I know, Jordan is the only person that has ever done any credible science, backed up with real big wave testing (West Coast Inlets), of a drag device.
And that, coupled with many successful deployments in very large seas by super-experienced offshore sailors like Tony Gooch, convinces me that the JSD is not broken and so we should not be trying to fix it, particularly since any testing we do in inshore waters really has no application to the scenario that the JSD is designed to protect against: the once in a lifetime massive breaking wave.
I know that Evan Starzinger has used two in series in blue water conditions (Delta Drogue + Gale Rider) and have discussed it with him. I have tested a pair in gale conditions (Seabrake + Galerider).
As for the last paragraph, I see three potential fallacies:
1. If we never improve anything the JSD would not exist.
2. The vast majority of JSD deployments are in much less than ultimate storms.
Although I only tested full-scale in gale conditions, I did test scale models at speeds and loadings equivalent to hurricane conditions. And before you scoff about models, remember that I have spent a career scaling engineering designs up 10-10,000 times. The JSD was based on models. The scale-up science is pretty well understood. This was not a large scale up factor.
Regarding recovery, I’ve done it singlehanded in near gale conditions; by the time you are recovering the drogue the forces just aren’t that crazy under bare poles. There are multiple solutions.
Chafe is very easily resolve by either using a Dyneema leader or by sleeving the rode in webbing. The tail of the drogue is only very lightly loaded. In experience, this is not a major problem.
Shark did some testing and dismissed it, but foolishly ran them only 10′ apart. I believe they were trying to discredit the idea so that it could be dismissed, along with the JSD (competition).
As for the Seabrake having magical “extra drag” because of the design, that is a myth. The design is simply a take on an old ballute design that is stable at speed. Drag is very nearly proportional to area across all drogue designs (except Galerider). I did a bunch of drag testing at 2-10 knots, some of which has been published.
I did not imply that this was a fully tested idea, suitable for ultimate storms. I said that more investigation was needed. I am certain, without reservation, that it is sound and better than other ideas well into strong gale conditions. Really, is an intermediate step, with as much drag as a JSD (based on full scale testing), and similar improvements in stability and pull-out resistance. Like the JSD, the 2nd unit runs deep. In my mind, it’s simplicity and versatility make it more likely to be used.
As I re-read my original post, I realize I did not explain that my comment was the culmination of a research project including hundreds of hours of on-the-water testing with five different full-scale units and six 1/3-scale models, most of it attached to load cells. Conditions ranged from flat calm for bases line development, to gale conditions. A lot of testing, data analysis, re-testing, and thought went into it.
And like any bit of science, I would like others to try to replicate the experience and to take it farther. I am SURE it works better than a single drogue and has no bad habits. I never experience a failure or tangle of any sort, and that is actually rare in testing. How far the utility extends is a question that must be answered through slow experience, but given that it is stable to about 4 times the loading of a single drogue, pretty darn rough. Just another tool for the tool box.
For the record, the only serious failures in testing had to do with poor bridle design; proper rigging will always be vital, perhaps more important than the drogue.
Hi Drew, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Based on my in excess of 100,000 offshore miles—sorry to play that card, but it’s necessary in this case—including several experiences with significant wave heights in excess of 20′ (independently verified) I really don’t like the idea of encouraging people to experiment with unproven ideas. The key point here is that in the ocean, as apposed to sheltered inshore waters where your testing was done, there are often boat killing waves around in comparatively low wind speeds. For example, in ocean areas anywhere near the Gulf Stream—I have crossed this to and from Bermuda over 20 times including some memorable trips before good forecasts were available—or any other currents, their are often localized wind against current situations that will produce a wave in excess of 30 feet in far less than gale force winds. And said wave can capsize even the most well found of boats. And yes, I was aware of your testing and read the report, but again, based on my experience, while useful, I don’t think it is applicable to offshore. Sorry, I know that will make you unhappy, but that’s my thinking. Note that I will always defer to you in areas where you have applicable experience (climbing) but storms at sea is not one of those. Yes, you do great engineering work, which I value hugely, but I don’t think you have allowed properly for the differences between inshore waters and offshore and I think that allowance will always be hard for you because you don’t have the applicable experience. For example, unless you have experienced it, it is pretty much impossible to appreciate how much more difficult the kinds of tasks you do in a gale inshore are to do offshore in big waves. But even if I’m wrong about all that (certainly possible). The bottom line is that even with my experience or even more, once offshore in big waves it’s impossible to reliably estimate when a situation is, or is not, safe for experimentation. The proof of this assertion is that in most cases where a boat is capsized the crew thought that the situation was under perfect control until the moment of disaster. Therefore, since we have a proven technology I think that it’s poor idea to encourage people to experiment with an unproven one in conditions that can go from manageable to not very quickly, and where the difference is impossible to access accurately. And experimentation is particularly dangerous when running off, the reason that experienced offshore sailors like Pardeys, the late Peter Blake, John Kretschmer, me, and many others, until the invention of the JSD, preferred techniques that did not involve running off. I also think that encouraging this kind of experimentation may result in people, some inexperienced, going to sea without a JSD, which I really don’t want to see happening. Bottom line, before the JSD we had to experiment in storms at sea… Read more »
The report on tandem drogues was never published, only some of the baseline data and comments on individual drogues. The articles on emergency steering, full-scale testing of tandem drogues, and the data behind the high speed and tandem small-scale testing are still in the que. A few preliminary videos are the only thing on the web. Lamentably, magazine readers find science boring. The science is not very different from the JSD, where N varies from 1 to 150. It really is a continuum, where the jump for N= 1 to N=2 is large, and beyond N= 4, the math changes very little. However, the brilliant “string of squids” becomes the most manageable system for N>2. I understand that you are conservative and I understand the reasons. You are, unarguably, correct for the conditions you describe. I believe the main reason we disagree is that storm management in smaller multihulls and storm management in larger monohulls are very different. I know little about the former and good deal about the later. We turn downwind much sooner because heaving to is a terrible, unsafe, and uncomfortable prospect in steep waves. Anyone who talks about heaving to in a cat either never has or didn’t actually need to. We have no chance of making ground to windward above 25-30 knots sustained, in waves, and reaching in steep waves is a fine way to capsize. Thus, we need a high-drag, easy-to-deploy-and-recover system, that we will use while you are still crawling forward. In fact, I might use what I have proposed in a very conservative way, deploying it in conditions where you are still sailing with 2 reefs. Different horses for different courses. Thus, we are coming at it from a different perspective, for a different use. I have said repeatedly that I do not consider this a method for very serious storms. I must apologize for using the phrase “extreme conditions” too casually; for you that means something very real, whereas most magazine drogue testing has been done in a calm harbor, which is hardly even relevant. Some real crap has been published because of that practice. I meant to suggest gradually increasing experience in conditions where a single drogue might otherwise be used. This is probably a range of conditions that is not even relevant to you, merely blustery, but is very relevant to smaller, more tender boats. The smaller the boat, the more relevant the topic of drogues. I’ve tested up to 35 knots sustained and 12-foot average waves, but personally, I have avoided anything more vigorous. In those conditions I could simply surf, a single drogue was effective, and two were very stable. — Another thing that could use development is the use of the JSD for emergency steering. This is probably the greater need, given the number of boats that require rescue because of steering failure. Jordan did not suggest this use because he was focused on storms. He did not want sailors to deploy fewer than a certain… Read more »
Great, as you say we were coming at it from a different place. Good to have that sorted.
One thought on emergency steering. I would suggest that rather than trying to combine storm survival and that function it is probably better to come at them separately. This is our approach where we carry a JSD for storm survival and a Galerider with lines and swivel all ready to go for emergency steering This has the added benefit that we can use the same Galerider for heave-to assistance as I detail in this post: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/stopping-wave-strikes-while-heaved-to/
Of course many will accuse me of being insensitive to the needs of those on a tight budget with this recommendation, but I would argue that the benefits of focusing on particular functions outweigh that. For example, using part of a JSD for steering, as some have suggested (not you), is always going to be a kluge that is difficult to rig. Also using one device precludes being set up and ready to go for both functions, which I think is very important for the reasons I discuss in this chapter: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/storm-survival-system-a-must/
The bottom line for me is that I think that storm survival and emergency steering gear are the two most important pieces of safety gear on a well found offshore boat, so that compromising either to combine them is probably not a good plan.
Anyway, I will be very interested to read your work on emergency steering devices and would love to see a purpose built device for this function based on good science.
While I don’t have your mileage I’ve got quite a few miles in, mostly in little boats (24-36 feet). I’ve always run off in survival conditions. The one time I capsized – in a light 24-footer, in breaking waves less than four metres – I can’t imagine how a drogue would have improved matters, and in fact I immediately returned to running off without further incident. My principal reason for running off was that, in the conditions, I considered that being held in place would have resulted in serious damage to the boat. Maybe it works for you big-boat guys: but then you ought to be able to handle a big storm better than my little boat… If running off was good enough for Moitessier, it’s good enough for me.
Having said that, I always had sea-room, but I would consider lying ahull or heaving-to before tying myself down with a drogue.
You are entitled to your opinion, but both good science and multiple capsize experience have proved conclusively that running off is far, far, more dangerous than either using a series drogue or heaving-to properly. This is not my opinion, but simply fact based on real world experience of sailors like Tony Gooch and Trevor Robinson who have in excess of 200,000 miles each, as well as good science done by Don Jordan and the Wolfson Unit of the University of Southhampton.
The key point in all of this science is that what we observe from a small boat in very large waves is illusionary and therefore the conclusions we draw from those experiences are not to be relied upon. It was this realization that changed my thinking and made me an believe in the JSD.
As to the JSD working on smaller boats, I have a personal friend (sadly late) who used one repeatedly in very bad conditions on a Cal 29 and swore by it.
I suggest you read the literature I mention above as well as Lin and Larry Pardey’s excellent book on heavy weather tactics that is full of real world examples of running off ending in capsize. You might also want to read our own Heavy Weather Tactics online book, because I specifically tackle Moitessier’s experience and discuss why it does not apply to most of us—the Smeeton’s experience (capsized twice) is far more relevant.
Sorry to be so vehement, but I simply can’t allow assertions like yours to stand because people who follow them could get killed. This is not just an academic discussion.
Thank you for the article!
I was just planning to purchase the DIY kit from Sailrite (I have the Sailrite sewing machine and a family member with some practice on it).
Maybe you could do some recommendations on how to fix potential problems while sewing the kit?
Would it make sense asking Sailrite to cut the cones for the kit from Dacron or stronger nylon?
As I say in the post, if it were me, I would go to one of the two companies that specialize in building these drogues and the cones should be Dacron based on the experience of said two companies. Also, as I also said in the post, I have reservations about the Sailrite kits based on noticing that they use open thimbles, a very bad idea as we have known for some time. I think I’m right in saying that either will do you a kit like sailrite.
John, seeing as you are a former sailmaker, what weight of Dacron would you suggest for the taped cones? A garage loft full of old sails offers some raw material…certainly if I cut up a retired mainsail.
I believe that Ace and Ocean Brake are using 4oz Dacron. And no, I would not cut up an old sail that will inevitably have UV degradation to do this.
Or to put it another way, would you fit your car with safety belts made from old webbing that had been sitting around in the sun for some years?
Depends on the sail! But I accept your reasoning. If I do this myself, I can order up whatever weight of Dacron I care to cut and sew. Unlike sails, all of the cones in a JSD are unlikely to experience further UV degradation, or, indeed, any at all.
Correction, Dave at Ace is now using 6.5 oz Dacron.
I have no experience with these drogues, just putting that up front.
It sounds like part of the problem is the leading edge of the cones. And that edge is cut straight from one webbing band to another. What if there was a catenary curve between the webs? Crazy addition to the amount of work in construction, but then you would have a leading edge that would be supported before it was fully loaded at tension and you would have less of a point load where the webbing and cone meet. Just thinking about the different between a flat tarp and one cut with properly curved edges. Way less flutter in wind. I can only image it would be worse under the load of water.
Yes, that might reduce fluttering, that said, it seems that the changes made in recent years (detailed above) have solved the problem, so I would not bother.
Interesting article. I really appreciate the depth of research and the overall tone of – we’re still all working on figuring out how to make this better.
You did step on a bit of tender spot for me, the professional/amateur(DIY) issue. The gist of your article is that the professionally made drogues have problems. Then you say that we probably don’t want an DIY built drogue by someone just learning. I guess I balk at the presumption that because it is done by a professional it is naturally better and the idea that because the professional is doing it, they just know how. Your argument is that we all need to keep learning, professional and amateur and you’re doing a great job providing that information to both camps.
When ever I run into this idea that – of course you’d want it done by a professional – my thinking goes a little different. In this case: In a sail loft, I’d bet that it isn’t going to be the most experienced highest paid sailmaker sewing drogues cones and the new guy working on the high tech laminate mainsail. So my question is a little different than yours. Would you want your drogue sewn together by the (professional) last guy hired on, frustrated with his $15/hr, texting his buddies trying to figure out where they are going out beers after work, or rather by the (amateur) husband who knows full well the responsibility of not only needing to return home safe to provide for his family or more critically, that his workmanship will depend on keeping his family safe on the boat?
Professional isn’t a guarantee that it is done right and amateur isn’t going to necessarily going to do it wrong. The only sure constant in all this, is that professional, by definition is doing the work for profit, and that has the ability to color things, just as you admit. One must not underestimate the amateur that doesn’t have to labour under that significant handicap.
Sure, that’s another way of looking at it. In this case with these two companies I don’t think it’s the right one, but I could be wrong and certainly low quality can be produced by professionals. That said, my general experience with small independent lofts like these is that they sweat bullets to do things properly. Understand that the problems discussed above in the post were not quality control issues, but rather a design decision that turned out, over time, to be wrong.
Marvin, from a non-professional: well said!
As someone doing his own sewing I can tel you, that often simply having available the proper tools and machines makes a big difference.
Also while the professional might be bored, there’s a good chance he’s already past most of the beginner problems home-brewers encounter with their first and usually only of model in production.
For me, professional work – even by the bored guy – often wins on quality but just as often isn’t worth the extra cost. For safety gear, the former is usually more important than the latter.
A very well put analysis, thanks.
We have built our own JSD and I cut out the cone material with a hot knife, so the edges should be somewhat robuster than those where the nylon was just scissored. I found that using a piece of float glass and a hot knife made the job straightforward. However, we did use 1.5 oz ripstop. Imke and I discussed for some time if this was robust enough, but in the end the combination of Don Jordan’s recommendation, and the availabilty of free offcuts from our local sail loft won the argument. In your remedial work listed above, you talk of replacing the cones on the front line with dacron, and “larger” cones. Can you give some details of the dimensions you plan for these cones?
First off, I’m guessing that the benefits of having cut out your cones with a hot knife may be far greater that one might expect, and might even preclude the need for any changes, at least for one or two deployments. In fact I seriously considered just sealing my cones with a hot knife and leaving it at that. The problem with this is that I am guessing based on very little information.
As to larger cones. I think that’s actually an error on my part. Dave did suggest that the new cones would be a bit bigger, but that was when we were discussing retrofitting the existing rope with new cones required by the need to get them over the splice. Now that we are going with a new section, we will just use whatever his standard cone size is based on Jordan’s original design. I will change the post.
That said, I don’t think that exact cone size is really that important as long as they are as big, or a little bigger than those specified by Jordan.
If ever there was a relevant real-life contribution to a discussion, this is it:
regards to all
Thanks very much for the link to some really useful real world information. Lot’s of interesting lessons there. I highly recommend reading both links to all.
That was really impressive, especially the part where she mentions the differential wear on the drogue’s cones. Hell of an achievement to get through there, particularlu single-handed on an Open 50.
Excellent article thank you. I’ve sewed all of my cones so will go back and sew so reinforcing tape over the leading edges of the cones. I’ll also use solid thimbles rather than open thimbles.
Being 4 tons, my drogue will be relatively small. My intention is use Dyneema 75 for the entire drogue including the two bridles.
My question is this: Rather than using three thimbles to attach the main line to the bridle, do you have any thoughts on using three soft eye splices instead? This of course means that I would be only using two thimbles (at the attachment of the hull fittings) rather than five thimbles in the drogue.
I think cow hitched soft eyes are the way to go for the bridle to drogue connection. That’s how mine, and I think most others are built and I have not heard of any problems.
I have cow-hitched the the leader and after lines together, but use a shackle for attaching to the bridle. The reason is that our drogue lives in a cockpit locker, and the bridle is attached with thin cable ties to the pushpit in normal conditions. We have quite a busy stern, with a Windpilot and it is necessary to keep the bridle clear of everything when the drogue is launched. If I used a cow-hitch then the drogue would be permanently attached and need to be in the cockpit.
Sounds good, we do the same trick with the wire ties, but have the JSD connected up all the time when at sea and bagged up on the aft deck, so we get away with three cow hitches.
Many years ago, before we knew about JSD, we were forced to deploy a “sea anchor” north west of the Faeroe Islands on our way to Bergen.The boat was only 33ft in length. What we used was a few hundred ft of 5/8 nylon line with at the end a piece of chain and a number of fenders filled with water and sand and like Lisa Blair, also with a small storm jib, and it worked well.
As any one towing a small dink knows, the effort it takes to pull it in even at low speed.
The JSD looks like a great idea, but the forces that are deployed on the cones stitched together is considerable and as we have been told repeatedly, it proved to give a falls sense of security. Have also seen lines with a number of large knots instead of cones and easy to extent as needed, provided you have enough lines onboard.
Simple, but it works.
Yes, people have been fabricating drag devices from what comes to hand for decades with some, although varying, success.
Not sure why you would say that the JSD “it proved to give a falls sense of security”. Rather the JSD track record is one of very real security.
And while a rope with knots may help, I would not recommend it now we have something way better: the JSD.
Like the many replies before me, I too very much appreciate you bringing up this topic.
I don’t have any experience with JSD, but from the comments that came in, it looked like the ones that were used, could not be used a second time. Stitching is nice for sails and parachutes, but when exposed to hydraulic forces, questions arise. I seem to remember a comment you made, when a jib, close to the deck, sometimes have a short life, when catching a few waves. I don’t know if there are cheap Chinese knock offs on the market,
but any one buying a sea anchor, should maybe test it with a 6kn speed or more for a few hours. Do agree with you the JSD is way more convenient to store onboard, but some of the photos shown, question its durability. Hence my remark of “false sense of security”
As I explained in the last post, the durability issue is a solved problem.
Is there a suggested retrofit for the lightweight cones, other than replacing them all?
My guess, although it is just that, is that sealing the edges with a hot knife would result in a drogue that would be perfectly safe to use at least once, maybe more.
I personally have no need for a JSD, or I would run the following experiment:
1. Build one cone each using the initial construction, the current construction, and several variations. I would also test one lightweight cone with the leading edge coated with 3M 5200 or Skiaflex 291. This material adhears very well to cloth and I used it in the construction of some test drogues.
2. Assemble them on a short rode.
3. Drag it around at 5-8 knots for several days (300-500 miles), with just enough weight (5-10 feet of chain) and rode to keep it slightly submerged. The drag should be about 3-8 pounds per cone, depending on the speed. This will only slow the boat a few tenths of a knot. However, even in moderate conditions, the per-cone abuse, if towed such that it surfaces occasionally, will be similar to or worse than storm loads. Additionally, the lightweight cone provides a control–it will fray in a predictable manner. After towing small drogues constructed in similar manners (some of those I tested followed the JSD pattern), I do believe they will fray similar to the pictures you posted.
And then just keep driving until you learn something. If I were going to use a JSD, particularly one I made, this is the ONLY way I would feel good about my workmanship. I would not be guessing, I would be sure.
And if the 3M 5200 holds up well, you have a possible retrofit for light cones.
That’s interesting, but I don’t think really required. Both Ocean Brake and Ace Sailmakers are getting good realworld reports, including multi-deployments, on cones constructed to their new standard, as discuss in the post.
Further, I’m not sure that dragging cones around is actually a valid test. As I understand it from Jordan’s work their a lot of rotation going on in big waves offshore and therefore the cones are subjected to thousands of collapse/fill cycles in a real deployment. Not the case, I think, when being towed around in moderate conditions.
Bottom line, I’m pretty sure this is a solved problem.
Keep in mind that, despite the many light cone drogues out there, and hundreds, (maybe thousands) of deployments, only one boat I have heard of has had a problem and that was a very small one that I believe strayed into the north wall of the Gulf Stream in a strong norther.
The JSD simply works.
Just read your link to Jordan site ” Mooring and anchoring” , where he recommends to do this from the stern instead from the bow. Controversial for sure, but who knows ?? My boat sails badly at anchor and certainly will give Jordan’s advice a try. Very interesting reading.
Yes, it’s interesting. We have discussed it several times over the years in the comments.
Why resinated sailcloth at all? No commercial drogue manufacturer uses sailcloth. We know the resin will flog out and the resulting cloth will be less stable. We don’t need shape control, such as sails. Although I can’t lay my hands on testing, I’m pretty sure sailcloth is not the best material for something that will flog, like a flag.
The reason I pose the open ended question is that I believe I will be investigating higher speed applications, and I’m wondering if a sturdy canvas is not a more durable answer.
BTW, Jordan tested with 1.5 oz. dacron, not nylon (page 39). IT is always more difficult to create stable stitching in stretchy fabrics, and it would have been stretchy after the resin was flogged out of it. Also his test tank had a max velocity of 2.5 ft/s, while his computer and field load testing told him the range was up to 7010 ft/s. Thus, the 1.5 oz. cones were never fully tested. Mr. Jordon certainly shone a bright light in the correct direction, the core idea was brilliant, and the testing systematic, but my feeling from reading the report was always that he felt there was more work to be done. He spent very little time on cone construction and said as much. He was focused in other areas.
I hear you on resinated sailcloth, that said, as long as it’s not heavily resinated, I don’t think it would be big problem. As to sturdy canvas, assuming you mean true canvas (made of cotton) I don’t think that would be good because of potential rot since a JSD spends most of it’s life in a damp locker.
The other benefit of lightly resinated fabric is that it reduces water absorption and so weight. Not a trivial issue since a JSD for a boat our size already weighs a lot. Not so much of a problem for us, because we have the space to have it bagged and ready to go whenever at sea, but an issue for an aging, tired, seasick sailor wrestling one out of a locker.
So, all in all, I think that the 6.5oz Dacron now being used by Ace and Ocean Brake is probably just fine.
As to the ripstop Nylon or Dacron. My error…I think. But then again, maybe not. I could easily be wrong, but I don’t think that a ripstop type fabric was available in Dacron when Jordon was doing his tests, so it might be that the report was wrong. That said, It doesn’t matter much, since those cones have proved to be inadequate anyway.
Regarding canvas, I meant non-resinated synthetic cloth. As you say, cotton wouldn’t work out. As a former sailmaker, I assume you know fabrics far better than I and might have an idea. Yeah, I also wondered about the resinated nylon rip-stop cloth. That’s sort of an oxymoron, so I agree, the report was likely in error.
I agree that 6.5 ounce is a big step up. I had not thought of the water absorption issue, since no one had ever mentioned it. That seals it, as a practical matter.
Dave indicated that he has built a few short JSDs for emergency steering and speed reduction. That is all I know.
A side thought, not directly related, but possibly useful for cold weather sailors. You can treat ropes with water repellent (NikWax Rope Pruf or Polar Pruf), greatly reducing water absorption and freezing. I learned this trick as an ice climber (a stiff, frozen rope is a life-threatening hazard on the mountain), and I practice it sailing as well. I treat the furler line every winter. It also extends the useful (not stiff) life of ropes and makes them handle better by restoring internal lubricants, something like the fabric softener trick, but MUCH better. Great on polyester, but obviously not helpful with Dyneema et al. Silences squeaky ropes for a year. But forget the instructions, just soaked it in a bucket for an hour, turning and agitating every 20 minutes. Air dry. Use the dregs for the next rope and it is cheap.
Good points, as always. I really like the idea of treating lines for cold weather sailing. I wonder if treating the dock lines would work too? Over the years I have, on several occasions, had a hell of a time getting a frozen dock line off a cleat.
here is another link to damage done to a JSD. She also says the damage is mostly on the first section close to the surface splash zone.
Yes, I agree, some really good information.
did you start your upgrading/repairing of the JSD yet ? Your post made me aware that the cones on mine are badly frayed also, a fact that I had noticed but somehow put into the back of my mind. Now I started to seal the forward edges of my 116 cones with a hot knife and I can tell you it’s a pretty tedious job. I have 40 cones left as of today. My cones are from OceanBrake, the older type, and I have deployed the drogue once for about 10 hrs. in what I didn’t consider to be a survival situation. After sealing them, the edges look better now, but on many cones the fabric is torn where it’s sewn to the webbing. I’m still looking for a way to mend this. Not so happy with my JSD now although it really worked well when I had it out.
Because it’s considered in the same “survival gear” category as, say, a life raft, perhaps that’s the cost of doing business with a JSD. Now that you know about the wear and tear, however, either a retrofit or a replacement can be built using the reinforcements suggested here.
No, I have not started yet. As you say, it’s going to be a pain in the neck. And your news that you are seeing some damage at the come to webbing join certainly has me thinking and I think confirms my decision to replace the first third of my cones with upgraded ones.
Did you notice if the cones at the forward end (closer to the surface) where any worse than those further aft?
No, I can’t say that. I have started my repair – if one can call it that – from the tail end and now I have 40 of my 116 cones left. The extent of the damage seems to be spread evenly. Of course I had a peek at the ones at the very forward end but can find no significant difference. All cones are frayed on both ends, many are badly frayed and some are torn where they meet the webbing. Today I sewed a reinforcement on the webbing to fabric joint on 2 cones. That works well, but I’d like to go sailing in a month or so ! Should have started the job earlier last winter. But as I’m set on sailing to the Lofoten Islands this year it will be coast hugging most of the time, so will probably not need the JSD.
And yes, I bought the NGC !
Thanks for the report. I guess what this really means is that, as you say, the old cones are fine for your intended passage this year, but before you do anything more aggressive, like your single handed passage to Greenland a few years ago, replacing the cones would make sense.
Enjoy Lofoten, one of our favourite cruising grounds in the world, and thanks for buying our guide.
The outline of the research for this article mentions the observations by Tony based on building his own (very dependable) series drogue and from inspecting one that failed. It is not clear to me if Tony’s observations are shared in the article. Can you summarize his particular construction and observations of the failed drogue. Thanks, Roger
I don’t have that information, however, in a later chapter we have all the details of Trevor’s testing, which confirms that the new cones from both Ocean Brake and Ace Sailmakers are very durable. Said article also provides enough information to make your own durable cones, although we don’t recommend that.
I noticed these cones being sold on Ebay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/SERIES-DROGUE-SEA-ANCHOR-PARA-CONE-DESIGNER-DON-JORDAN/380223607264
They are using 7.5 ounce Dacron which is higher than even the improved Ocean Brake and Ace products – has anyone tried these, the price is okay. They also seem to have the edges properly stitched – do the latest from Ocean and Ace do this?
We have an article later in this online book from Trevor on the current state of the Ace and Ocean Brake cones but the short answer is that it’s a solved problem for both vendors. https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/08/04/battle-testing-a-jordan-designed-series-drogue-round-two/
As to this option, I don’t know how that price compares, but if it were me, I would want to know a lot more about the vendor before I trusted my life to their work, rather than going with Ace or Ocean Brake who really focus on this business and have reputations to protect.
The point being that there are a lot of potential details, other than hemming, that can cause problems. Thread type and tension are two that come to mind.
The bottom line, for me at least, is that Trevor has battle tested both the Ace and Ocean Brake new style cones in the Southern Ocean and found them very satisfactory, to me that trumps all.
Really sad for Susie Goodall from the GGG who pitchpoled today in the southern ocean.
Susie Goodall Racing was enjoying the sailing very well in 35/40kts when the safety tube of the Monitor wind vane failed. She dropped the reefed main then set the Jordan Series drogue as could not hand steer in building winds. Went below. Sometime later was gearing up to come on deck to check things when pitchpoled stern over bow. The mast and all poles lost. Windvane damaged by backstay. The drogue Bridle is still fitted but the drogue gone. #GGR2018
Very surprised to hear that the drogue failed.
I would be very interested in anyone’s views to the possible cause.
I realise that we do know know very much as yet.
I saw an instagram picture of her loading the drogue – which looked like an old school single unit at the end of a warp. I have read that when she was rolled, the drogue line was empty – it had broken off. My guess (lack of info acknowledged) is that it broke then and *then* she pitch poled.
So it is far from certain, but I *think* she was not using a series drogue and the one she was using snapped and *that* is why she pitch poled. If this is the case, it is a further tick in the series drogue column.
Thats my guess as well – with a properly sized JSD, and properly sized attachment points, it seems near impossible to pitchpole as the retaining strength aft would (should) be stronger than any possible stern-lifting moment. Actually this has been calculated and proved by Jordan.
That’s my reading too, but we will have to see as more facts come out.
Now that’s interesting. Do you have a link to that shot?
Here is Susie with her ‘Shark Drouge’ https://www.instagram.com/p/BklB_Oqj5Mb – with note she was given this and an para-anchor for the race.
I thought the comment about broken drogue line was from an official GGR update but I cannot find it. We will have to wait for more details I think – but seems likely she was not using a serial drogue.
This is not a series drogue as I see it. The huge advantage of a series drogue against a “conventional one-piece drogue” is that it cannot completely pull out of the water.
When a one-piece drag kit surfaces the boat may accelerate and when the anchor gets grip on the water again the loads must be huge. So I sepculate here that the droge got free behind a wave and let her boat accelerate, then the line broke when shock loaded, the boat was free and accelerated down into the trough where it pitchpoled…
But this is just an assumption of an uneducated reader.
Hopefully we will get the full picture at some point – but on a video briefing from GGR before the rescue the guy specifically said she was using a *series* drogue. It was a live stream on FB but I am 100% sure this is what he said. It seems to me that it is very important to establish whether the pitch poll was whilst using a Jordan Series drogue and if so, how it was sized etc, whether the lines broke and so forth. Current spec might not be sufficient for Southern Oceans.. so important to understand this. On the other hand, if she was using the Shark drogue it is a further tick for the Jordans.
I think the key point here is we need to hear from Susie personally. More thoughts on that here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/12/08/susie-goodall-pitchpole/
Yes, I read that too. Very sad. I was really pulling for Susie.
And yes I’m hoping that we learn more about what broke. That said, I don’t think there’s a lot of point in speculating until we have more data.
She’s safe on the rescue ship as of an hour ago: https://www.facebook.com/susiegoodallracing/
I wonder if the material from old discarded sails could be a good source for material to make the cones out of?
This comes up from time to time, but given that we are dealing with safety of life and our last line of defence in a storm, I would not do that. The point being that by the time a sail is retired the cloth has lost a good deal of strength from UV and flutter, and how would we ever measure that degradation accurately, particularly given that said degradation will vary depending on the part of the sail.
Bottom line, I’m all for reusing stuff, but this is not a function I would do that with.
And the cost savings would be minimum given that most of the cost is labour and rope.
I sewed up my cones before this info came out so they are made of ripstop nylon without any binding on the edges. I haven’t installed them on my line yet, so rather than throw this lot out and start all over again with dacron, I thought I’d sew binding on the leading edges to strengthen them up a bit. Would sewing binding on the leading edge suffice, or do you recommend that I sew binding on the trailing edge (ie the narrower opening) of the cone as well?
Please ignore my question above. Looking at the cones the narrower opening is a lot smaller than I remembered, and looking at one now the tape strips take cover most of the ripstop fabric at the narrow end.
I just don’t know and probably no one else does. The only way to know with any degree of confidence is real world testing. Bottom line, if I had doubts I would replace them. I explain my thinking on evaluating the risks in the article above, and that’s still my position.