Most everybody interested in offshore sailing knows that Susie Goodall was pitchpoled on December 5th in her Rustler 36 while competing in the Golden Globe 2018.
And I’m sure many of you spent the next two days, as Phyllis and I did, checking the Golden Globe site, Facebook, and Twitter, for fragments of news about the rescue of this wonderful and adventurous woman. And then, like us, celebrated when the wonderful news that she was safe aboard a cargo ship came through.
As always happens with these sorts of things, within minutes of the news the speculation started about what happened, particularly since the GG 2018 release stated that:
…she said that before the incident, she had been enjoying the conditions and felt in control. But then the safety tube on her Monitor self-steering broke and she was forced to trail a drogue anchor astern and take down the mainsail.
She was below decks when the boat was pitchpoled, and when she returned on deck to assess the damage, found that the line attached to the drogue had parted.
I did a little investigation the morning after and it turns out that Susie had sourced three storm survival devices over the last couple of years:
- A series drogue to Jordan’s design built by Ocean Brake (see below).
- A Shark single element drogue.
- A Fiorentino sea anchor.
Here’s my source for the last two.
I was not able to find out which of the above she was using when she was pitchpoled, or even which she had aboard, although I think there was a mention of using the sea anchor after the dismasting. Hopefully Susie will be able to tell us more.
And if it was the series drogue built by Ocean Brake, we will need to really dig into what broke and make sure there is not a potential weak spot at the bridle-to-drogue join.
The good news is that Angus and Ocean Brake have a great track record of learning from problems and improving their product, so I’m sure that if Susie was using their drogue they will be all over this looking for clues to what happened.
Here’s what Angus had to say in an email I received from him on the 6th in answer to my enquires:
I sold Susie her drogue a few years back now. It was a fairly standard 116 cone drogue, with 5m bridles and soft eyes inboard and outboard. I haven’t heard from her since.
We always splice with a very long tuck, at least 60cm, so I can’t believe that they have failed. I haven’t seen any images yet, but possibly there was chafe where the bridles were rubbing against the monitor self steer?
I am looking to do away with conventional double braid bridles from next year and only use dyneema, both from a chafe perspective and also from a weight perspective, but I will be looking into this situation to try and figure out what has happened.
I am incredibly concerned regarding what has happened, there is no reason why a drogue (or set of bridles) should have failed in “only” 60kts of wind.
That’s all I know right now and, further, I think it would be a waste of my time and yours to speculate about the causes until we have more information from Susie.
We also need to go into this realizing that we may never know what happened for sure. That said, if she was using the Ocean Brake series drogue, lack of real data won’t stop some people using this incident to claim that the series drogue designed by Don Jordan doesn’t work, even though putting a single incident with incomplete information ahead of hundreds of successful deployments, and solid science, is an epic failure of rational thought.
To those nay sayers I say “gotta better idea”? One thing the Golden Globe 2018 has proved for sure, is that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.
Ocean Brake pays $50/month as a corporate member of this site.
The references you make to Susie’s drogue/anchor parting (whatever drogue that might have been) were confusing until I backtracked and read the GGR source article. It might be clearer if you added something specifically about the parting earlier in the post.
I’m definitely eager to learn more facts about the incident, and look forward to any further posts you make on the subject.
Good point, thanks. I have fixed it now.
Just listened to Don’s latest question and answer video and he confirmed that it was a series drogue that Suzie was streaming. He also suggested that it could have caused the pitch pôle by slowing the boat down too much, on a very steep wave!
Everything I have read from people using a JSD in the southern ocean goes against this comment!
But he also said that Robbin Knox Johnson was doing a review of all the issues boats have had in the GGR and would writer a report.
So maybe it will all become clear. My fear is that this accident will fuel the debate!
But so very very happy that Suzie was rescued successful!
Thanks for writing this article.
I’d be interested in this video but failed to find it on the net – do you have a link?
And at least as far as I am concerned I simply cannot envision the mechanics where the boat would pitchpole (i.e. stern over bow) because being “slowed down too much” simply because any drogue that is “slowing the boat down” will exert a force to the stern pulling it aftwarth-downwarth. I still believe that a drogue which is parting at the very wrong moment can induce an immediate acceleration resulting in a pitchploing event, but not the other way round. There is simply no mechanical model that would support this.
I agree, to me anyway, any other theory is a failure of rational thinking.
Yes, that comment makes no sense to me either, when seen through the prism of the wave science done by Jordan and the Wolfson unit before him. To me is a classic example of Number 8.
Just to confirm – I also saw the video from GGR saying she was using the series drogue. We await the full report to see whether this is confirmed and begin to understand the lessons to be learned.
I saw those videos too, but until I hear directly from Sussie about what happened I reserve judgement. Let’s just say that many of the claims made in GGR videos are unsubstantiated.
I agree with you that the JSD is probably the best overall hope for keeping out of trouble. However, if I may politely observe, the unswerving enthusiasm you display for the device followed immediately by the disclosure that its producers make a significant regular contribution to your website, doesn’t look good vis-a-vis keeping an open mind on these things! There are always new angles to discover.
I agree that the mix is unfortunate. But then surely it’s better for me to be honest about the potential problem, rather than hide it? Also Phyllis and I are hoping to eventually get rid of all corporate membership, which was part of the reason for the recent price increase, although we can’t do that yet and remain viable.
All that said, I can assure you that I would not allow $600/year to influence my thinking. They say everyone has a price, but mine is way higher than that!
Rather my unwavering enthusiasm is simply based on the science; and the experience of people like Tony, Trevor, and Suzanne. Both together show that the JSD simply works.
That said, I agree about keeping an open mind to new options. But all I’m hearing right now, particularly around the GGR2018 camp is a lot of intuition based stuff.
What I would really like to see would be a new study at say the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University coupled with systematic, tabulated, interviews of those who have used the JSD. The latter is something we have tried to do here at AAC—see later chapters in the online books.
I would think that you might consider John’s being clear of this contribution to his web site as evidence of his good faith effort to be as objective as possible.
I believe it to be nigh on impossible, in our world, not to have apparent bias and probably impossible not to have actual bias. That said, I also think it is quite possible to approach objectiveness and fairness. Part of the path toward fairness objectiveness is being clear where your own biases might creep in and keep a weather eye on them. Another is to be transparent in a manner that invites others to look over your shoulder and to point out areas where bias might have played a part.
In both these areas, I believe that John has done well.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
However well founded the series drogue systems might be, one wonders how they cope with an extreme event; so called “rogue waves” (not a helpful term to my mind). Such events have been shown to be a statistical certainty, even in the absence of exacerbating currents or subsea topographical features. Moreover, satellite observations have shown them to occur far more often than one might think.
Such extreme statistical events are not just categorised by wave height but also by wave shape and direction. Even a 5m high wave with a short wavelength, near vertical slope and moving in a direction different to the prevailing seas is going to ruin someones day.
One can envisage the situation where the JSD is doing its job keeping the vessel correctly orientated and at a controlled speed relative to the predominant wave train and then a curve-ball wave screws things up.
Such waves are likely to be very short lived as their energy gets sapped by the predominant wave train. If you encounter such a wave you are therefore extremely unlucky. (So I guess that we can all carry on sailing?)
I have no idea whether such an event contributed to Susie Goodall’s predicament however, it is a possibility.
More worrying is that there have been 20 retirements from the Golden Globe (so far!). At least three dismastings, two vessels with severe rigging damage and several debilitating injuries to various skippers, all incurred during repeated knock-downs.
So have they all been unlucky in encountering “rogue waves”? I doubt it!
Perhaps these results highlight how much modern navigation systems, weather and sea state forecasting, and autopilots contribute to our safety at sea (all such niceties are forbidden in the Golden Globe – except in an emergency). When you look at the low retirement rates in the Volvo Ocean series and other techfest sailing extravaganzas, even though vessels are highly stressed, one can surmise that knowing where the next gust is coming from and the sea state a mile ahead is a boon.
As an addendum:
Some sources define a rogue wave as one that is double the significant wave height. If I remember correctly, some observations indicate that waves do occur that are double the height of the next highest wave in 24h period. That is high!
I believe that jury is out on the exact physics behind such events. I suspect that a combination of linear supposition, non-linear effects, chaos theory (look out for that flying fish plunging in to the big swell!), etc, etc. will just generate an unsolvable differential equation which in any case wont help you if you are blatting along in the South Atlantic.
Some interesting thoughts, thank you. I too am thinking a lot about the implications of not letting the the GGR racers get modern weather information.
The good news is that Don Jordan specifically engineered the JSD to deal with exactly that: rogue waves. That’s where it excels as has been proven by multiple no-drama Southern Ocean transits while using it.
See this article for more: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/09/16/there-are-no-rogue-waves/
Thanks John. I had seen the “no rogue waves” article.
Perhaps I have a slightly different view of what is a rogue wave. The wave event, for want of a better term, may be extremely localised, perhaps a few hundred metres across or less; essentially an isolated mountainous peak and not a wave in the true sense. It may be momentarailly stationary or perhaps moving even at right angles to the prevailing wave train.
If a series drogue is “dug in” to the prevailing wave train perhaps (and hopefully) several wavelengths worth, and a significant “mountain’ comes in abeam, the drogue will prevent the vessel from coming around to surf down the unexpected gradient. In these circumstance I feel that the vessel could get rolled and with the yaw, one side of the bridal might be fatally overloaded.
Don’t get me wrong, I am talking about an extremely unlikely and unlucky event in which any storm tactic would probably not be effective. I am a firm believer in the JSD et al in every respect. It is just to make the point that Mother Nature can always come up with something, however unlikely, that will overpower any best intentioned preventative measure.
When we hear of such events we should clearly look to learn from them. My view is that we should never denigrate a system, JSD or other, because it appears to have failed, as we don’t truly know what Mother Nature had in mind at the time.
I apologise. This probably not the thread for such metaphysical discussions. But Susie Goodall’s and the other GGR skippers’ experiences are rather thought provoking.
Lots of good points. I think you would find Jordan’s original research of interest, particularly since he investigated exactly the idea that a wave could be at right angles to the existing wave train and concluded that the wave science proved pretty conclusively that that scenario is an illusion, rather than a reality.
The science certanly works for me. Of coure you will have to decide if you find it equally compelling:
And for a really deep dive:
Hi Philip and John. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve actually observed the type of “rogue wave” that arrives at a significant angle to the main wave pattern twice. One time was zero drama, as I was not in a boat but rather bathing and the weather was nice but windy. Location was the north tip of Denmark in southwesterly wind. The spot goes into a very narrow tip aligned with that normal wind direction, which continues in a sand ridge under water. The main waves were on the western side, coming in along the beach and the direction aligning with the land tip. The wind was maybe 25 knots and there were also proper waves on the east “inside” of the land tip. These were at an angle with the waves on the west side, since waves and wind adjusted to the shore line on both sides. The waves were fairly big and they got very steep approaching the shallow ridge. At the shallowest point, they met the smaller waves from the east side at an angle of maybe 30-40 degrees. Mostly, this resulted in the waves cancelling each other some, but the bigger waves from the west would clearly dominate in the beginning. One could see them as well rounded swell quite far eastwards, under the smaller waves there. The interesting stuff with “freak waves” happened just east of the shallow. Completely out of the blue there would be huge mountains rising straight up. Some were 3-4 times the height of the average of the bigger west side wave train. We would actually try to be at the location when one happened, but without proper success. These waves were not really waves though. They just shot up from “nothing”, really high, and then just disappeared in seconds. They didn’t move any direction and didn’t break. They seemed to have spent all their energy in the vertical jump. In a boat with bigger versions of this, I actually think they wouldn’t be dangerous, but very scary, though. The only really dangerous offshore storm I’ve experienced, off Portugal about 20 years ago, steady around 60 knots of wind gusting way more, insanely huge waves. It’s impossible to guess wave height, but we agreed that when we were on any wave top, the next top was at least 100-150 meters away. They were mostly breaking. Very scary. I’ve never seen anything close to that. We didn’t know about JSD. I stayed at the helm for almost 20 hours on a tiny 5,5m2 storm jib, going 15 to 25 knots (light 40 foot catamaran) until we got into Bayona in the north of Spain. The wind stayed fairly steady on south, but once in the morning changed about 20 degrees west in just a few minutes. Since the wind was still very strong, the new direction got its own big waves within half an hour or so, while the original waaaay bigger waves continued rolling north. I assume many others have experienced a… Read more »
So……playing devils advocate……I don’t agree with these two statements: “A second optical illusion is that a dangerous breaking wave comes from a direction different from the prevailing wind and sea” “From physical considerations it is virtually impossible for a breaking storm wave to approach from a significantly different direction” With all due respect to Don Jordan, in the last 30-years the modelling of how oceanic waves develop and interact has evolved. I doubt that much of underlying maths has changed. After all, Schrödinger was touting his stuff long before then. Chaos theory has advanced somewhat but mostly it is Moore’s Law has obviated the need for the simplifications that were essential in the 80s. In the day, models were primarily simple harmonic and based on the damping effect of gravity and the energy input by the wind augmented by empirical studies. Moreover, for simplicity it was probably assumed that there was a reasonably constant fetch. Such models are still valid for oceanic wave prediction and are probably the source for generating commonly available wave GRIBS, which to be clear are remarkably accurate on a macro scale. However, I understand that there is now an appreciation of the potential effects of non-linear and chaotic inputs. Consider a typical low pressure system. It will be rotating and therefore the wind direction will vary through 360 degrees across the weather system. The wind speeds will vary depending on the pressure gradient plus the additive/subtractive effects of the velocity with which the system is moving. At sea level the winds will also depend on the convectional air currents, the surface conditions, etc. etc. That is to say that across the weather system, the surface of the sea will be subjected to a wide range of time varying wind speeds and directions. The wave frequency, amplitude and direction spectra from each point in the system and at each point in time will be very complex. As the speed of wave propagation is frequency (wavelength) dependent, dispersion will ensure that the longest wavelengths, which correspond to the strongest winds and/or longest fetches and therefore the biggest amplitudes, will travel most rapidly away from the storm system. One might think that this relatively uniform primary component (all-be-it with its statistical highs, lows and interference patterns) is all we have to worry about when sailing. However, the storm system is moving. It may be moving faster than the propagation speed of the fastest waves, and almost certainly faster than a typical sailboat. On its way, each point in the system will be spewing off its divers wave spectra. With dispersion, the waves experienced by the vessel at any one point will be the combination of waves from different points in the storm system and from different times during its passage. For example, the vessel may be experiencing the smaller wavelength, lower speed waves from when the centre of the system was at a bearing of 160 degrees mixed with the larger wavelength higher speed waves from when the… Read more »
Interesting and well argued. I will leave it at that, since I simply don’t have the skills to discuss wave theory intelligently.
That said, I totally agree that writing off a system as not effective because there might be a situation where it would fail makes no sense at all.
For example, a bunch of people have claimed that the JSD would not have worked in the storm that capsized two GGR 2018 commentators and badly injured one of them. But in so doing they completely ignored the fact that Suzanne was in the same storm, very close to these two, but with a JSD out, and had no problems at all. Or that Trevor and Tony have sailed the same waters using a JSD and have never been capsized.
So, while I’m a great believer in the application of science to these things in a logical way (as you have done) it drives me up the wall when the unqualified use unproven “science” to run down a proven solution to a problem.
That all makes sense to me. Your experience also demonstrates something I believe to be fundamental: There are two ways to survive a really bad blow with breaking waves, either slow down (JSD) or go like hell. That said, the big problem is when skippers select the second and either don’t have the steering stamina and skills to make it work, or when they try it on a boat that is fundamentally slow, like those in the GGR 2018.
Bottom line, trying fast boat techniques on slow boats is a very bad idea. On the other hand, on a boat like your cat with a strong crew, going fast can be very safe, as Open 60s and Volvo boats demonstrate all the time.
Hi John et al.,
I also have a problem on dismissing experienced sailor’s observations about “breaking waves coming from right angles” as optical illusions. And, yes, I don’t have anything concrete to back this up. This is just a hunch that there is more on this thing.
Then again, Don Jordan is right about wave friction, but I believe on that time rotary core stormclouds and thunderbursts were not yet on the discussion. Namely, Micro/macrobursts push huge amount of energy to sea surface very quickly, and they might also be the source of irregular wavefronts.
S/Y Destiny’s report from 1994 Queen’s birthday storm has some discussion of thunderbursts:
Second thing: Isn’t the most common JSD failure mode, so far, been bridle entanglement with wind vane gear, and subsequent parting?
As I understand it, Jordan was applying basic wave theory in fluids (an area well understood at the time he was working) when he stated that two wave trains coming from different directions to create a very large wave was an illusion. If he is right about that, then new understanding of weather is not going to make a difference to the basics he was relying on. I’m certainly not qualified to be any sort of judge in this, but I would be surprised if an aero engineer of Jordan’s experience and standing turned out to be wrong about something that fundamental.
(He also confirmed that very large waves do happen but that the modality is different from that commonly assumed.)
And yes, I agree, entanglement in a vane gear is a problem that needs solving. That said, while I have heard of several vane gears damaged by a JSD bridle line, I have not heard of any JSD failures from this modality. Or to take it a step further, the number of verified JSD failures are vanishingly small. (Yes, we have had cone degradation—fixed mow—but as far as I know, none have resulted in capsize.)
This is a very interesting technical analysis of downwind yacht behavior in heavy following seas: http://nordkyndesign.com/heavy-weather-dynamics-yachts-in-following-seas. His experience as a designer and circumnavigator leads him to quite different conclusions to that of Don Jordan– at least when it comes to the style of boat that he advocates.
“The most dangerous situation develops in heavy following seas, when the front face of the waves can become overwhelmingly high in relation with the length of the vessel. In this instance, a boat that hasn’t managed to accelerate and outrun the crest can pitch down by the bow severely, and even engage the foredeck in the sea.”
And: “Attempting to tow drogues in heavy weather is a double-edged sword:”
“(1) By increasing drag and overall resistance, a drogue pulls the yacht further up the slope of the wave as it approaches, into a steeper gradient and closer to the broken water of the crest. *
(2) By introducing an additional resistance force located as far aft as practical, the drogue can mitigate or cancel the shift in hydrodynamic resistance towards the forebody of some hulls. This can greatly help with preventing excessive course instability from developing.”
The boat that he created is superficially similar to the A40 design that was developed on this site, but is specifically designed to behave entirely differently than the style boat that has come to grief during the Globe Challenge. It is well worth a look:
*That is why surfers paddling out dive through the wave rather than allowing themselves to be swept “over the falls” by the breaking crest.
Hi Richard. The guy behind Nordkyn seems very experienced and also like a good and thorough thinker. I’ve read several of his articles earlier. Very useful and interesting. Most of this article also fits completely with both my experience and logic. I totally agree that some boats are fundamentally unsafe for going with the weather. That is an important issue, since those boats are typically the old fashioned strong boats seen as very sea worthy, like those in GGR. However, when he at the end shortly mentions JSD and drag devices in general, he doesn’t use his own logic explanations from earlier in the article. That makes the conclusions about drag devices flawed. As he correctly observes, when hulls not designed for high speed accelerate to speeds way out of their design capacity, the lateral centre of resistance moves very far forward. Since the boat mass is the main driving force at this point, and the centre of that is far behind the centre of resistance, the system becomes very unstable and can only be handled by very active steering. Since the rudder is often operating in white water from the braking waves, the small rudder older designs normally have is left with an impossible task. The conclusions from this is, as stated on the Nordkyn site, and I agree with, that the boat should be able to plane well or some other strategy is needed. He basically says that the alternative strategy is to not be in that weather with a boat that cannot plane well, because a drag device is a two edged sword and quite a risky undertaking, so its not a suitable alternative. This does not seem to follow neither logic thinking nor observations. He says that the mentioned unbalance of the poorly planing hull is mitigated by the drag device being attached to the stern, but fails to point out that the main reason for turning it into a stable system is that the drag device removes the speed peaks causing the unbalance. Held at 2 to 5 knots max, the lateral centre of resistance does not move forwards noticeably. The bridle pulling on the stern moves it extremely far aft. Hanging on a JSD, any hull shape is a fundamentally stable system, no matter where in the wave the boat is. His main issue with a drag device is that it will hold the boaat back so it will experience the portion of the wave where the worst action is. The steepest parts and the breakers. Running with the weather with a good planing boat can avoid this. All true, but I think there are some misunderstandings in this. As mentioned several places in this thread, the water of the waves doesn’t move much, mostly up and down. The motion of the wave is thus to some extent an illusion. This illusion becomes more real in the breaking part, where the actually moving pressure wave is distorted so the water falls down from the… Read more »
Great analysis. I agree with every word.
I would also add one benefit for running off fast in the right boat: the worst breaking waves are mostly in the back part of the storm and around the frontal boundaries. The skipper of an Open 60 using the best in forecasting and 25 knot boat speed can stay for long periods in the front part of the storm where winds are strong, but waves comparatively small. And when the storm does start to catch an Open 60 they can use their speed to “bug out” swerving off to stay out of the worst areas, but in good wind, much the same as an expert surfer stays away from the most dangerous part of a wave but still gets a good run.
And the guys on the big multihulls with their >30 knot speeds have even more options.
Of course none of this is available to a cruising boat, but it is fun to think about.
A very interesting article. However, I draw a different conclusion: his analysis is almost identical to the science done by Don Jordon and his conclusions. Ditto the work done by the Wolfson Unit of Southampton University, which was the basis for Jordan’s work and I suspect Nordkyn too.
I have long said that there are two ways to stay safe in big breaking seas: run fast in the right boat, or a JSD. The key to this however is “the right boat” and that’s what Nordkyn is saying too. Running fast in the wrong boat is a sure recipe for disaster, as we are seeing in the GGR.
The other problem with running fast is that it requires either skilled helmspersons or a really smart autopilot. Vane gears don’t work because of extreme apparent wind variation when running fast, (same reason they don’t work on fast multihulls). And all it takes for disaster is one steering mistake. I know this from experience: See Running of at Speed: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/10/13/just-get-a-series-drogue-designed-by-don-jordan-dammit/
So the problem is that for most cruisers, running off at speed does not work: either the boat is wrong, or the resources to steer well for long enough are not available. And even if the boat is right, most cruisers will not keep it light enough for fast running to work.
That said, where Nordkyn and I (and Jordan) differ is in the dangers of towing a drogue. The key point being that although the breaking top of the wave looks dangerous there is actually not enough energy there to damage a well found boat. This again comes from good wave science and tank testing and is proven in the real world by the experience of Trevor, Tony, and Susanne. (Just heard from Susanne, she has crossed her track in the Southern Ocean and is continuing east into the South Indian Ocean for the second time on this voyage. She has used her JSD 5 times, including in the storm that got two GGR racers, and to date has not even been knocked down. She just goes below and rests while the JSD does the work.
(I know that you know most all of this, but I want to make sure we properly link Jordan’s work and Nordkyn for others.)
Extremely well thought out analysis as usual! As always there are trade offs. I personally am not qualified to decide which approach is best because I haven’t been there and done that. Unfortunately my boat building years outnumber my sailing miles!
This story stirred some deep emotions in me this morning, partly due to sheer empathy for the sailor, but also because I was there in that part of the ocean when I encountered severe conditions. If there’s any ego left in you by the time you hit the Southern Ocean it’ll all be gone by the time she’s done with you. It’s a Godforsaken, soul-crushing place that leaves scars for life. An anonymous poet once said, it is such a desolate place, even God is scarce.
I was sailing in a Halvorsen Freya 39, a well-founded, ocean-going yacht specifically built for the Southern Ocean. I remember sitting in the cockpit, watching incredibly large waves rolling from behind, hypnotized by the sheer size and mass of water, liquid-moving mountains rushing towards South America. Antarctica is on the starboard side, another bone-chilling vision of ice, high winds and desolation.
Truth is, our boats were never meant to sail those seas. Yes, it’s been done to the credit of all those legendary sailors and their incredible skill and endurance, but it’s always been a Don Quixote undertaking, part romance, part insanity. I feel really sorry for all the casualties of the GGR this year, it is unfortunate, but the fact is that fortune has much to do with the outcome of such a race, and that should tell us what we need to learn from this, that the forces at play here are way too powerful for us to control in any way. All the safety equipment and preparation in the world will not do a thing for us when that Southern Ocean is up. This is Everest horizontal, and the Southern Ocean is what they call in mountaineering the Death Zone. It will always capture our imagination, and there will always be people who for various reasons will attempt to take on the challenge, but there will always be casualties and losses.
I’m happy to hear Susie is alright. She’s a brave young woman who showed a lot of strength and tenacity in a place that has brought many a sailor on their knees. I for one chickened out and veered north to the warm embrace of the South Pacific.
Thanks for a great perspective for someone who has been there.
That said, I think the Southern Ocean can be sailed safely. No personal expertise (or desire), but I say this based interviewing sailors like Tony, Trevor, and Suzanne who have done so repeatedly: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/10/13/just-get-a-series-drogue-designed-by-don-jordan-dammit/ (scroll down to It Works.)
Comment 901 in the Cruiser’s Forum thread on the GGR brings up an interesting point regarding the JSD and shock loading that can occur when too little weight is attached.
Of course I have no idea if this applies to the failure of Susie Goodall’s JSD (reportedly at its attachment to the bridle) but perhaps that will be addressed in some future ‘after-action’ damage assessment.
Now that’s the most plausible theory I have heard yet.
I can certainly see how a very light weight, or no weight at all, would allow the JSD to get a bunch of slack in it and generally get in a loose mess on the surface, and then when the big one comes the boat will be in full flight down the wave face when the drogue suddenly loads up. Nothing is going to withstand a shock load like that so the drogue then parts off, and the boat heads on down the wave face at speed to the inevitable capsize.
Of course we can’t know if that’s what happened, but it’s the only idea I have heard yet that fits the facts, or at least the facts as we know them so far.
Don Jordan recommended 20-50 pounds on the tail, probably in the form of an anchor, depending on the size of the boat. 35 pounds was the suggestion for a boat and drogue the size that Goodall had. On the other hand, Ocean Brake recommends 15-20 pounds of chain. 15-20 pounds of chain is typical for speed limiting drogues.
Chain is handier and safer in rough conditions. I would typically lash a bucket just inside the stern rail and keep the chain portion in that to avoid scratching, which was quite handy. I used chain in my tests (90 cone JSD), but I used 25 feet of 3/8-inch, which is about 35 pounds. If I was going to pack a JSD, I’d figure out 35-50 pounds of chain, if just for handling (the secondary rode leader should be about right–that is what I used). Personally, 15-20 pounds seems light for extreme conditions, but that is more gut feel than engineering analysis. You see, when the wind is really up, the difference between 15-20 and 35-50 pounds seems like a rounding error. I’m not sure that is enough to pull the slack out. Maybe. I just don’t know.
I also tested with less chain (15 feet of 1/4-inch = 11 pounds), to see if the JSD could make an adjustable steering drogue (it stinks for that–long story linked below). It tended to ride near the surface, skip around, and the cones were shredded. I don’t think more weight would have made any difference; the problem was the speed was too high for the design. But I think this could be a really cool evolution if someone could figure it out.
(JSD as steering drogue)
I agree, the required amount of weight should be investigated. The behavior of chaotic waves and the behavior of weighted drogues in such places simply isn’t well understood and I certainly make no such claims. A I said, my primary interest was in emergency steering in light to near gale conditions. I can’t think of a good way to model chaotic conditions and I don’t know how variable weight would affect a JSD. I did some testing regarding weight placement (most single-element drogues like weight between the boat and the drogue–it points them down, which is better than pointing u[p, which is what a trailing weight encourages). It’s darn complicated.
I agree, with the chain idea, and that’s what we have done.
As to all the other complicated stuff, beats me too, and I don’t have your training. Given that, I fall back on the series drogue’s track record of keeping sailors like Susanne, Trevor, and Tony safe in the Southern Ocean: Just heard from Susanne via email, she is around Cape Horn in good order with no capsizes or drama, after yet another JSD deployment in very heavy weather. I’m hoping to interview her when she gets back.
As to a JSD as a steering device. I just don’t think that’s the way to go. To me storm survival and emergency steering are two different requirements. We carry a JSD for the former and a Galerider for the latter. Yes, this approach is more expensive and takes more space, but storm capsize and steering failure are, I believe, the two most common ways to lose a boat at sea, so I think having the best in class tested solution to each transcends all other issues. (Most cruisers could fund both by forgoing a few fancy electronics.)
I agree that the4 Storm JSD unit should be dedicated. What I meant is that a Gale Rider (or any single element drogue) can be a bear to handle in rough conditions. I’ve deployed and recovered drogues many, many times in testing, and both setting and recovery, when intentionally attempted with no steering, can be a real bugger. Waves try to shove the drogue under the rudder and pull you off the boat. I snagged the rudder a number of times; not fun even in moderate conditions I tested during. The idea of something light and skinny is appealing.
When I read tests performed in mill pond conditions I always laugh. Much of what I learned only became obvious with the wind and waves shoving the boat around. There were a few real surprises. Anyone who think they will use a drogue in storm conditions owes it to themselves to spend an afternoon playing with one in force 6-7, open water.
All very good points. None of this stuff is as easy as those in armchairs will tell us.
That said, I think we can come up with a pretty easy JSD deployment system, and a reasonable retrieval too, but it does take forethought and testing.
Just heard from Susanne again (she just rounded the Horn in good order) and she seems to have it pretty much cracked. As does Trevor. And here’s our approach, although not battle tested like the other two: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/jordan-series-drogue-launch-system/
For end weights I chose to use lead SCUBA weights strung onto heavy webbing with eyes sewn into each end. This is shackled to the end of the JSD. It was a compact and convenient weight and seemed suited to the purpose. Ten 3# weights were used on our 139 cone JSD.
That sounds great, and a bit more compact than using chain.
See http://svbeatrix.com/images/JSD_End_Weight.jpg for a picture.
The rust stains are from a former steel shackle.
Two thoughts, related only to provoke thought regarding slack when using a JSD:
1. I am sure I read of a manufacture suggestion that either powering (low RPM) or flying a storm jib could help stabilize a boat running with a drogue. I’ve looked, but I can’t seem to find the reference. I think it was Seabrake. I’m pretty darn sure there is some truth in it, based on things I did testing; I often powered and sailed downwind in >30 knots with a drogue out in order to generate storm forces on the equipment. I’m not sayin’ that is what you should do–I was trying to see if anything would break or misbehave in the name of testing, which is completely different. But I can tell you that the stresses and the motion of the boat level out, because it created steady pressure. The boat ran as though she was on rails.
2. I recall several occasions where I preferred running with a storm jib to bare poles. This was with light multihulls, which are different, but the reason was that I needed to maintain good steerage going up the backs of waves. Not just 1-2 knots, more like 4-6 knots minimum. There is little nothing scarier than getting pushed sideways by a wave in a cat, and ANY boat can loose steering control as a breaking wave rolls under the rudder. It has to do with particle rotation; suddenly the water is moving at the same speed as the boat, or even more, so you either loose steering or it reverses. Then the bow digs in, and in effect, you have a rudder forward and none aft. Surfing itself is not scary on most cats unless the waves are truly steep; most steer quite nicely at 20 knots. Heck, I used to bring beach cats in through the surf all the time; keep your weight back and keep it lined up STRAIGHT. Again, there was a minimum speed requirement when you caught the wave, or you broached and rolled (did that once–stitches, broken rudder casing, new mast, broken battens).
How does this relate to using a JSD? Maybe it does not. But maybe the rode tension would be more consistent if there were a scrap of sail forward, or even low engine rpms. As I said, this is offered only as food for thought.
I believe both powering forward downwind and a small sail forward were mentioned in the Fiorentimo Shark Drogue manual.
The small sail is probably mentioned by Moitessier, “The Long Way”, since he liked to run in storms.
I’d love to hear more about the comparison of the Jordan Series Drogue with the Fiorentimo Shark. The JSD definitely has more experience in storms and converts who have actually used this in the Southern Ocean.
The key problem with the Shark drogue, or any single element drogue, is that it can either pull out of the wave face or be rolled by a wave at just the wrong moment, resulting in sudden acceleration at the worst possible moment. I know of at least two incidences where this has happened to people I know who were using a Galerider.
The other problem with these single element drogues is that the instructions, at least for the Galerider, require the user to adjust the towing line to place the drogue in a specific part of the the wave train, clearly impractical in a real storm at sea.
These problems are the primary reasons that Jordan designed the series drogue. To me at least, single element drogues are fundamentally wrong for storm survival (useful for emergency steering) and that in turn renders any comparison of features superfluous.
Also, I don’t think we should confuse what Moitessier was doing (running off at speed) with JSD usage. The two are totally different survival techniques so what works with one has little bearing on the other. To be clear, I’m not saying that some sail with a JSD is intrinsically wrong, just that as we investigate that idea, cranking in what a boat does that is running off at speed is not relevant.
Hi Drew. Every word you say fits my experience and logic.
I have experienced that hoisting a tiny storm jib made it much easier to avoid being thrown abeam in extremely big waves with steady 60 knots gusting to far more. This was also on a fairly light and fast catamaran.
Keeping a consistent “tension” seems essential. I have zero experience with the JSD, but logically I think one element of the JSD “magic” might be just this issue. The weight on the tail end will sink down and then pull the drogue in reverse when the boat doesn’t pull enough. The only way to get close to zero tension on a JSD is if the boat has pulled zero on it for a timespan that is impossible in severe weather. Single element drogues or sea anchors can’t have this feature properly. A JSD with a too small weight on the tail end might sabotage the core functionality of the JSD.
I think, and Jordon’s science, as well as experience, supports that the key is the weight on the end (as you say) and that this removes the need for sail or motoring.
Could either technique be useful? I don’t know. But one thing I know for sure (based on experience) is that in a real storm at sea (not gale) the simpler a system is the better. Each added complication (sail, motor, whatever) adds a potential point of failure and something else that must be managed by an exhausted, scared, and seasick crew.
For example, once the wind reaches storm force dealing with even a tiny storm jib becomes an ordeal with many dangers. Far better that the crew be snugged up below as shown by the repeated experience of people like Trevor.
(I once asked Trevor if he had any photos of a storm at sea with the JSD out. His answer was “NO, I do not go on deck on those conditions unless I absolutely must”.)
Hi Stein, John, Charles and Drew,
I agree completely with the desire to keep slack out of the system. I know that people including Trevor do report getting slack in the bridle which is not desirable at all in my mind both from keeping the boat straight and from keeping the speed and peak loads down. However, I am not convinced of the weight at the tail being the right place to start on this partly because it cures the symptom not the reason for the slack and partly due to not being convinced that it is effective. It is true that a weight will slowly pull the end of the drogue down which takes out slack but given the relatively small amount of weight and time between waves and the high amount of drag of the drogue, I doubt that the weight actually takes that much slack out but maybe someone can convince me otherwise. My guess is that the weight is an inefficient way to manage slack but it is the only reasonable way to deal with its intended goal of keeping the drogue in the water. Note, it has been a while since I last read Jordan’s report and I have never used a JSD.
The one thing that I can think of that would help cure (but not fully) the cause of slack is to design a system with as little stretch as possible. Stretch in a bridle is undesirable because it effectively moves the point in space where the force is applied to the boat and this decreases restoring forces that straighten the boat to the drogue. Stretch in the drogue line is undesirable because it stores energy which can then pull the boat backwards when unloaded creating slack before the next wave hits. It is also undesirable because the drogue line has to stretch as the boat accelerates which means that the cones toward the end are not applying much resistance at first. My thinking on this is somewhat similar to the spring/damper conversation we had recently except that we are focusing on the damper and because it is a continuous damper with no fixed condition like an anchor, having a spring will only lead to higher fluctuations. I know that we have previously discussed whether dyneema is an acceptable material and consensus seems to be that it is fine but it will be good to get more real world deployment reports to confirm as I suspect that it is not only a storage improvement but also a performance and reliability (much better fatigue properties than nylon) improvement.
I too am thinking that Dyneema would be a good choice, particularly since (if memory serves) Jorden specifically states that stretch in the system is not beneficial and further he also blessed the use of low stretch materials.
One other point I would make to all: While all of this discussion is interesting and might lead to improvements, let’s not ever forget that we are discussing improvements to a system that’s not broken. For example, although Trevor and others have mentioned slack in one bridle or another, that slack has never led to a capsize, or in fact, any problems at all, at least for them.
Of course that leaves Sussie’s experience as an unexplained outlier, but given the number of successful deployments we have I’m pretty sure we will find that there was some issue that compromised the JSD’s performance. And even if we never find the cause, her experience would still be an outlier that might have a logical but unknown explanation. For example, she owned the JSD for a couple of years and in that time it could easily have been exposed to one of the many solvents that attack nylon rope. Not saying that’s what happened, but it’s a good example of a credible explanation that we will never be able to prove for sure.
It would be interesting to get Trevor or Susanne’s take on this. I will be talking to both of them in the next year, so will ask. That said, I don’t think either of them have felt the need to carry sail, and I’m pretty sure that they don’t steer either. In fact not having to steer is one of the great strengths of the JSD.
Bobin Knox Johnston did carry sail when running off with a very long warp, but it was a tiny jib sheeted on centre line to keep the bow tracking, not really a driving force.
I think that’s an important distinction, because in that sense the tiny jib is more or less a riding sail by different means. Our storm jib is heavy and tiny and may be suited for this, but I’ll need a good, predictable blow to throw out the JSD and hoist it to see under non-storm conditions if there’s any positive effect. We are getting into fairly esoteric, if both entertaining and informative, debates at the stage, and guessing could be fatal.
If readers would like a close up look at a proper smallish and by no means modern and trendy boat designed for the high latitudes, follow Taunoi/Mo as she makes her third single handed rounding of Cape Horn in the care of Randall Reeves. Tough aluminum boat with tens of thousands of sea miles under her keel.
He happened to be in the same patch of ocean as the Globe boats. The videos from a four day gale are worth the price of admission! As are his extensive accounts of repairs, tactics, and what works on a boat being tested by a 40,000 mile non-stop voyage.
re “can the Southern Ocean be sailed safely in a small boat?” People seem to forget that the Pardey’s sailed their 30′ wooden cutter around Cape Horn the Wrong Way and up home to New Zealand. Certainly a tribute to Larry’s seamanship. They pulled it off by sitting in harbor until just the right weather situation enabled them to round the Horn to stbd. with a spinnaker up!
I was guest sailing in Port Townsed by on an exact replica of their famous 24 footer when an inexperienced person at the helm managed to put the spreaders in the water in a 30 knot gust. I’ve never been a fan of heavy boats with fat sterns and narrow entry bows ever since! And I’m totally in awe of anyone who could round Cape Horn in one!
Yes, a great boat. As you know, the same one that Tony Gooch did his seamanlike and quiet solo circumnavigation in the Southern Ocean using a JSD: http://www.solocircumnavigation.com/solosailingcircumnavigation/SoloCircumnavigators/TonyGooch/TonyGooch.htm
Tony and Coryn visited us in the boat here at base camp some years ago, and we learned a huge amount: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/storm-tactics-learning-from-the-best/
It’s also worth noting that Randal’s earlier attempt at the “Figure 8” came to an end when he waited too long to deploy his JSD and was knocked down.
The JSD rode could have been either nylon or polyester, but not Dyneema, as stated in the notice of race. That puts a practical upper limit on fatigue life.
Good point. That said, I don’t think fatigue was the problem. Trevor (and others) have used the same JSD rodes for years and many long deployments in the Southern Ocean without trouble. The main reason Angus likes Dyneema is it’s resistance to chafe (me too).
The best theory I have head on what happened is this one:https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/12/08/susie-goodall-pitchpole/comment-page-1/#comment-274698
Also, I think that if there is ever going to be another running of the GGR, the organizers are going to need to think seriously about relaxing some of their restrictions, particularly where safety is concerned. (I simply can’t see the authorities allowing another demolition derby like this one.)
If I am following the reference correctly, what we are suggesting is that allowing the line to go slack reacts a shock load. This is actually more subtle than it seems, which would explain why it is overlooked. But mind you that this is VERY closely related to fatigue.
The JSD cannot apply a huge shock load. With only 115 cones, anything over 1 ton is nearly impossible. The JSD will merely rip through the water. It is not like a sea anchor or ground anchor.
However, the fatigue life of nylon is greatly influenced by the nature of the cycle. It will last several times longer when cycled between 1% and 10 % than between slack and 10%. I researched this (and encourage you to also) when exploring dock lines some years ago. It seems that just as important as minimizing shock loading is eliminating slack. It has something to do with how the fibers coil and uncoil at zero load. If you want your dock lines to last, it really helps to use a light line to keep them from going completely loose. Did she have too little weight? We will know this at some point. Was there something in the crossing patterns of waves that resulted in slack? I’ve seen a lot of weird waves and not even going to hazard a guess. Maybe. Maybe not.
Which leads us to another problem that folks should be aware of. Long bridles are generally good; they provide more turning force. BUT several investigators have suggested that the apex angle should never be less than about 45 degrees, because yawing in chaotic waves causes single leg loading, and even worse, slack in that leg. A nylon leg that goes slack and then re-loads may only last 1/2 as long as one that always has some tension. This affects sea anchor rodes as well; constant tension is much better than cycling.
Yeah, You may be onto something. I also wonder if this reasoning (if it proves accurate) will hasten the move away from nylon rodes for JSDs and drogues in general (not parachute sea anchors–different math). I used polyester for most of my testing, because nylon caused too many instabilities (a drogue that pulls out of a wave face will snap forward due to recoil).
That’s all interesting thinking. Since Don Jordan specifically stated that there was no benefit to having spring in the drogue line I think you may easily be right in thinking that we will, and should, see a move away from nylon, at least for the bridles.
Brian Hancock recently wrote an article for Anarchy where he stated that Don Mcintire has been “coaching” some competitors to take avoiding action by sailing south or north to avoid storms that he can observe on weather reporting but the competitors are banned from using. Sounds like weather routing to me. Perhaps the organizers are concerned that this Globe will only have one finisher like the original race!
In a world where being PC and gender neutral is an overwhelming concern of so many (while ignoring the oncoming climate disaster and species extinction events) being PC is sometimes a difficult path to walk.
I appreciated Hancock’s comment that a single handed circumnavigation on a 100′ trimaran was less risky than doing the Globe on a Rustler 36.
I’ve seen several references to what you mention about weather routing from the GGR headquarters. In the last phone talk with Mark Slats, he mentions how that has been practiced and that the exact info on weather systems as a thing he wishes he could have access to, rather than just getting safety routing advice. That would, however, be an important breach of the essence of the race: The same tech as 50 years ago. Bringing digital cameras is also forbidden, but wouldn’t really make a difference to that core principles.
The question might be, why is it so interesting to make it old fashioned? Is it only nostalgia? I don’t think so. I think the core is that we love the purity of it. The essence of long distance sailing. I think that’s some of the reason why solo sailing in general is also so fascinating. Not only that it’s impressive, but rather that it’s the real deal, no “cheating”. It makes the individual stand out. It makes it easier to identify with the sailor.
If that is the reason, maybe one could device somewhat different rules. Maybe the situation of equipment 50 years ago isn’t really relevant or interesting? Why then not 200 years ago, or 2000? Maybe a one design more modern boat, specially developed for the race, better suited to the task, same boat for all, maybe even smaller than now, but much faster, not a sitting duck. Still a very simple strong boat. Still zero external assistance, but maybe more available knowledge?
I know that PC can mean personal computer, but I have a hunch that’s not what you mean here. Having a non English mother tongue is sometimes a disadvantage…
I too have been thinking a lot about how to save the GGR race so that there will be future races.
One thought. As far as I know Don McIntyre has no meteorological or routing qualifications. And in addition, it seems likely from his writing that he is biased toward some competitors. Therefore it’s possible that said bias could lead to better routing for some than others. Also, where does storm avoidance end and race advantage routing start? Given all these problems, clearly a different system is required if the race is run again.
Ive also noticed a seemingly biased tone in Don MacIntyres stuff, sometimes, but I still think it’s a way to show emotions and support to the ones in focus at any given time, kinda riding the attention wave, not actual preference of some participant. However innocent, I think that’s still probably not an ideal strategy. To get absolutely no doubt, there must be no possibility to make unevenness. Giving all participants continuous access to the weather info necessary to make safety or strategic choices, would do that.
I really hope there will be a next race. I think the GGR is very close to a format that is totally missing today. The heroic and grand scale of a solo round the world race that is available to anybody with stamina. Old fashioned tech isn’t the core value. Small boats is the core, together with the relatively low cost non pro racing ambiance. We have plenty of amazing sailing with the big boats. I love that, but it’s a bit too uniform, in its extreme speeds, extreme tech and extreme costs. The GGR is refreshingly human.
I agree that the GGR is worth saving. That said, I think doing so is going to take a more open minded attitude to changes and outside ideas than the organizers have exhibited to date. For example, if they don’t get the capsize problem under control in a realistic way I think they are probably all done.
A good model for them to think about would be the way the open 60 class solved their keel separation problem using good engineering that arrived at a bullet proof standard keel. The equivalent would be to run a kickstarter to fund the Wolfson unit to do a real study of the problem and propose solutions—gonna bet they will come up with a JSD look-alike.
PC = Politically Correct.
In the US it’s reached the point where people who work in the same office are afraid of engaging in normal human interaction and mating rituals for fear of being sued and fired.
At the same time our exalted “leaders” have no hesitancy about buying whores and bribing them to keep their mouths shut while the wife carries on with baby production. Or in the case of the Clinton Couple, flying (17 times!) on a convicted pedophile’s jet to a private island in the Caribbean stocked with underage girls.
Political Correctness is for the little people.
I’m sure glad you don’t have similar problems in Europe.
Let’s not go down the road of political commentary. This is just not the place for it, and I fear it will lead to a forum type yelling match.
RDE – well, unfortunately we do have similar types of “politicians”, and similar types of problems. Just not with such worldwide consequences. At the moment…
Lets get back to sailing.
We do have some of the same in Europe, but perhaps with a more relaxed attitude. There’s virtually no risk of being sued, since the court system isn’t (yet) quite as focussed on harvesting money.
Politicall correctness is however an issue for personal credibility, and some of the basic issues are good ones. Gender inequality and racism, for instance, are definitely still active diseases. Since they’ve been around so long and are so integrated in our mind sets, maybe we need some exaggeration to get rid of the shit? The beeps when anyone says a “bad” word is weird though. Seems like fake niceness, which can be defined as being worse than the beeped word. Dual standards, like you mention when exploiting underage or other women while promoting “Christian values”.
There are several political figures in several countries, also the Netherlands where I live and Norway where I come from, with attitudes somewhat resembling a certain president. None of those are in real power, but the trend is going towards populism, selfishness and stupidity here too. It seems to be a worldwide trend.
Some years ago I worked with importing fancy bicycles to Norway. We were 8 people in the company and one girl. Sports is a very male dominated business, so the (very pretty and sharp) girl was frequently asked by customers and others if she didn’t feel sexually targeted or harassed. Her answer was always: “Yes. Of course. Both. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered working here.” So, political correctness can be handled several ways. 🙂
I couldn’t let go of this, but now I’ll get back to sailing correctness. 🙂
John & Stein
I agree: Let’s go sailing and leave the political BS in the dirt where it belongs.
I totally agree on the last point. Watching an open 60 at 25 knots in the Southern Ocean looks scary, but in reality they are taking far less risk that the GG 2018 participants. And I also agree that this whole routing, or not, thing in the GG is worrying.
John.. Please, please please maintain a zero tolerance of political baiting and name calling here. Many of the FB sailing forums are being polluted with partisan US culture wars and are very unpleasant for the rest of us. I strongly suggest you simply delete offending posts so they don’t get the knee jerk opposite response from the other side, which makes this site into battle ground for the US culture wars. You won’t win if you appeal to civility or reason! Just delete..
Don’t worry, deletion is certainly an option that I will (and have) use when all else fails. That said, I generally find that a gentle reminder does the trick, as it did in this case. Seems like the filter of requiring membership has resulted in a more gentle place here at AAC than say FB, so I don’t need to default to the harsh methods that other moderators on open forums are forced into.
Hi Richard P.
I think most participants here, myself included, share your appreciation of the good tone and general lack of hostility at AAC. I also agree that it’s best to mostly keep off topics that tend to trigger the knee jerk reactions. If my comments above seemed offensive, that was far from my intention. Sorry. I just wanted to say that the US isn’t the only country with problematic issues. Anyway, I think that there are other more important reasons for the unusually nice vibe here.
I think the style of addressing each other here is a bit more friendly and highly polite. Politeness might be seen as old fashioned or even outdated, in other contexts, but it does really work some wonders. Even people with strong hostility towards each other can communicate well, if real politeness is used.
Another important reason for the nice tone might be personal respect. The level of general competence here is way higher than in normal forums. Thus, we rarely see incompetent comments, and if there are opinions we disagree with, it’s focussed on that specific issue. There’s no impulse to go from discussing topic to flaming the individual. If someone were to stumble that way, it would quickly seem more silly than any mistake anyone could make with faulty facts or so in a comment.
So as a conclusion, I think this place is reasonably self regulating. There are some issues that do trigger knee jerk reactions but are still very important and relevant to adventure cruising, like environment, climate change, and so. This place is very well suited for discussing and developing these issues, just because of the good tone and self regulating politeness. Combined with the wide array of competence and the international presence, we might be able to make a difference.
Off topic, but I hope you will also review and report on the dismasting and loss of the Beneteau 55.1 off Cape Hatteras. Kind of design you rightly criticize for offshore work. Thanks.
I’m not aware of that one. Do you have any links to good information?
and Google lists an article in capitalgazette.com that just cannot be read from within Europe.
Thanks. Not really enough information, at least that I could find, to comment intelligently.
Mentioned in most recent Inside Practical Sailor Blog
Does anyone know the route that was taken in the original race. Was it as far south? As the weather patterns may have changed (unfortunately I am trying to be PC here and I am not very good at it) are a series of “gates” needed to keep the participants out of the most dangerous waters/conditions? Slightly controversial?
Crash (an old nickname my brother reminded me of last night! Unfortunately, possibly well earned!)
The original route was simply a circumnavigation leaving the three great capes—Good Hope, Leeuwin, and Cape Horn to port. In the current race, they have exclusion zones to stop the competitors going too far south to shorten the distance.
Ok, let me rephrase… Did the sailors in the original race actually sail as far south?
I don’t know for sure, but given that the great capes of the course constrains things, I’m guessing it was close. For example, the furthest south on the course is required by rounding Cape Horn.
The tracking map shows the course RKJ took. It seems roughly similar.
>Did the sailors in the original race actually sail as far south?
On southern pacific, there was only RKJ and Moitessier left. Both stayed above extreme iceberg limit that was on about 45S, and crossed 50S on the way to Cape Horn on about 80W. So, neither went more south.
Randall Reeves had a similar situation being knocked down after the JSD parted at the bridle/drogue junction (http://figure8voyage.com/disaster/) in Feb 2018. He reported seeing rust stains at the junction which might be a clue?
Imagine this istuation: the steel inset of the junction, weakened by (probably crevice) corrosion, being under heavy load during a gale. The inset at least partially breaks, creating sharp edges which would not need long to chew through any material around it…
Thinking of this I would argue that using metal parts in the rope, or at the bridle/rope junction might be a recipe for disaster, even more as they cannot be easily replaced without re-splicing the whole stuff when detected in time.
Thanks for that link. I had looked for the account a couple of weeks ago but did not find it, so much appreciated.
That may easily be the problem that Sussie experienced. We know for sure that thimbles, particularly open ones, will cause chafe that will eventually result in failure: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/real-world-jordan-series-drogue-deployment/
Bottom line, a cow hitch should be used at the drogue to bridle join, not any sort of metal attachment.
I have also heard from a reliable source that Sussie had set up her system in two pieces with some sort of shackle attachment. If that’s true it’s almost certainly the cause.
Yes, what John said.
I’ve done a lot of pull testing using eyes, and when the rope stretches the eye becomes loose. The effect is extreme with nylon but significant with any rope, since it is impossible to set a splice that tight. Moreover, there is simply no need for a thimble when there is no movement.
If you feel the need for some padding, I like threading tubular webbing or a bit of scrap rope cover over the lines where the thimble goes. This adds wear protection and increases the radius, with zero chance of cutting. It passes the do-no-harm test. I have not used a thimble in many years.
Also Yale Maxijacket is very good, increasing wear by 5-10 times. Don’t believe me; try it. I use it on gloves packs, and other chafe areas as well. You can buy just a little from Knot and Rope Supply.
We just purchased an all-Dyneema Jordan series drogue and as recommended have cowhitched the drogue to the bridle legs. The drogue was supplied with a metal thimble at the tail to anchor weight join. Do the same comments apply for a metal thimble at that location i.e. don’t have one? We are currently attaching the weight to the metal thimble with a shackle.
That’s a great question. I’m looking forward to Drew’s answer.
That sounds like the logical exception, to me. Low load (not much more than the weight) and movement. A metal thimble is a simple, reliable answer.
What are you thinking of using for weight? I’ve always kept a few short lengths of chain on the boat for rigging nasty shore ties, so they seemed like that handy answer to me. I think it is safer than messing with an anchor. But as others (and Jordan) have said, it should probably be the recommended amount (>35 pounds).
Thanks for that. Makes sense since the thimble will not be heavily loaded. That said, I would still like to see a closed throat thimble because of the chafe problems we have seen with open throated ones.
And yes, I like chain as a weight too, much easier to handle than an anchor.
Good to get that confirmed from your testing, thank you. I’m planning to junk our JSD bridles that have thimbles on the boat end and go over to Dyneema with soft eyes cow hitched directly around the shackle attached to the chainplate. Does that sound OK to you?
This arrangement of Dyneema soft eyes cow-hitched to the shackles at the boat is what we use with our all-Dyneema JSD. I would be interested (and hopefully comforted!) if you get any feedback concerning this set-up. We use the same connection at the mast for our high modulus running backs.
Meanwhile, I have not seen any more information on the point at which Susie Goodall’s drogue parted. Have you heard anything more on this?
Everything I’m hearing, including test based wisdom from Drew, indicates that you are making a good call on your JSD setup.
As to Susie’s experience, the only new information I have is that I was told by a competitor in the Long Route that Susie had stowed here JSD in two parts and so needed to shackle them together prior to deployment. Assuming that was indeed the case, my guess would be the failure happened at the joint, perhaps because of thimble chafe.
That said, this is highly speculative, and may not be the actual cause.
The point about thimbles is a good one. I made up new mooring pendants a few nights ago and as part of it, I got the splices as tight as possible and I took them up using a 2 ton come-along. It was quite impressive to see how much slop there is in the thimble of the nylon section at that tension. I end up putting a heavy whipping on once the splice is done to try to limit this. For dyneema, I find that I can keep it pretty darn tight by doing a brummel splice onto a solid thimble.
Along the lines of John’s question, do you have a recommendation for how to attach nylon lines to chain in an environment prone to rust and growth that needs to be done and undone at least once a year? I still use a thimble and shackle in this application as I am not aware of a better solution but would definitely be open to one.
I like thimbles fine when the line will not be loaded much past the WLL of the line; not too much stretch, no problem. That is why most applications work. Dyneema does not stretch, the problem is less. The other solution is the NOT use cable thimbles. What we think of as “standard” thimbles were actually invented for steel cable, when cutting ans shifting don’t matter, only kinking. If I must use a thimble under high load, I’ve had good luck with both sailmakers thimbles and tube thimbles.
(I don’t know if this is a good brand–I’ve used similar, made for truck winch cables. They’d probably work on ANYTHING.)
Also bronze hawser thimbles. Samson caries them in big sizes. Probably hand them down to your children.
That makes sense. We have exactly those thimbles you link to on our Spectra shorefast lines and they have worked well.
To clarify, when you say “cable thimble” I assume you are referring to an open throated thimble like this https://www.amazon.ca/Loos-Co-AN100-C4-Stainless-Thimble/dp/B0038YY3LW/ref=asc_df_B0038YY3LW/?tag=googleshopc0c-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=292914501048&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=678642921910407243&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001307&hvtargid=pla-451250741741&psc=1
It’s amazing how often I see these being used on rope and I’m ashamed to say I have even made this mistake myself. Bottom line, I think that any thimble used on rope should have the throat welded together and rounded off.
Thanks for the confirmation on that. I use what you are calling hawser thimbles for most stuff these days and have had good luck with them. I just walked out to my shop and took a look at the old mooring pendant I am replacing and everything looks pristine after 5 years and it uses one of these thimbles with double braid nylon sized to the WLL. I also looked at the other end where it attaches to the dyneema and that looks in equally good shape. Granted, we did not have any big storms in the last 5 years so not a great test but still good to see no chafe anywhere.
The tube thimbles are interesting but seem like they would be a real challenge if using with spliced double braid.
Actually, after rereading the story, I have to correct myself. He was knocked down twice _before_ deploying the drogue. After deployment he writes “felt a gush of relief. Finally, we felt under control.”. Shortly after only to recognice that he was beam-on to the waves again, recognizing the drogue had parted.
So he did not capsize because the drogue failed. And fortunately no more after this mess, and made his way safely to Tasmania. And now, a year later, he again is closing in at the very spot …
Hi John, I gather you are getting reports on Susanne Huber-Curphey on Nihaj?
She has left the Longue Route after almost crossing her track and now is heading past the tip of South Africa for the second time. She is apparently just having too much fun to stop.
She just wrote me the following:
“We’ve just passed Cape Aguhas [sic] for the second time and it feels good. We even caught up with the time of Joshua 50 years ago and are now one day ahead!
Summer-sailing is so much better, in the last 19 days we sailed the same distance that we took one week longer in August when all those nasty head winds were blowing.
Cape to Cape was 134 days and 17.226 miles, I’m happy with that.
In that time five times and a total of 162 hours on the Jordan Series Drogue.”
She is entering the realm of legend, in my opinion. First woman single-hander through the NW Passage and now the Longue Route extended version. If you need a testimonial for the JSD here it is — used five times for 162 hours! Whatever was going wrong on with the other boats, Susanne has it nailed. Nihaj is a pretty amazing boat, too, custom-built by Susanne in alloy for single-handing in high latitudes.
Jeff on s/v Beatrix
Yes, I get Susanne’s emails and she and I have also been discussing how best to deal with the negative publicity emanating from the GGR. We are both very concerned about the damage that is being done to the reputation of offshore voyaging by the repeated GGR capsize disasters. Pointing out that a consummate seaman like Susanne can sail the Southern Ocean safely using a series drogue is really important and something we will be working on over the coming months.
“running fast … requires either skilled helmspersons or a really smart autopilot”
Does such an autopilot exist?
The makers of autopilots will probably claim yes, but having done one such run, I can promise that I will never trust any autopilot for such a job. One issue is that it can fail without warning. That rarely happens with a living skilled helm.
The other more concerning issue is that an autopilot can only correct faults after they have started. In those conditions, that’s way too late. One needs to be positioned correctly before the challenges hit. I can look around me and position the boat so it avoids or is ready for the coming trouble.
Also, the correct course is very far from a straight line. I’d guesstimate that I needed to use a 30 to 40 degree sector to avoid the worst breakers and steepest hills. The steering is also the only useful tool for regulating speed. I’d repeatedly make violent turns in the steeper parts to slow down. The speed needs to be high enough to get off the breakers and maintain steering when there is only foam around the rudders, while keeping off extreme speeds that can give a pitch pole in the wave ahead. We kept between 15 and 25 knots, roughly. Most of the time more than 20. (A quite light 40 foot catamaran.)
Autopilots are now claimed to be “smart”. As the above might indicate, even really smart isn’t good enough. It needs eyes and ability to predict multiple chaotic waves continuously. Even in a rather distant future, that’s a challenge for a machine… If I had known about and had a JSD that time, there is no doubt whatsoever that I would have deployed it. We had no problems or damage, but that was not a certain outcome.
That’s a very good point. While there is no question that autopilots today are amazing at speed—just look at videos of Open 60s in big waves—I think you are right, nothing matches a really good and experienced human hand on the helm. That said, I think that modern autopilots, properly calibrated, are so good that they might easily be safer in big waves than a skilled, but tired, human. For example, years ago I was on a one tonner running fast in a storm and all went well for 12 hours until one of the drivers (we had four doing 30 minute shifts) made an error and we had green water coming in through the vents on the cabin top. Lucky we didn’t drop the rig. It only takes one mistake.
Anyway, as you say, regardless of any of this, a JSD is a lower risk option since it does not rely on steering at all.
Yes, these autopilots do exist. Most of the work on them has been done in and for the Open 60 and big multi hull single handed classes. These units use a bunch of different sensors including boat speed, yaw, pitch, heading, and apparent wind, to calculate true wind direction and speed and then apply the boat’s performance curves to arrive at steering inputs. Not only are they much more sophisticated than the autopilots we use, to make them work properly takes accurate calibration of all the sensors, which is a huge job.
I believe one of the leaders in this game is the French autopilot maker NKE.
All that said, none of this would have helped Susie since boats like her Rustler 36 completely lose steering ability once they get over hull speed—you can only survive a storm by going fast in a fast boat.
Looking back at the comments about Susie Goodall’s JSD failing I don’t see anything about what actually failed. There are comments in various places lately on the internet including the GGR facebook page that the bridle was intact but the drogue had gone. If I assume that the drogue was cowhitched to the centre of the bridle I have to assume the hitch wore through or broke, or the splice failed. Both seem unlikely but what else could it be? I am building a JSD at the moment and have come to wonder whether the attachment to the yacht could be improved. I am in the ‘strong chainplate’ camp, which is easy for me to achieve with a steel yacht. Instead of the usual bridle, what do you, and the readers, think about attaching the end of the drogue line itself to one side of the transom, and then attaching a line equal to the drogue line to the other side that is tied, with a knot that won’t slip like a climber’s tarbuck, to the drogue line. The knot would pinch the drogue line but I wouldn’t think it could be anymore likely to break it than the usual cow hitch. And the drogue itself would be directly attached to the boat. I will still do a good big eye splice in the front end of the drogue but wait for comment before I decide on how to connect it to the yacht.
I have no solid info, but I’ve seen somewhere mentioned that she had a shackle to connect the JSD to the bridle, to make it easier to rig. That introduces the shackle itself as a fail point, where breakage seems less probable than that the pin just getting unscrewed. It also seems likely that a shackle means there are thimbles on both rope sides, meaning a risk of rope wear on sharp edges. All this is just speculation, of course.
About your suggested setup, I’d prefer to not do that. I don’t see any improvements in probable reliability, and rather that the knot is an extra opportunity for failure. It seems better to have a system that needs no adjustment and just gets attached in one way and deployed.
Your idea with an extra rope on a knot might still be interesting for having an extra line on each bridle leg. Perhaps as an extra safety, or as an option to adjust the boat orientation a bit. I don’t know if that’s useful, but I assume it might sometimes be. If those extra lines break, the basic JSD layout is still uncompromised.
As you say, there’s lots of speculation on the internet about what failed on Susie’s JSD, but as yet I have not heard anything definitive. I did hear from a reliable source that here that the drogue was shackled to the bridles, so my guess is that Stein is right about what happened. See this chapter for issues with thimbles: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/real-world-jordan-series-drogue-deployment/
And I agree with Stein on not using a knot. I know of no problems out there with a cow hitch between the drogue and the bridles.
As to the connection to the yacht, the key thing is not to use open throated thimbles. While you see these a lot on yachts, in fact they should never be used on rope. Something I have only just learned myself.
Does anyone have any further information on Susie’s JSD failure? I can confirm from her that the “jsd snapped a foot beyond the bridle. The bridle and connection to drogue were fine and in tact”. That’s all I got. Is there any more info on this that haven’t seen yet?
See this article: https://www.morganscloud.com/2019/04/15/susie-goodalls-series-drogue-failure/