prevented them slipping off completely. Loch Lomond was my last Raptor outing in 2010 and provided the perfect combination of an interesting camping/sailing mini-expedition, a great day's sailing in challenging conditions and a sociable group outing. It rounded off what has been my most enjoyable Raptor season yet, which just seems to get better and more fun to sail as the years pass.
I occasionally refer back to the Raptor manual, which I don't think was ever finalised by Hydrovisions. The draft copy I have on my computer has a section entitled "Understanding Design Features and Limitations", which discusses the effect of strong, gusting winds, of high sea states and of high payloads. My Raptor had to cope with all three conditions at the Loch Lomond meet.
To cope with strong, gusting winds, the advice given is "to be prudent and responsive in sailing the boat in high or gusty wind conditions. Prudence means ... roller reefing the sail ... Responsiveness means easing the main sheet quickly in gusts or, if necessary, allowing the boat to capsize when sailing on the starboard tack rather than asking the foil to offset the tremendous forces that a sudden gust represents." Failing this, the following warning is given: "The foil is so efficient and so strong that, if properly positioned by the operator, it will keep the Raptor flat and level until the forces exerted on the sail, mast, and iako attachment points cause a structural failure of one or more of these components." The Sunday outing on Loch Lomond would certainly have stressed my Raptor, but I did at least limit the stresses by reefing considerably. This was more to give me an easier ride and to reduce the volume of spray in my face, than due to any concern about the structural integrity of my Raptor. The concern came later, as I was writing this report.
The manual warns that "there is a limit to what the Raptor will tolerate in the way of racking forces on iakos and hull connections when the boat is sailed in high sea states. Particular care should be taken not to overstress the iako-to-hull connections when beating to windward in a large chop and high winds. (The pounding action on hull and/or ama when beating will compound the racking stresses on the boat.) Also, care should be taken to turn the bow of the Raptor into large powerboat wakes, or to take the wakes directly on the beam, and to avoid, whenever possible, the added racking strain cause when such large wakes arrive broad on the bow (45 degrees from the Raptor’s heading) or broad on the quarter (135 degrees from the Raptor’s heading)."
I realise now that I reacted in the worst possible way to the wake from a couple of powerboats that sped past me as I left Ardlui, on my journey back to Cashel, since I turned towards the waves too late, so that they hit me at 45 degrees. This angle would have subjected my Raptor to the maximum racking strain, exacerbated by the high sidecar loading due to my camping gear. In hindsight, I would have been better holding my course so that the wake hit the Raptor beam-on. It seems to me though that you are almost guaranteed to be sailing at the worst angle to waves when close-hauled, since this will typically be 45 degrees off the wind and the swell will normally be in line with the wind i.e. broad on the bow. Since I see no way to avoid this, the only way to reduce racking strain would seem to be to reef and possibly turn into particularly large waves.
The other warning to be remembered when sailing in extreme conditions is that "the boat should never be sailed in high winds or high sea states with more than 75 lbs in the Sidecar". I think this is fairly conservative advice but I would certainly recommend reefing and not pushing too hard when sailing a fully loaded Raptor. You can see how my Raptor coped when a squall hit during my return south on Saturday (admirably). Finally "Hydrovisions does not recommend sailing the Raptor with a total payload, including the weight of the operator, greater than 325 lbs. Total weight in the Sidecar should never exceed 130 lbs". This allows a maximum non-sidecar load of 195 lbs (88 kg). I am right at this total payload when on camping expeditions and have had no problems (yet), so maybe this figure is also fairly conservative. Although I didn't have an accurate scale to weigh the cargo I took on the 2008 Coastal Gathering expedition, I think my total payload would have been at least 55 lbs (25 kg) above that recommended in the manual. The only detrimental effect of this excessive weight that I noted was a much reduced freeboard. My relatively modest maximum speeds indicate that I don't push my Raptor too hard, as I have no wish to induce structural failure.