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For Forces Six, Seven and Eight

From-Multihull International, April 1990 By: E. Norman Walker

In Part One of this article Norman Walker described in detail the two boats that formed the core of his comparison - a Telstar 35 and a Flica 35 - fourteen years or more between the designs and a cat and a tri, to boot .....Details you can see elsewhere on this website and online so I have not published it here.

The Voyage

We assembled on board Surekat in Queen Anne’s Battery Marina, Plymouth, from our various homes during the evening of Saturday 29 October and spent Sunday finding our way around the boat, storing the large amount of food already placed on board and buying more. A late season high-pressure area was forming over the British Isles, light airs and sunshine made the day pleasant; but E to NE force seven was forecast for sea area Biscay later in the day.

At the same time, a large, shallow depression had been sitting off the Atlantic coast of Portugal for over a week, occasionally moving a little one way or another, sometimes extending itself in one direction and later drawing in on itself. Like some loosely bound meteorological amoeba it defied all the expectations for that part of the North Atlantic at that season by seeming determined to stay where it was.

We hoped that it would not persist at its present position much longer, and that if it did move it would be to over the Iberian peninsula, where it would give us just the wind that we wanted to get round to Majorca quickly.

We motored out of Plymouth in light airs at 1700 hours with the force seven arriving, as predicted, about two hours after our departure. The Bay of Biscay was crossed in only three days with the force 7 wind persisting from our port quarter. Once below the latitude of La Coruna, about 100 miles offshore, we ran into the head winds formed by the still stationary depression. The seas were confused and showed two quite clear wave patterns. Winds were from the South East and for three days we headed East into Lisboa for two days to rest, dry out, fill the water tanks and enjoy the luxury of hot showers.

Our first day in Lisboa, 7 November, was marked by the continuation of the rain and gales, but conditions. improved throughout the second day, so that by about 1700 hours on 8 November we left the harbour and motored down the Tagus once more into the Atlantic. Once out at sea it became clear that although the wind had eased, it was still essentially from the South and, after some attempts to determine what course we could actually make good under sail, it was decided to motor directly into the wind as far as Cabo St. Vincent. It was hoped that the change of course to the South East, to take us along the southern coast of Portugal, would free the wind sufficiently to enable us to sail.

Of course a sailor’s life is not as easy as that and as we rounded the cape the wind veered, so that it was still heading us. It was decided to put into Villamoura for what should have been a one hour stay to fill up with diesel. We arrived just before 1200 hours on 10 November and, not withstanding the fact that we had already been through Portuguese customs in Lisboa, it was still necessary to visit four different sets of officials before we could fill up the tanks! By the time this was done the gent who manned the pumps had left for his afternoon two hour break, leaving us to while away a couple of hours, sitting in the forecourt of one of the many restaurants and sampling the local specialities.

Even our hard-driving captain enjoyed the respite, but by 1445 hours we were on the move again and motor sailing for Gibraltar. As night fell a violent electric storm developed. The radar showed rain at several positions about the boat. Within about one hour these various storms started to coalesce and appeared on the radar, dead ahead of the boat.

We sailed into rain that was tropical in its intensity. Attempts to keep a visual watch were useless as the rain restricted visibility to not much more that the length of the boat. It was clear from the radar that we were in the back edge of a storm only about 8 to 10 miles across, which was moving in exactly the same direction and at exactly the same speed as ourselves.

After several hours of this more sail was put on and we slowly sailed from the back edge, through the centre and into the front third of our personal cloudburst. Once there, we could make no further progress and it was not until well past dawn that our course and that of the rain started to diverge.

We arrived in Gibraltar at about 1600 hours on 11 November, to be met by white faces and bulging eyes and many questions as to what on earth it had been like out to sea. It seems that while we were in the middle of the storm, but with only 10-12 knots of wind, the wind had been blowing doors and windows out of their frames on ‘The Rock’, while at Malaga, a few miles further East, the rain had been intense enough to wash cars off the road and to drown some of their occupants.

Three and a half hours was enough time for us to fill the tanks, go through various customs formalities and to sample the local ice-cream. By 1930 hours we were heading out into the Mediterranean. Light airs persisted all night and motoring was necessary. Massive lightning flashes from the East suggested that the bad weather was not far ahead. By afternoon of the next day, 12 November, a breeze had filled in and for the first time we were able to get the spinnaker out and, what was a first for all of us, to try using it without the benefit of a pole.

We spent a pleasant, sunny afternoon with a breeze from astern driving us along at up to 10 knots, past the Sierra Nevada, snow capped unseasonably early from the bad weather of the previous few days. Sun sights were taken for us to practice our navigation and for the first time in twelve days we were able to enjoy the ‘luxury’ of yachting.

By nightfall, the wind had dropped and we motored round Cabo de Gata and headed North. Once again, throughout the whole night we could see lightning flashing ahead of us and it was clear that we were following the bad weather up into the Mediterranean by only a few hours.

The whole of the next day was spent motoring, but a stop off at Puerto Thomas Maestre to purchase more fuel was aborted as the pump attendant had left for the second half of his Sunday afternoon off! We arrived at Altea at 0500 hours on 14 November and when the fuel pumps opened at 1000 hours, we filled up and were away by 1030 hours. We then motor sailed for the remainder of the voyage, past the north coast of Ibiza during the night to arrive at Palma at 0900, hours 15 November, sixteen days after we left Plymouth.

The proud new owner of the boat and his charming wife were pleased to see their new possession safe, sound and gracing the harbour and treated the whole crew to a fine meal in the evening. The conditions encountered included force 7 from astern, force eight on the nose, a spinnaker run, motor sailing, motoring and even included a cloudburst; enough to allow one to make a fair assessment of the boat’s capabilities.

The Results on The Boat

Much mythology surrounds multihulls in the minds of both the monohull and multihull fraternity. Reaching freaks that won’t go to windward and are prone to capsize say the monohull detractors. Monohulls! - slow, liable to sink and who wants to live at 45deg counter the multihull aficionados.

When, two hours out of Plymouth, the force 7 started to fill in and the boat began to hitch up her petticoats and hustle, it was very interesting to watch the monohull-oriented crew’s reactions. The speed increased so that, with two reefs, we were generally exceeding 10 knots and occasionally holding 12 or 14 knots for minutes at a time. The most that I saw on the log was 15.3 knots when the new, extended transoms showed their worth with beautiful, clean runs of water being left astern.

This speed not only impressed the traditional sailors aboard but is also dramatically faster than my own Telstar 35 which easily does 8 knots but hardly ever exceeds 10 knots. Part of this at least is probably due to the fact that my boat is overweight, but even Ted Steng’s Telstar 35, which is 2 knots faster than mine under most conditions, does not do that sort of speed.

It is not just a matter of cats versus tris. When I owned a Telstar 26 it would occasionally get up towards the 15/18 knot mark. On one occasion on Tony Smith’s light weight Kevlar based racing 26 we saw 21 knots on the clock. However, under these conditions my own boat was clearly over-pressed and created three bow-waves of about 3 to 4 metres height.

Rather it seems to be more a matter of getting the right form of hull shape for the load to be carried and when the internal volume of the Flica and its specifications are considered (10 berths, twin diesels, shower, two loos, etc.) it is clear that the designers are to be congratulated on having done a fine job in getting the compromise about right