A great loss. A sad day for sailing.
I'm a former Olympic multihull crew. I was trapped under a turtled Tornado catamaran in the last race of the 1988 Olympics. We had just cart-wheeled torward the end of first reach in a 40 knot puff. The boat became airborn and landed upside down in the turtle position. As crew, I was hooked into the trapeze wire. When I got my bearings after impact, I instinctvely began to kick toward to the surface. I was stopped 12 inches below the surface of the ocean by my trapese wire. I tried to reach down and unhook but my arm was not functioning as my shoulder had been violently dislocated during the crash. I was having difficulty unhooking with my other hand. I held my breath and kept trying to unhook from the trapeze hook, hoping that my skipper, Pete Melvin was close by. The clock was ticking fast but he got to me in time and pulled the quick release on the trapeze hook and I shot to the surface taking in a deep gulp of air. I owe my life to him.
Fast boats are dangerous when things go wrong. We know that when we step aboard. It is a risk we are willing to accept.
From what I have heard over the last few months since Artemis first launched is that this boat has gone through signicicant repair and rework. This can be seen by some as normal during a Cup cycle, especially with the introduction of a new class.
The the most eye opening incident was the main beam cracking during load testing as the boat was towed on the bay without the wing in place. Apparently the beam was not properly supported while the rig was not in place. If some of the reports we are hearing about yesterday's event are true, the main beam folded, the wing fell and one of the hulls tore away, as the main beam was split into two pieces. This is called a total catastrophic failure. Nothing the sailors can do at that point. Nathan's father stated that his son reported to him that he was just sailing normally and the main beam broke in two. It is possible that the beam broke while stuffing the bows, but that is a normal sailing condition and should not a cause massive structural failure. The beam should definately survive a capsize as well. It is the main structural element of the entire yacht. It should be the last thing to fail. Ever. Even in the America's Cup class.
I'm not an engineer, but I can't stress enough how critical the main beam is to keeping these boats in one piece. If if goes, everything else fails very quickly as the whole boat folds up on itself, possible trapping the crew. Carbon fiber is not something that is easily repaired to first quality. Especally with something as highly loaded like the main beam, You want a lot of straight, continuous fibers spanning from port to starboard to take the strain and twisting. Repair splices, discontinous fibers and hearing load cracking noises are not desireble for a part like this. Personally, I would have had serious reservations, sailing at 40 knots with a repaired main beam that had cracked and repaired earlier.
I could be wrong, but I don't think this is so much about pich-poling, going too fast or the bay being too windy. If the boat broke, it's about engineering and/or sailing with equioment that was not up not up to the job. Why wasn't that beam replaced? Maybe it was replaced. I dont have all the facts, but it did break in two. That we can see.
God speed Bart
Thanks for a thoughtful and insightful piece born of first-hand experience. You've also reminded us that little in this world is entirely new but the context shifts. We still have much to learn but you've added direction to the way my thoughts are shaping
Thank you for sharing your perspective on this tragedy.