Caught Out

A closer look at the Rambler and WingNuts tragedies, and what it means for sailors everywhere
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
rambler2_0

If you’re at all interested in staying safe on the water, the reports on the respective capsizes of the Kiwi 35 WingNuts in the 2011 Chicago-Mac race and the 100-foot maxi Rambler 100 in the Fastnet Race make fascinating reading.

I took away two things from the tragic tale of the WingNuts capsize: that the unfortunate crew were in the wrong boat at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the race organizers did not have an ISAF Stability Index (STIX) requirement for this Category 2 race, except in the doublehanded class.

Instead, as they had done for many years without incident, the organizers used an informal assessment of the crew’s experience and the boat’s characteristics to determine eligibility.

It’s safe to say that those nod-and-handshake days are over for the Chicago-Mac and for other races that don’t require competing boats to meet stability guidelines. I find that thought sad but inevitable. Yes, crew experience is important, but so is a boat’s ability to stand up to conditions it might reasonably expect to encounter on a coastal or offshore passage. It is hard for sailors to be dispassionate or objective about their boats, and the highly experienced WingNuts crew was obviously confident of her abilities—yet the boat could not heel more than 23 degrees without dipping its wing in the water, and some formulae put its limit of positive stability (LPS) as low as 74 degrees.



If WingNuts should not have been where she was, what of Rambler 100? Some different lessons emerge from this report, aside from the obvious fact that a keel bulb should not fall off a boat. I found it chilling that other competitors passed within a few hundred yards of the upturned raceboat and crew huddled on its bottom—in broad daylight—without seeing it. The EPIRB, designed to float free but trapped inside the boat, did not go off, the handheld VHF was also stowed belowdecks, and only two of the personal locator beacons worn by the crew actually worked. That no one was killed or badly hurt is down to luck and circumstance, yet here was another highly experienced crew overtaken by the unexpected, and caught unprepared for it. Cruisers as well as racers will learn something from this report.

WingNuts1031

It’s made me think about tethers in a different way, for sure—though they all wore lifejackets, none of the Rambler 100 crew was clipped in, which is probably why they all survived. They had also all disabled the auto-inflation feature on their lifejackets. The report’s recommendation of a personal offshore safety fanny pack containing a waterproof VHF radio, a PLB, a laser flare, a strobe and a knife makes sense to me for anyone going offshore, not just racers.

For more on the WingNuts and Chicago-Mac tragedy, click here.

To read the full report on WingNuts' capsizing, click here.

To read about Rambler's capsizing, click here.

To read a full report issued by US Sailing on Rambler's capsizing, click here.

Related

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more

02-Douglas-Adkins---Coriolis---Orcas-Island-KevinLightPhoto

A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a ...read more

IMG_1051

The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comGood ConnectionsI wish I’d had a dollar for every time I’ve cobbled together an electrical fitting with a “that’s good enough” shrug. An old shipwright once taught me that “good enough is not good enough” ...read more

tides2

Gear Test: Tides Marine Sailtrack

Gravity is an important force at work on a sailboat. It keeps the boat upright, it makes the anchor drop to the bottom, and it makes the mainsail slide neatly down the mast to be flaked and put away at the end of the day… until it doesn’t.In the case of dropping the mainsail, the ...read more