Monday, January 21, 2008

The evolution of the trimaran

I was struck by this view of Joyon's record beating trimaran - catch up on the story here - and the beauty of the form that is also perfect for its function.

Trying to capture the shapes the word organic came to mind for the lateral struts as the elegant curves were like the bones of sea birds, strong yet light. The hulls looked as solid as rock carved by a sculpture, though of course without the weight.

Compare it to Donald Crowhurst's boat Teignmouth Electron and you can see how far the trimaran has come:

The hulls don't just look heavy - they were heavy!

Ok I'm not a boat designer, but there must be real dangers in having struts flush with top of the hulls as the shearing stresses of the waves will try to separate them off each of the hulls. Unlike IDEC where the struts curve to make a right angle at the hull so the forces are converted into safer compression pressures.

It was this poor design that meant Crowhurst couldn't risk his boat in the raging southern oceans. Financial pressure meant he couldn't drop out so he lied about progress, posting imaginary progress reports. As the end came in sight, trapped by the lies, fearing - if not knowing - they would be discovered, he went mad and took his own life by jumping overboard.

But lets remember he did get something right - he chose a trimaran, believing it would hold the key to record breaking speed. And now the last three single handed round the world record breakers have all done it in three hulled boats..

There are some interesting notes here on other ways that Joyon's designed his boat to meet his style of sailing.

And it is inspiring how he powered his boat not by a diesel generator but by a combination of solar cells and wind turbines. So he traveled nearly 30,000 miles with zero carbon emissions!


Turinas said...

Great post JP. I was mulling the same issue myself. It's amazing how far these boast have come

Turinas said...

have you read Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols 9about the Golden Globe)? It's my favorite sailing book.

I also just watched Deep Water. It's a little too focused on Crowhurst so it's a bit depressing but what a race that was.

JP said...


Yes, great book and enjoyed the film too. Its a tragic story - amazing characters and in a tortoise vs hare race it was in the end the slowest sailor to win.