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Alan Paris’s roll-over experience

"this ranks up there with Bungee Jumping !"

mardi 30 juillet 2002Hervé Favre

image 400 x 100Photos Hervé Favre
Hamilton, 30th of July 2002. Alan Paris, the first Bermudian to enter the Around Alone race thought he had done already a lot for his qualification but last but not least, he still had to demonstrate that his boat was self-righting, without the mast and in flat waters..

On the morning of the 15th of July, a glorious day in Bermuda with a light breeze not exceding 10 knots, a crane on a barge attached a sling to BTC VELOCITY’s keel and began turning the yacht upside down with inside her skipper and a friend to make sure everything goes well.

The next time you go in your boat, try to imagine how it would be to walk on your ceiling and to have your floor above your head. It is not as easy as is first seems….

Because this test is much harder to pass on fixed keel boats as the water ballast is much slower to heel the boat compared to a swinging keel, Alan had made sure he had various options to upright BTC VELOCITY. He had actually three plans for the boat to come back up : first one and very optimistic : due to the very narrow design, the big roof and the curved deck, the yacht will invert herself automatically, without doing anything and as soon as the crane will undo the sling. This did not happen…. Sorry Alan ! Once inverted, a boat is very, very stable and without waves to heel it and the keel to come into action, she does not move at all !!!

Plan B was to let the syphon of one of the water ballast opened so that the ballast would fill itself. This did not work either.

Plan C was to install a water pipe on the stern of the boat connected to the water ballast system so that, once inverted, Alan could pump water into the ballast. And this worked after 20 minutes of hard (and hot) pumping and some 100 liters of water moved inside.

And then, everything happened very quickly. As soon as the yacht started to heel by 5 degrees, the weight of the bulb made sure that the boat was back up in 2 seconds. Almost no time for Alan and his companion to grab something to hang to and that was it !

The inversion test is also used to check that the boat is completely waterproof (one of the conditions to start the race) and this was not really the case with Alan as he got some 40 liters coming in from first the intruments panels and then from the hatch cover sealing the engine starting panel which gave way under pressure. Nothing too serious and the examiners gave Alan a pass !

And the skipper, what did he think of the experience ?

« It was somewhat surreal looking through hatches and skylights and the sea below like some personal aquarium, hoping that the batteries and engine are in fact secured correctly as they are right above your head !! In my life I have done some interesting things ; however, this ranks up there with Bungee Jumping, once is definitely enough !! »

Next event on the schedule for Alan and BTC VELOCITY is the official Christening on the 8th of August in Hamilton before they set sail for Newport where all the yachts entering Around Alone must be present by the end of August.



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