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Big Cruising Cat Flips Near Niue

American Kelly Wright and crewman Glen McConchie of Christchurch, New Zealand, are in good health after Wright’s Chris White-designed Atlantic 57 catamaran Anna Valdivia flipped 120 miles west of Niue in the South Pacific last weekend. After setting off their EPIRB, the two spent 17 hours on the overturned cat in rough weather before they were spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, which was able to direct the ship Forum Pacific to their rescue.

Seen here in better times, Anna Valdivia was sleek and fast, featuring a steering station forward of her house.

© 2010

Wright is reported as saying they’d been sailing upwind with a single-reefed main and full jib in less than 20 knots of wind when a squall, which looked like many others they’d seen in the previous 24 hours, approached. This squall, however, had wind of up to 62 knots, and with the crew unable to release the main in time, the cat was blown over. Wright is reported to have said there were no major waves involved.

Anna Valdivia, which is an updated version of the respected Atlantic 55 design, was built in Chile and had been sailed from there to New Zealand. She was on her way to Tonga to help with whale research. Skipper Wright is said to have about 30,000 miles of sailing experience. The Atlantic 57 is a performance cruising cat, which means she is significantly lighter than typical production cats, but is not a racing cat.

It’s rare, but not unknown, for larger cruising cats to be blown over by the force of the wind. For as designer White wrote in his book The Cruising Multihull, all other things being equal, if you double the size of a cat, she will be 16 times more stable. Indeed, this statement by White is one of the reasons we made our one-off 63-ft cat Profligate as large as it is.

The good news, in addition to the fact that both men are alive and well, is that the cat was apparently insured. She was left floating upside down, however and remains a navigation hazard.

We hope to get more information on this incident in the September issue of Latitude 38.

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