Caught Out

A closer look at the Rambler and WingNuts tragedies, and what it means for sailors everywhere
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
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

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more

anchor

Know how: Ground Tackle

Your ground tackle is like a relationship—the more you care for it, the longer it will last. So, how do you enhance the relationship? First up, think of the accommodations—a damp, salt-rich, often warm environment, just the kind of thing to encourage corrosion. What can be done? ...read more

DSC_7522

Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

The Beneteau sailboat line has long represented a kind of continuum, both in terms of the many models the company is offering at any given moment and over time. This does not, however, in any way diminish the quality of its individual boats. Just the opposite. Case in point: the ...read more

shutterstock_1016585167

Cruising: Memories Made by People You Meet

Steve greeted my boyfriend, Phillip, and me as soon as we tied Plaintiff’s Rest, our 1985 Niagara 35, up to his dock on one of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. He was tall, cheerful and clad in a hodge-podge of clothes one might wear to paint a house: oversized, grungy and old. ...read more

_98A7540

Cruising: Dogs Afloat

We dog owners understand the general expectations of ourselves in public places, like picking up after Fido and keeping him on a leash. There are, however, certain places where additional unspoken rules or expectations may apply—as in harbors or marinas. If you sail with your ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Log the glass  A week ago I set out after breakfast on a 50-mile passage. The day’s forecast via the internet was for 14-18 knots. It never happened, and I spent the entire trip adjusting my genoa ...read more