Atlantic 57 "Cruising" Cat Capsizes

The Crew (two Men - Owner and friend) were rescued yesterday (Sunday Aug 1) from an overturned Atlantic 57 Catamaran named Anna. The were capsized under main and Jib when hit by a sudden squall while sailing from Tonga to Niue in order to assist with Whale Research on the island. The crew arrived Monday morning to Niue on the Container ship that rescued them after being dispatched by NZ Search and Rescue. Both crew are safe and sound, with little more than some small cuts and many bruises. I spoke to them this afternoon at the Niue Yacht Club about the incident. They were sailing under main and full jib in about 16 kntots of breeze and had had squalls for the last 24 hours in the area. The squall that hit them didn't look any different than others and didn't show up on radar any greater than others had. The wind came up rapidly and with a 90 degree wind shift that caught them off guard and capsized the boat before sheets could be eased. Daggerboards were reportedly lowered as the boat was sailing upwind. The highest wind seen on the instruments was 62kts. The set of their GPS enabled epirb and waited rescue in their dingy which floated free free of the boat upright having been stored on the aft deck for passage. After 12 hours they were rescued by a container ship making its scheduled trip from Tonga to Niue. The owner is originally from Texas, but is currently living in New Mexico.

This is a very interesting case as this is the largest cruising catamaran to be capsized and appears to have done so with relatively non-remarkable conditions. There were no particularly large waves reported (3-4 meter seas were forcast and reported). The Atlantic 57 is designed by Chris White and built in South Africa as well as Newport RI. She is a relatively light weight catamaran with a displacement of about 26,500 lbs, similar in displacement/length as a Gunboat 66 so this is a light cat for cruising in, but no racing cat.

I will report more as further information comes in.

Gram Schweikert

Naval Architect/Marine Engineer

Visions of Johanna

VofJ.blogspot.com

 
This is an amazing story. The Atlantic design series is a well proven offshore design.

It is extremely difficult to turn over a very large, dagger board cat like this....

But playing with dangerous unpredictable squalls is another story.........

Would like to hear the rest of the story, from the crew....

 

Recidivist

Super Anarchist
This is an amazing story. The Atlantic design series is a well proven offshore design.

It is extremely difficult to turn over a very large, dagger board cat like this....

But playing with dangerous unpredictable squalls is another story.........

Would like to hear the rest of the story, from the crew....

Agree, especially in the absence of any appreciable sea. I don't want to "cast stones" before we hear more, but I am a bit concerned that the dinghy floated free after the capsize, indicating that it wasn't made fast by lashings. Even on a big boat, it's generally prudent seamanship to attend to those details (although in this case it worked in the crew's favour).

One person off watch and the other getting a cup of coffee?

Glad the crew are OK.

 

Moonduster

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Keith,

Curious why you mention the dagger boards ... "extremely difficult to turn over a very large, dagger board cat like this".

Seems to me that it's really simple physics and that the dagger boards being down probably made it much, much more suceptible to capsize because it couldn't slide sideways through the water.

But big gusts are always a problem on cats, especially when sailing in the danger zone, that funky broad reaching quadrant, where either bearing away or heading up is apt to cause vanishing righting moment.

While it's true that big cruising cats with heavy hulls don't suffer this problem to the same degree as racing cats, clearly these gusts from the 20s to the 60s did the trick.

It'll be interesting to see if they can recover the boat ...

 

toe72

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All accidents are series of poor decisions. I'm sure there are a few key ones in this story. Not having an eye on the radar with too much sail up? Not being ready to adjust the sheets? Accident is probably a culmination of bad calls with really bad luck.

I love those CW designs and probably would still buy one if I could afford it.

The good news is that no one died.

 

mrnanney

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I am not a cat guy but have lusted after the Chris White designs ever since being onboard a 42 at the Atown show. I would not call them full fledged cruiser but fast / light cruiser that is pretty powered up. 62 knots will flip lots of things and my uneducated guess is that boards down gives the cat something to trip over?

From the little info here sounds like this squall was just different than the ones they had got used to and if there was a huge wind shift - not sure how much it mattered if someone was on the sheet. :unsure:

 
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unShirley

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There were no particularly large waves reported (3-4 meter seas were forcast and reported).
I guess I am a pussy, but 10' seas seem pretty significant to me. Especially in 60 knots of wind....Imagine getting hit broadside by a 10' whitecap in a 60 knt puff. Or, perhaps the whitecap peak under the boat, b/w the hulls.

 
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mmiller

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62 kts sounds "remarkable" to me... especially with full sail up. Let alone the 90 degree shift.

Daggers down does tend to "trip" a cat. Boards always start coming up when the wind and speed increases. 2 guys dealing with this 57 footer? Wow.

If the info comes from the guys on board... sounds like excuses to me... trying to make it more of an accident than negligence on the part of the (2 man) crew.

 
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redlola

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Easy to armchair quarterback this sort of thing...

If there was a 90 degree wind shift sailing upwind, that could have translated into an auto-tack that stalled the boat. Then all the wind load on the boat would be static which I think would make the tipping force stronger, since the boat would not be able to transfer the additional wind energy to another vector. Also, if the sails where in a stalled condition, there is more drag on the sail plan, hence more tipping force.

I have a larger cruising cat and have spent idle moments thinking how one might recover from a capsize. It would be quite an undertaking, and a lot of expensive systems and materials would have been trashed by submersion in salt water.

No matter how you slice it, that’s crumby news, so best wishes to the skipper.

 

PHM

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I've always wondered why these big cruising cats don't have an automatic release on the sheets--tied to TWS and/or heal angle thresholds. It seems like the cost of such a system wouldn't be prohibitive, at least on the scale of the total cost of the boat for the big, premium cats.

 

Oxygen Mask

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I've always wondered why these big cruising cats don't have an automatic release on the sheets--tied to TWS and/or heal angle thresholds. It seems like the cost of such a system wouldn't be prohibitive, at least on the scale of the total cost of the boat for the big, premium cats.
There are a number of them on the market and they supposedly to work.

IIRC Joyon uses one such.

 

Moonduster

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I believe the wind went aft, not forward. And on a big cat with a tripod rig, there's just nowhere for the main to go as it just sits on the leeward shroud.

10' seas, with a 10 second period are really kinda small. After a few days on the ocean, you don't notice that sort of thing. 10' seas with a 3 second period are something else altogether. Certainly the squall would have had little effect on the sea state.

Reefing a big main-powered rig isn't an easy thing to do, especially short handed. With the forward-cockpit, which give limited visibility to the boom, it's trickier yet.

From my perspective, no matter the boat, an unexpected gust from the lo-20s to the mid-60s is going to do significant damage. Whether it's blown out sails, busted rigs or sigificant carnage above and below from a knockdown, there's no cruising boat that's going to walk away unscathed. Cats are a little tricky but that's part of their compromise when compared to a monohull. It's a shame they lost the boat, but I wouldn't jump on the short handed crew as being at fault. There are risks to sailing on the ocean and while they're mostly manageable, they're not all avoidable.

 

Bill Gibbs

Anarchist
First, I know nothing about this capsize other than this thread.

Second, my sincere condolances to skipper and crew for the loss of their boat. An experience I hope to avoid.

While these conditions sound extreme, I think we want to stop short of calling it an unavoidable accident, unless there was truly nothing a prudent crew could have done to avoid capsize. I don't think we blame the boat design, as any multihull can capsize. I have followed a lot of big multi capsizes over the last decade or so, and I can't recall one where crew error wasn't a major factor, if not the primary factor. They mention other squalls, would reefing have been indicated? Were sheets being held? Was the autopilot driving? Was the weather unexpected? Avoidable?

A multihull cannot survive on it's own like some monos. It's crew keeps it safe. A multi cannot survive a knockdown. A multi can be cruised safely. But you have to be prudent. Or so it seems to me.

 
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My heart goes out to this crew. Any big multi can be flipped, and it can happen to any of us. This is the first I have heard about a cruising cat over 47', so this is a shocker. Predicting squall strength is not easy. The boat is a good safe boat. I think the strength of the squall sounds exceptional compared to the squalls encountered through the day by the crew. I think this is a highly unusual incident. Am glad everyone is safe, and that rescue was so quick. I hope they can recover their cat, get her set up again, and back on the water.

 

NoStrings

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There were no particularly large waves reported (3-4 meter seas were forcast and reported).
I guess I am a pussy, but 10' seas seem pretty significant to me. Especially in 60 knots of wind....Imagine getting hit broadside by a 10' whitecap in a 60 knt puff. Or, perhaps the whitecap peak under the boat, b/w the hulls.
10' seas DON'T mean 10' whitecaps for god's sake. 10 ft swells in the open ocean are pretty damn common if the wind is blowing someplace upwind of you.

 

Trevor B

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My heart goes out to this crew. Any big multi can be flipped, and it can happen to any of us. This is the first I have heard about a cruising cat over 47', so this is a shocker. Predicting squall strength is not easy. The boat is a good safe boat. I think the strength of the squall sounds exceptional compared to the squalls encountered through the day by the crew. I think this is a highly unusual incident. Am glad everyone is safe, and that rescue was so quick. I hope they can recover their cat, get her set up again, and back on the water.
Peter,

Remember that squall on Team Adventure? And that was with three people on the sheets and a pretty sharp driver.

A squall wouldn't have to be anywhere near that to make things very interesting with "Otto" steering instead of Cam.

 

PHM

Super Anarchist
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My heart goes out to this crew. Any big multi can be flipped, and it can happen to any of us. This is the first I have heard about a cruising cat over 47', so this is a shocker. Predicting squall strength is not easy. The boat is a good safe boat. I think the strength of the squall sounds exceptional compared to the squalls encountered through the day by the crew. I think this is a highly unusual incident. Am glad everyone is safe, and that rescue was so quick. I hope they can recover their cat, get her set up again, and back on the water.
I'm glad it's highly unusual...after bareboat chartering a cat in Raiatea a couple of weeks ago, my wife has told me that when we go cruising, it's going to be on a cat....

 

weightless

Super Anarchist
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I believe the wind went aft, not forward. And on a big cat with a tripod rig, there's just nowhere for the main to go as it just sits on the leeward shroud.

10' seas, with a 10 second period are really kinda small. After a few days on the ocean, you don't notice that sort of thing. 10' seas with a 3 second period are something else altogether. Certainly the squall would have had little effect on the sea state.

Reefing a big main-powered rig isn't an easy thing to do, especially short handed. With the forward-cockpit, which give limited visibility to the boom, it's trickier yet.

From my perspective, no matter the boat, an unexpected gust from the lo-20s to the mid-60s is going to do significant damage. Whether it's blown out sails, busted rigs or sigificant carnage above and below from a knockdown, there's no cruising boat that's going to walk away unscathed. Cats are a little tricky but that's part of their compromise when compared to a monohull. It's a shame they lost the boat, but I wouldn't jump on the short handed crew as being at fault. There are risks to sailing on the ocean and while they're mostly manageable, they're not all avoidable.
I agree with virtually all of the above except for the relative ease of reefing from the forward cockpit. The visibility is fine from there and the leads are simpler and less draggy than they would be if lead aft. But, with the wind aft and the sail plastered onto the shrouds it will be a job to get the main down. I gather they already had a reef in and at the reported 16 knots TWS that's a fairly snug rig. Also it has been reported (but I'm not sure how reliably) that the skipper was in the cockpit but fell down while attempting to reach the mainsheet. If so the time between the realization that there was a problem and the capsize wasn't long enough to make reefing an option anyway. As you say a sudden and unexpected gust to 60 is going to cause problems (eg. Concordia).

 
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