CAPSIZED CATAMARAN: How Exactly Did This Happen?

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MAYBE MY SAILfeed COLLEAGUE Pat Schulte of Bumfuzzle, who is in the midst of comparing cats and monohulls, can help us out with this one. The viddy comes courtesy of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which reported last week that a volunteer crew from the Mallaig Lifeboat Station in Scotland rescued seven survivors off the bottom of a 52-foot catamaran that became “completely inverted” due to “adverse weather conditions” off the Isle of Skye.

The rescued crew reportedly were French–two women, five men–and according to at least one other published report were trapped inside the cat when it suddenly flipped in a squall. Fortunately, all aboard escaped out on to the upturned hulls, and the boat’s EPIRB ignited and alerted authorities to their plight.

I’ve watched the viddy a number of times now and haven’t been able to figure out what type of boat it is. It has no keels, and I see slots for daggerboards, and there’s not much of a bridgedeck, so I reckon it’s quite a bit lighter than your average cruising cat. Still, it’s very unusual for a cat this size to turn turtle like this.

Was this the result of an unusually strong squall? Operator error? Or is there an issue of some kind with the boat?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

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2 Responses
  1. It’s a shame to see a boat in that kind of situation. Groan at the loss. However, pretty nice conditions for a rescue. If you have to be rescued, it looks like they got real lucky as far as the sea and wind conditions. Hard to turn the boat over I guess. A monohull would be a different situation unless it lost it’s keel. Might have rolled over easier but would have rolled upright easier too.

  2. Gordon

    i believe this is a TS50. It is a high performance cruiser/racer catamaran. Easily capable of 20+ knot speeds and so is therefore easily powered up. Basically there are 2 modes of capsize, or a combination. 1 – a gust or squall if the sheets are unattended or jammed will capsize laterally. this is usually preventable, but the limits may well be difficult to assess the onset of conditions and when short-handed or fatigued the possibility is increased. South of Skye such squalls are common off high hills. A trimaran was capsized during a RBIR many years ago under such circumstances. 2.Pitchpoling where the yacht ploughs into the next wavr; there is an immediate deceleration and as the wind is aft the beam the wind speed chamges from apparent to true, increasing the power going through the rig. This results in a rotation through the fore and aft axis, with pitch-poling. Either circumstance is usually av oidable by reefing early, but the warning signs are difficult to detect. My guess, given that this was an experiened ownwr and not a charter is that a gust off Skye, a circumstance of proximity to high mountains unusual in France, caught them out while unable to free the sheets. This is a very uninformed guess in respect of this event, but I do sail a reasonably high performance large multihull in these waters.

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