Speed, science and the sedate

Looking back on the experience of sailing sea dragon one thing which stands out in memory is how much slower everything happens when sailing around on a challenge boat. I do quite enjoy sailing around at a more sedate pace that the big heavy steel (ex bt global) challenge boat seems to generate, all of it’s own accord.

This is not to say that the boat was moving slowly.

Compared to the archetypal flotilla/charter yacht the challenge yachts, in this case sea dragon, move faster because they’re longer.

I am not 100% on why this happens, but science can explain it. Basically it is to do with a wave any yacht, boat or body floating in the water will create as it moves through it.

So the longer the boat: the bigger the wave, the bigger the wave the more water can be displaced. More water being displaced means less resistance. Less resistance means more speed is possible.

This is what people mean when they start talking about longer water line length and greater theoretical maximum hull speed.

Or at least thats how I make it all make sense in my head.

ANYWAY, I digress.

So the boat wasn’t sailing any slower but things seemed to be more sedate on board, why I wonder, was all this?

First I thought that the boat being fairly heavy in relation to its size meant that once it was moving it wouldn’t stop that easily, or put simply she carried a lot of momentum. Meaning that quick tacking (turning) was just a bit too much effort, as was anything else happening quickly.

Then I had a defining moment when it all kind of just slotted into place.

The boat was sailing along and I was sitting there suspiciously watching a squall track along on a similar course to what the boat was making, but at the same time, just creeping ever so slightly closer (hence the suspicion).

The thing which concerned me was the fact the in the squall it was a lot windier (wind speeds of 30-40 knts are what to plan for) and the squall would land the boat in those sorts of wind speeds quickly.

So having set the sails up for a paltry 10 – 15 knts of wind there would be far to much sail flying for the boat to be safely sailing through any sort of squall.

To negotiate this squall safely sails would have to be shortened sufficiently ahead of time, assuming we where actually going to have to sail through said squall (hence the suspicious watching)

Being a bigger boat things like reefing would undoubtedly take longer owing to the fact that things like reefing lines where longer, and the loads upon them greater meaning that winches would have to be used etc etc

And here was my light bulb moment: the reason everything was happening slower is that more caution was being used to sail the boat, than if we were say, day sailing down the coast.

Essential what I was able to learn here at this time was the reality of being prepared and ‘sailing defensively’ and the balancing act that goes with that, in this case meaning no point reefing (slowing the boat down) if the squall didn’t cross our course.

Because of the fact that a vessel in the middle of the ocean has to be entirely self reliant then a lot ‘weighing up’ tends to go into every decision made about what the yacht and crew are doing or will need to do.

Perhaps there is riding on these decisions when one is many miles from land.

I’m pleased to say that I’m still learning new things about not only sailing but also life skills like decision making and assuming responsibility for whats going on.

And while it is, I guess, a lot to think about I think its safe to say that I have always (wait for it)…

liked a challenge.

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