Skip to main content

Full Report on Farallones Race Tragedy

US Sailing has released a full report on the Farallones race accident, along with the following press release. See what one of our editors had to say on the topic at Sailfeed.com.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:
farallones_1

US Sailing has released a full report on the Farallones race accident, along with the following press release. See what one of our editors had to say on the topic at Sailfeed.com.

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (August 6, 2012) – A US Sailing independent review panel has released the report on its investigation of the sailing accident that occurred on April 14, 2012 during the Full Crew Farallones Race out of San Francisco, Calif. The accident resulted in the deaths of five sailors from the sailboat, Low Speed Chase

The crew of eight aboard Low Speed Chase encountered larger than average breaking waves when rounding Maintop Island, the northwest point of Southeast Farallon Island. These waves capsized the vessel, a Sydney 38, and drove it onto the rocky shore. Seven of the eight crew members were thrown from the boat into the water. Only two of those sailors in the water made it to shore and survived.

As a result of the panel’s research and analysis, they determined that the primary cause of the capsizing was due to the course sailed by Low Speed Chase, which took them across a shoal area where breaking waves could be expected. During the course of the analysis, multiple track lines from other racers that day were obtained and are provided in the report. It is noted that the Low Speed Chase was not the only vessel which crossed or sailed very near this shoal area. 

Although the course sailed was the direct cause of the accident, there were additional safety issues that came to light during the investigation. The panel concluded that improved personal safety gear, including life jackets and harnesses, may have increased the sailors’ chances of survival. They also concluded that enhanced communication capabilities between the race committee and race boats, and improved race management protocols could have better assisted the search and rescue efforts. The panel noted that these additional issues did not directly affect the outcome of this incident. However, improvements in these areas may save lives or reduce injuries in future accidents. The essential key to prevention would have been a more conservative course selection to avoid breaking seas in shoal water on a lee shore. 

Coast Guard Sector San Francisco called for an offshore racing safety stand down to provide the time necessary to review safety procedures. US Sailing, the national governing body for the sport, conducted an independent review of the sailing accident and investigated the circumstances in an attempt to help reduce the chance of future similar tragedies and make offshore racing safer. 

The panel formed in response to this request collected factual information through extensive interviews, review of available GPS tracks and weather data, and questionnaire responses from race participants. The team also relied heavily on the panel’s deep knowledge base and sailing experience. 

“The entire panel extends deepest sympathy to the families of the deceased and survivors of this tragedy," said Sally Lindsay Honey, Panel Chairperson. "We hope the effort we have put into our report will make offshore racing safer and promote broader awareness of seamanship principles. We are pleased to see the improvements in race management that have already been implemented locally in response to the tragedy.” 

As a result of the tragedy, the seven Organizing Authorities which run local ocean events, all with disparate equipment requirements and safety procedures in the past, have come together to form the NorCal Ocean Racing Council (NorCal ORC). The goal of the NorCal ORC is to settle on a common set of best practices for safety in offshore events, and to develop an on-going process for continuous improvement of those practices. Numerous improvements have been implemented already, including a web-based system for managing crew information, new mandatory safety equipment inspections, and improved protocol and log for all race committee communications. These improvements will help the race committee to better support the deployment of Coast Guard resources.

"The Coast Guard appreciates the tremendous support of the local sailors, the offshore race organizers and sponsoring yacht clubs during the safety review period," said Capt. Cynthia Stowe, Coast Guard Captain of the Port of San Francisco. "Our thoughts will always be with the families of the five sailors who lost their lives during the tragic accident aboard the Low Speed Chase, and we hope that the sailing community takes to heart the recommendations put forth in this report to help minimize the chances that other families will have to go through what these families have.” 

The members of the panel include Chairman, Sally Lindsay Honey (Palo Alto, Calif.), John Craig (San Rafael, Calif.), Jim Corenman (Friday Harbor, Wash.), Bill Barton (Boston, Mass.) and Bartz Schneider (Crystal Bay, Nev.). Offshore Special Regulations Consultant on the panel is Evans Starzinger (Milford, Conn.). The Safety-at-Sea Committee Chair and panel liaison is Chuck Hawley (Santa Cruz, Calif.). Medical advisors are Dr. Kent Benedict (Aptos, Calif.) and Dr. Michael Jacobs (Vineyard Haven, Mass.). Jim Wildey (Annapolis, Md.) advised on investigation procedures and formats. Panelist bios are included in the report.

Read the US Sailing Report on the 2012 Full Crew Farallones Race.

Related

Rescue

Cruising: Safety Lessons Learned

It’s not often that sailors get a chance to put their rescue and MOB training to the test, rarer still that they do as quickly as newbie California sailor Khosrow “Koz” Khosravani did recently. If and when an emergency situation ever arises, though, it pays to be prepared. This ...read more

01-LEAD-'22.01.10_FALKEN-Maiden_Emma-Bow

At the Helm: Sailplans

The first thing you notice when you look at the sailplan for the Farr 65, Falken, which Mia and I recently added to the fleet here at 59-North, is the sheer number of headsails. Falken was built in 1999 as a racing boat to go around the world, and the crew would have carried the ...read more

01-PR-2-Throwing-it-Back-_©LaurensMorel

Racing Class Reunion

Where does an old VO70 go to retire? Right back to the racing circuit, apparently. This spring saw a remarkable contingent of Volvo Ocean Race one designs back on the water and duking it out on the Caribbean circuit. While it’s no surprise that some of the VO65 teams intending ...read more

05-Sailboats-moored-in-sheltered-waters-off-of-Kärrsön

Charter: Sweden

With 2,000 miles of coastline, 270,000 islands and seemingly countless bays and inlets, Sweden is truly a sailor’s paradise. One of the top sailing destinations here is the archipelago just outside the country’s second largest city Gothenburg (locally known as Göteborg), on the ...read more

fa70b13c-8eec-4c35-b30f-f89e497b469a

Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an ...read more

01-LEAD-Ultime-race-Yvan-Zedda,-OC-Sport-Pen-Duick

Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred ...read more

P1-01-LEAD-018_CARYNBDAVIS_AMISTAD

Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end ...read more

Lead-2021-01-17-vue-03-34-av-tb-01

New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to ...read more