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Righting help for turtled race boats

Jan 1, 2003

Wide "skimming dish" hulls help to make many of the boats in the 1998-'99 Around Alone Race, which started from Charleston on September 26, very fast. But, should they capsize, their wide beams and, thus, large form stability also make them stable when upside-down. To combat this unfortunate side effect of a wide hull, Around Alone boats are now required to have self-righting equipment.

Vessels sporting canting keels have been modified to allow the keels to swing 45°, as opposed to the normal angle of 10°. A pin in the keel can be removed in an emergency so that the keel flops to one side; the vessel becomes unstable and eventually rights itself.

This was displayed in the real-life emergency faced by Giovani Soldini in his July attempt at the Atlantic record in the 60-foot Fila. The vessel capsized while 400 miles from England and remained inverted for about six minutes before the pin was removed and the vessel turned over. Despite recovery of the boat, crewmember Andrea Romanelli was lost overboard.

A different type of self-righting system was necessary for vessels unequipped with a canting keel. Jean-Pierre Mouligné's Cray Valley, which has water ballast tanks for trim, was recently fitted with inflation bags on the stern that should help the vessel recover from a complete capsize.

"We had to find a way to right the boat when it's upside down because it's so stable in the upside-down position," said Mouligné shortly before the start of the race. "Our water ballast tanks alone would only heel the boat 7° when it was inverted, and we needed to heel it 59° in order to make it right itself."

The answer proved simple in design: inflation bags, developed by the yacht's designer Groupe Finot and built by Yachtsaver of Round Pond. Maine, installed on the aft deck theoretically lift the stern clear of the water during a capsize, which will then make the whole yacht unstable. wave action then throws the wholle yacht to one side and it recovers its stability. Although the system is untried in real life, Mouligne is confident in its ability to right the vessel. "But, hopefully, we won't need it," he added.

Around Alone had 20 registered entrants at press time, seven of which were 60-footers.