Research program




    Donald J. Jordan

    Consulting Engineer

    113 Evergreen Lane

    Glastonbury, Connecticut


Reproduced with the kind permission of Donald Jordan


Research and Development Program -- Don Jordan

With the data from the 1979 Fastnet Race in hand, I started by making scale models of some of the boats in the race and testing these models in natural waves and man-made waves. It is a fortunate fact that small waves behave like large waves and small models behave like full scale yachts if some simple dynamic similarity rules are observed in the model design and testing. I had no preconceived ideas on what these tests would reveal.
At the same time, extensive tests were being conducted in the U.S. and Europe to determine whether the Fastnet tragedy was caused by the design features of modern yachts compared to traditional designs. " Killer Yachts" they were termed by some leading naval architects. After much effort, it was concluded that there was no significant difference in the capsize vulnerability of modern yachts or traditional designs. I repeated these tests and got the same results. The Fastnet disaster was caused by the severity of the storm, not the boat design or the tactics of the skippers.

I then undertook a program of basic research and development to understand and find a solution to the storm survival problem. In this effort I was greatly assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard, who made all their applicable facilities available for my use, and finally tested the series drogue in breaking waves at their motor lifeboat test site. The program, which continued for four years, led to the following general conclusions:

1. To protect a yacht in a hurricane, an outside force must be applied from a drag device.
No design changes to the boat and no storm tactics on the part of the skipper can result in a significant reduction in risk.


2. The drag device must be a drogue, i.e. the boat must be tethered from the stern.
(I have found this to be the most difficult concept to get across)


3. A sea anchor cannot be designed to protect the boat. When tethered from the bow, the boat will yaw and develop unacceptable loads. The reason for this is that all boats must be designed to be directionally stable when moving forward - or it would not be possible to steer the boat. Therefore, if moving backwards, the boat will be unstable and will yaw and turn broadside to the sea.

4. The drogue must consist of multiple drag elements strung out along the tow line. A single drag device of any size or shape will not provide protection.

5. The drogue must be designed so that a significant number of the drag elements are deeply submerged and do not lie on the surface.

6. The design of the multiple design elements must be such that, in a "worst case" breaking wave strike, peak transient load will not exceed the design value for the drogue components or the boat attachments.

7. The strength of the drogue and the number of drag elements must be adjusted to be compatible with the displacement of the specific yacht.

8. With a proper drogue, a yacht and crew can survive a storm of the severity of the 1998 Sydney-Hobart storm with no serious storm damage or crew injuries.