I designed Wild Eyes - the yacht Abby Sunderland was sailing around the world - as BT Velocity for racing in Class II of the 2002 Around Alone. Being a 40-footer, she was at the low end of the allowable size range for the class, which was 40 to 50 feet. She was part of a new generation of single-handed vessels that was required to meet the new International Monohull Open Class Association rules for self-righting and flotation.
The primary design implications of this were as follows:
1. The vessel had to prove that it could be rerighted from 180 degrees by the skipper. This was a physical test performed without the rig and in still water.
2. All legal moveable ballast could be used for the test, including water ballast and a canting keel. BT Velocity did not have a canting keel for budget reasons, so it had to rely on water ballast and an unstable inverted shape. She was unusual in this respect.
3. Water ballast was limited to a maximum upright heel angle of 10 degrees.
4. Buoyant material equivalent to 130 percent of displacement had to be fixed in the boat. This included all core materials, but not watertight compartments (i.e., air did not count). In short, regardless of what catastrophe hit the boat, it would remain afloat.
The net result of these rules was twofold. First, the boat would be unstable when inverted and, therefore, quick to reright. Second, it was safer than a life raft, even if holed.
Structurally BT Velocity was designed to exceed ABS/ORC requirements and had structural supplementation, which we carried over from our previous single-handed designs, including a tear-away bow section in the event of collision. The steel keel was fitted into the boat as a spar and was designed to withstand a high-speed grounding without damage to the surrounding composite structure.
The rig was a stable carbon, swept spreader design fitted with running topmast and check stays for extra stability in extreme conditions. BT Velocity completed the 2002 Around Alone without incident.
I was not consulted about any of the changes made to the boat for the Sunderland voyage.
Scott Jutson, 54, has been designing yachts for more than 25 years. His designs range from Sydney Harbour 18 foot skiffs to bluewater maxi sailing yachts and energy-efficient long-range power catamarans. He is well-known in the single-handed sailing world and his designs include True Blue, winner of Class II in the 1994 BOC Race. Jutson is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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This article originally appeared in the Ausgust 2010 issue.