Should we break the Taboo?

With the confusion of genres caused by the super-powerful ocean racing multihulls, the conservatism of monohull sailors and the high commercial stakes, the risk of capsizing is still a taboo subject for many people in the world of two or three-hull sailing boats. However, rather than just focusing on hearsay, Multihulls World suggests a rational approach to the subject in order to get a better understanding of the situation.

The action takes place on a brand-new large cruising monohull during a press test. The yard has invited a serious potential buyer to join us. The potential buyer was full of praise - which was well deserved - for the excellent vessel, much to the delight of the shipyard’s marketing director, who was also on board. What a surprise when both of them agreed that they would never go on a long cruise in a multihull, or that they would not even cross the Atlantic in the trade winds during the best season on a cruising catamaran, under the pretext that a multihull would be “as stable upside down as the right way up”. I, who had been so discreet until then, keeping my intimate passion for multihulls secret so as not to offend anyone, lost all sense of diplomacy - my blood ran cold. I heard myself blurting out a sentence I thought I had forgotten: “like a monohull which is as stable on the water as it is on the bottom!” The atmosphere in the cockpit suddenly became rather tense...
Misunderstanding and confusion have allowed such prejudices to persist. Regattas and offshore racing have largely contributed to this (bad) reputation. But you really can’t compare those racing machines with our cruising multihulls. Even among extreme vessels there are differences. An Ultim trimaran takes off in around 16 knots of wind. An Ocean Fifty sails on one float from 13-14 knots of wind, while an Orma 60-footer makes do with 11.5 knots. Even more extreme, the BMW Oracle trimaran in the America’s Cup rises up from 7 knots: a real lake boat! Moreover, on board a Decision 35, if the wind rises to 20 knots on Lake Geneva, the boat becomes unmanageable. Out on the open sea, alone, the risk is tenfold because the reaction time is longer, whereas anticipation is more necessary than ever. But let’s concentrate on our cruising multihulls. Even if it is statistically insignificant - in recent times there have only been 1 to 5 capsizings of multihulls over 30 feet per year out of 15,000 cruising multihulls that are currently sailing (we are not talking about shipwrecks or total losses caused by hurricanes like Irma). That means the risk is 0.017% per year. Over the lifetime of a boat – say 40 years - this amounts to 0.67%. Compare this with the risk of a car accident - 1 every 70,000 km in France, according to the Road Safety Department, or 1 every 7 years (the average mileage of a car being 10,000 km/year globally). So, a 0.017% risk of capsizing for a multihull every year, against 14% of having an accident on the road for a car, certainly raises a few questions don’t you think?
However, even if it is insignificant, the risk of capsizing on a large production catamaran or trimaran does exist. The proof? It is regulated by the standard that all manufacturers must respect. Thus, at the helm stations of all good modern multihulls, three small yellow triangular pictograms prevent any temptation to turn a blind eye. The first one, an exclamation mark, draws our attention to a ...

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