Though all the racers in the Route du Rhum are yet to complete the course (touch wood) – there have been no multi-hull capsizes in this edition of the race. Sure, the weather was fairly benign after the first 36 hours for the big tris, but we know it is still possible to capsize one of these speedsters in only 15 knots of breeze. I had heard tell of a system in use by some of the Ultimes to prevent capsize. The system – called UpSideUp – seemed to be something that only large racing trimarans might have installed, and I hoped such a system might find its way to the smaller multihull market. I did a quick Google search for UpSideUp and lo and behold I find the good folks at Ocean Data Systems.
A French company, established since 2004 by Multihull sailor and engineer Christophe Lassegue, Ocean Data Systems produced a rudimentary UpSideUp system for Alan Gautier in the 2006 Route Du Rhum on Foncia. The current version of the system has been tested by Thomas Coville on Sodebo and is in use aboard all the Ultime trimarans including the MOD70’s. These boats use the “Master” version of the system with multiple sensors and actuators controlled by a central brain set to release sheets at certain angles of heel, bow down angles and rig loads. It is a marvel of technology and can be individually programmed to settings determined by the skipper. These individual settings are certainly deemed a competitive advantage for each team and it wouldn’t surprise me if much of the training these teams undertake prior to racing is to calibrate and set the system to allow maximum racing on the ragged edge.
Exploring their website further, we find that the system is also available in an “Easy” version with factory set limits that cannot be adjusted. Apparently, the designers work with you to permanently program your desired parameters of heel, dive and load into the brain of the system. Price for the “Easy” system is listed as 1200 Euro and would be cheap insurance if it lived to its promise to prevent capsize.
The UpSideUp system is standard equipment on the Ultimes, is installed on the Allegra APC78 catamaran, an option on the MC2 60 Catamarans and was used on Ocean Express – a 20 foot sport Catamaran on a trans-atlantic crossing in 2009. With the performance of the Ultimes in the 2014 Route du Rhum, the system has wracked up an impressive performance history.
The question arises, however, if you have a system that reliably prevents capsize, will you sail less conservatively? I know I would be tempted to sail my F27 fearlessly if I had an automatic system aboard that prevented capsize. Should we give over our safety to an automatic system?
Of course not. We should sail safely and sanely and never rely solely on an automatic safety device. But like EPIRBS and AIS, and auto-inflate PFD’s the UpSideUp system can certainly augment our safety and prevent tragic accidents.
Another question comes to mind – will hairy-chested multihull skippers give over control of their boat to an automatic system? Perhaps not, but if its good enough for Loick Peyron, Thomas Coville and Francis Joyon it is certainly good enough for me!
If you havent already – take a look at the specifications and information for UpSideUp (click the link) and give it a thought for your own boat.
Sail fast….Sail Safe.