Heavier displacement = safer in storms?

ysignal

Member
78
10
Hi all, 

I'm planning on buying a small sailboat early next year with the intention of sailing from the UK to Patagonia in autumn.

I've been comparing boats on sailboatlab and it all seems to suggest that heavier displacement boats such as the Marcon Cutlass and Nicholson 26 are better blue water boats and are less likely to capsize. It actually says that the lighter Vega is more suited to coastal cruising. In terms of displacement, the boats I'm looking at have the Nicholson at the heavy end and the Vega at the light end. From videos I've seen it seems the real danger comes from being hit sideways on by a breaking wave. It seems logical that having more boat under the water would be helpful in this situation as its only the above water part that gets hit by the breaker. Yet the Vega has such a great reputation as a go anywhere cruiser... I understand that heavier boats are more comfortable in heavy seas because they move less and so imagine this would also be true at the extreme end and less movement would equal less capsize and less broken mast?

 
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hdra

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I'm sure people with a better technical background like @estarzinger will be around at some point, but in the size range you're discussing, displacement isn't going to make a huge difference in storm survivability.  Maybe in comfort in strong conditions, but a 26' boat isn't very big.  Unless you're willing to go up to something like at least 50' in length, knockdowns are a risk you are going to have to deal with.  A heavier 26' boat may be able to be in slightly bigger conditions than a lighter 26' boat, but in both you won't be able to make progress upwind or on a reach in conditions that bigger boats are still chugging along in, and in an actual storm with 50+ kts of wind and corresponding waves you'll be getting the snot kicked out of you in a nicholson 26 or an albin vega.  Focus on a boat that sails well, and is built strongly, and is well maintained.  Think about what you'll do if a window gets knocked out by a wave.  If you're on a budget, you're probably better to spend your time focusing on the most put together boat of what's actually available in your price range rather than hypotheticals.  If you're not on a budget buy a Boreal 47 and call it good.

 

kiwin

Member
304
208
Auckland
In terms of safety, the only parameter I have seen any evidence for is LWL. Longer waterlines are safer. And that is because if you take any boat, and double it's size, you increase the stability by 16x. 

I guess heavier boats MAY be built stronger. It's easy to get into a pretty dismal spiral with smaller boats: heavier is slower, so you need more fuel, water, food, which is heavier, so......

 

Jud - s/v Sputnik

Super Anarchist
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Canada
Hi all, 

I'm planning on buying a small sailboat early next year with the intention of sailing from the UK to Patagonia in autumn.

I've been comparing boats on sailboatlab and it all seems to suggest that heavier displacement boats such as the Marcon Cutlass and Nicholson 26 are better blue water boats and are less likely to capsize. It actually says that the lighter Vega is more suited to coastal cruising. In terms of displacement, the boats I'm looking at have the Nicholson at the heavy end and the Vega at the light end. From videos I've seen it seems the real danger comes from being hit sideways on by a breaking wave. It seems logical that having more boat under the water would be helpful in this situation as its only the above water part that gets hit by the breaker. Yet the Vega has such a great reputation as a go anywhere cruiser... I understand that heavier boats are more comfortable in heavy seas because they move less and so imagine this would also be true at the extreme end and less movement would equal less capsize and less broken mast?
Have a read of “Damien Autour du Monde” - early (1970s, I think) classic account of a light displacement, fin-keel cold moulded high latitude circumnavigation.  Their takeaway from the epic voyage was that light displacement is better (than the prevailing Joshua-heavy-displacement-thinking of the day)....

Great book.

https://www.amazon.ca/DAMIEN-AUTOUR-MONDE-GÉRARD-JANICHON/dp/291395586X

547FDB55-9CE9-44BA-93D5-707A6E19160D.jpeg

 
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SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
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That Nicholson has an SA/D of 10 and a D/L approaching 600 - both the worst I have ever seen.

That sail area barely qualifies as steadying sails.

Get something bigger & better.

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
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Hi all, 

I'm planning on buying a small sailboat early next year with the intention of sailing from the UK to Patagonia in autumn.

I've been comparing boats on sailboatlab and it all seems to suggest that heavier displacement boats such as the Marcon Cutlass and Nicholson 26 are better blue water boats and are less likely to capsize. It actually says that the lighter Vega is more suited to coastal cruising. In terms of displacement, the boats I'm looking at have the Nicholson at the heavy end and the Vega at the light end. From videos I've seen it seems the real danger comes from being hit sideways on by a breaking wave. It seems logical that having more boat under the water would be helpful in this situation as its only the above water part that gets hit by the breaker. Yet the Vega has such a great reputation as a go anywhere cruiser... I understand that heavier boats are more comfortable in heavy seas because they move less and so imagine this would also be true at the extreme end and less movement would equal less capsize and less broken mast?
Hmm

seamanship prevents disaster 

A heavy slow boat is not a defense against foul weather 

ocean sailing is all about weather windows

the bigger , longer, faster the boat , the greater the safety margin 

contessa , Jeremy Rogers , made some nice oceangoing small craft 

99AFDAFC-759D-496B-A8EB-7A5C54261144.png

 
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Israel Hands

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You guys are getting soft. New guy with zero prior posts starts a thread saying he's boat shopping to sail from the UK to Patagonia. No one thinks this is a troll? 

 

ysignal

Member
78
10
Sailing to Patagonia in autumn, having bought the boat in spring and sailed it all summer. I'm planning on going through the Beagle Canal. I could hang around the Falklands indefinitely if I feel I need more experience at high latitude. But my general plans aren't really the topic of the thread. 

Buying something bigger and better isn't really an option. The Contessa 27 is another boat I'm looking at. Here's the full list of boats I'm thinking are suitable and realistically available to me.

Albin Vega
Contessa 26
Invitica 26
Marcon Cutlass
Nicholson 26 
Halycon 27

 
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ysignal

Member
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10
The topic of the thread is actually about whether smaller heavier sailboats handle heavy seas better than smaller light sailboats. Please don't derail it.

 
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Zonker

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You are new here. Thread derailment is par for the course.

Any small boat of that size will be very vulnerable to capsize by breaking waves. The boat doesn't matter as much as the sailor. A good sailor will manage OK (well more likely not to have severe problems). A new sailor is going to be in a world of hurt. Based on your question you may be in the latter category.
 

Learning as much as you can about weather and being a conservative sailor will give you the best chance of staying in one piece. The Falklands do not qualify as a good training ground. Very cold and windy! It would be like practicing in the Shetlands.

From videos I've seen it seems the real danger comes from being hit sideways on by a breaking wave.
yes that's the typical capsize scenario. Or pitchpoling (a big enough wave comes along and you surf down the wave, dig in the bow and the stern comes over the top)

People have sailed around Cape Horn in seriously small boats and written books about the experience.  All were relatively heavy boats for their size/era. But that is also a function of living aboard. It's pretty hard to live on a 30' ultralight and have it carry the required food/fuel/water/gear without really affecting performance.

Suggested readings:

Two Against Cape Horn - Hal Roth (in a 35' Spencer)

Cape Horn to Starboard (1986; International Marine Publishers, Camden, Maine). John Kretschmer 32-foot Contessa

My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn  David Hays; Daniel Hays   25' Vertue

Lin and Larry Parden in Talesin, their 30' engineless cutter. Not sure which of their books they wrote about it.

 

Israel Hands

Super Anarchist
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coastal NC
Sailing to Patagonia in autumn, having bought the boat in spring and sailed it all summer. I'm planning on going through the Beagle Canal. I could hang around the Falklands indefinitely if I feel I need more experience at high latitude. But my general plans aren't really the topic of the thread. 
Okay, Monty. 

 

Jim in Halifax

Super Anarchist
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Nova Scotia
The topic of the thread is actually about whether smaller heavier sailboats handle heavy seas better than smaller light sailboats. Please don't derail it.
You had better head on over to Cruisers Forum if you don't like thread drift or pointed questions...most of the horses in this here stable will shit on ya, step on yer feet, and mebbe kick at ya...

That said, I used to own a Vega and would have taken it anywhere. But not a comfortable ride...

 

ysignal

Member
78
10
You are new here. Thread derailment is par for the course.

Any small boat of that size will be very vulnerable to capsize by breaking waves. The boat doesn't matter as much as the sailor. A good sailor will manage OK (well more likely not to have severe problems). A new sailor is going to be in a world of hurt. Based on your question you may be in the latter category.
 

Learning as much as you can about weather and being a conservative sailor will give you the best chance of staying in one piece. The Falklands do not qualify as a good training ground. Very cold and windy! It would be like practicing in the Shetlands.

yes that's the typical capsize scenario. Or pitchpoling (a big enough wave comes along and you surf down the wave, dig in the bow and the stern comes over the top)

People have sailed around Cape Horn in seriously small boats and written books about the experience.  All were relatively heavy boats for their size/era. But that is also a function of living aboard. It's pretty hard to live on a 30' ultralight and have it carry the required food/fuel/water/gear without really affecting performance.

Suggested readings:

Two Against Cape Horn - Hal Roth (in a 35' Spencer)

Cape Horn to Starboard (1986; International Marine Publishers, Camden, Maine). John Kretschmer 32-foot Contessa

My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn  David Hays; Daniel Hays   25' Vertue

Lin and Larry Parden in Talesin, their 30' engineless cutter. Not sure which of their books they wrote about it.
I guess the Shetlands would be a better training ground then given their closer proximity to me. Once I'm comfortable there I can set off with more confidence. It's interesting that you mention the Vertue as that keeps coming up on the searches I'm doing on sailboatlab.

You had better head on over to Cruisers Forum if you don't like thread drift or pointed questions...most of the horses in this here stable will shit on ya, step on yer feet, and mebbe kick at ya...

That said, I used to own a Vega and would have taken it anywhere. But not a comfortable ride...
That's the impression I have of the Vega. It has circumnavigated the Americas and sailed to Antarctica. I was actually dead set on one until I started searching on sailboatlab and found it rated as more prone to capsize than heavier boats like the Cutlass.

 

TwoLegged

Super Anarchist
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According to https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/nicholson-26, the Nicholson 26 has a designed displacement of 10,280lb.  That is more than a Contessa 32 (9,500lb), Sadler 32 (9,500 lb), or   a 32' Westerly Fulmar (9,900 lb).

Any of those 32-footers will handle heavy weather much much better than a 26-footer.  They are bigger, more modern designs which will sail much faster than the 26-footer, especially when laden down with stores.  That gives you a much better chance of avoiding trouble, and they are bigger and more capable boats which will better survive any trouble.

Buying something bigger and better isn't really an option
That makes no sense to me.  If you are sailing from the UK to Patagonia, you don't just  need funds to buy the boat.  You need lots of funds to equip the boat, to support yourself, to feed yourself and pay a bundle of costs along the way for 6 months to a year.  When the overall budget is added up, the difference in cost between doing it in a Nich26 vs doing it in a Co32 is not a great percentage.

And above all, whether you are doing this in a Vega, Nich26, Co32 or any boat of that sort of size, you are taking a small craft into very treacherous waters where many much bigger vessels have foundered horribly.  That sort of adventure requires a lot of experience and very high levels of seamanship.  If you haven't already found a boat that you can successfully sail in very challenging conditions closer to home (e.g. North Atlantic/North Sea in winter), then I fear that your adventure is a dream based on unfounded optimism.

 

Zonker

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The "capsize risk" calculation has only 2 inputs: beam and displacement. That's a very simplified model. I think making a boat buying decision on that basis is flawed.


"How is capsize ratio calculated?
 
The capsize screening value for any boat is found by dividing the cube root of the boat's displacement volume into its maximum beam (Bmax). The higher the resulting number is than a value of 2.0, the greater the chance that the boat will be unduly prone to capsize; if it is below 2.0, it should be safe offshore"

 

ysignal

Member
78
10
I don't want to waste time buying a boat and kitting it out only to find I could have bought and kitted out a more suitable boat. Hence I'm considering my goals prior to purchase. The price difference between a Vega and something like a Sadler 32 is pretty big.

 

ysignal

Member
78
10
The "capsize risk" calculation has only 2 inputs: beam and displacement. That's a very simplified model. I think making a boat buying decision on that basis is flawed.


"How is capsize ratio calculated?
 
The capsize screening value for any boat is found by dividing the cube root of the boat's displacement volume into its maximum beam (Bmax). The higher the resulting number is than a value of 2.0, the greater the chance that the boat will be unduly prone to capsize; if it is below 2.0, it should be safe offshore"
Ahh I see. I'll most likely go with the Vega then based on it's reputation. Thanks.

 

European Bloke

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You should also keep in mind that you'll probably be dead by the time many of those boats get anywhere, let alone half way around the world.

As an aside if you can't afford to buy a CO32 you're not going to be able to fit anything out for that trip. The difference in purchase cost will be a rounding error against the other costs.

Oh, and tits 

 
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