Drogues

kelvin
Posted March 19 2017

Interested to hear from people with experience of handling drogues . Standard parachutes versus Series .

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Jessica Watson
Posted March 21 2017
Hi Kelvin,

I've used both and did a lot of research on different drogue types a few years ago, a fascinating topic.

Firstly, I’m a massive fan of drogues compared to other storm survival tactics. The idea of deploying a sea parachute from the bow of a yacht in bad conditions terrifies me. It sounds easy in principle but add waves washing over the foredeck, a violent pitching motion on the bow and wind catching the parachute, I believe that’s a position you should avoid putting yourself in.

But then I might be more conservative than most, one of the things I’m most proud of is that I never had to venture onto the foredeck in 30k+ wind during my 2010 circumnavigation.

I think most sailors buy a sea parachute to tick the box and pack it away without really considering the practicalities of using it and the potential damage that drifting backwards down waves might do to your boat.

So on to drogues, a bit of research will tell you that the one concern with a traditional para drogue is that it may lose its hold on a steep wave. And as I’m sure you are aware the series drogue concept is based on extensive U.S. Coast Guard research (you can see details here - http://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/pdf/droguecoastguardreport.pdf), although there may be a better copy available somewhere on the internet), with one of the series drogues key objectives to avoid this happening.

I did suffer one knockdown while streaming a para drogue but believe that this was because the wind had eased a little and the very small bit of sail I had up was no longer holding the boat stern to the waves. It’s likely that the offending wave also hit the boat at a different angle to the other waves. So, it’s hard to know if the series drogue would have prevented this knockdown.

But to address your question, I found that the para drogue was easy to handle with a bit of preparation. When I knew there was bad weather approaching, I would set up the bridle so as the weather worsened I just had to let the drogue out around winch from the safety of the cockpit. Retrieving the drogue couldn’t be easier, I wouldn’t even break a sweat by winching when there was some slack between waves.

I found the series drogue much more difficult to handle, mainly because you can’t really let it out or pull it back in around a winch, particularly winches with self-tailors. Really you’ll need to throw the whole thing off the back of the boat, something that comes with its own risks and is more difficult than it sounds in bad conditions.

I’d recommend a para drogue for most normal ocean sailing, but if there’s a high likelihood of finding yourself in very severe storms, then I think you need to think seriously about a series drogue. Although I wouldn’t bother buying one if you’re not going to think seriously about and practice deploying it.

Getting the right drogue is important but I believe it’s more critical for boat owners to think very carefully about how they plan on deploying it, and practice!

Lisa Blair (see - https://deckee.com/topic/lisa-s-epic-antarctic-adventure) has a few different drogues (including my series drogue) onboard, and I’m looking forward to hearing her experiences with them when she returns from her Antarctic circumnavigation. Hopefully, we’ll get a few good product reviews from her.

What kind of boat do you have Kelvin? I wonder what kind of sailing you might be planning?

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s experiences with different drogues and storm tactics as well?

Jess
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