In the wake of last year’s Chicago-to-Mackinac race, in which two crewmembers died in the capsize of the Kiwi 35 sport boat WingNuts during a severe nighttime storm, the Chicago Yacht Club has instituted a series of changes to try to ensure a similar accident doesn’t happen again.
Among the biggest changes coming to the race is a required minimum stability index rating of 103 for all boats taking part. This rating is similar to a conventional limit of positive stability (LPS) number, but modified to reflect a boat’s length, beam and displacement, as well as features like the “wings” that played a role in WingNuts’s capsize.
Other changes include additional personal and boat safety equipment, as well as continuing sailor education and a rigorous vessel inspection process.
In late 2011, a US Sailing Independent Review Panel’s report on the capsize pinpointed WingNuts’s extreme design as being a major factor in the accident. According to the report, “WingNuts was a highly inappropriate boat for a race of this duration, over night, without safety boats, and in an area known to have frequent violent thunderstorms…. Her capable crew and preparation could not make up for the fact that she had too little stability, which led to her being ‘blown over’ by a severe gust.”
“The ultimate goal has been to build upon the tradition of safety that has been the hallmark of every race to Mackinac,” said race chairman Lou Sandoval, adding that the recently implemented changes were made by the Chicago YC after consulting with numerous naval architects and marine safety experts.
Sandoval noted that the club’s new policies are already having an effect, citing as evidence a sellout Safety at Sea seminar (SAS) presented at the Strictly Sail boat show in Chicago in late January. According to Sandoval, other upcoming SAS classes in the Lake Michigan area are sold out or close to selling out as well.
“The Mackinac committee [is seeking] to impact safety equipment, training, boat stability requirements and the process by which boats are inspected pre- and post-race,” Sandoval said. “We have also sought to raise the weather knowledge for the [Race to Mackinac] fleet. We are bringing in weather experts such as Chris Bedford [of the Sailing Weather Service href="http://www.sailwx.com/PUBLIC/index.html"] to increase everyone’s knowledge about weather, forecasting and meteorology at all various levels of expertise.”
The deaths of WingNuts skipper, Mark Morley, and crewmember, Suzanne Makowski-Bickel, were the first sailing-related deaths in the history of the 333-mile offshore classic. The 104th Race to Mackinac will take place on July 21.
The following is a summary of the requirement changes for the race, as provided by the Chicago YC.
Changes to the 104th Race to Mackinac Boat Safety Equipment:
• GPIRB or Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) registered to each competitor boat will be required.Monohull MSR requirement 57 / Multihull requirement 61
• Life rafts will be strongly recommended Monohull MSR rule 59 and Appendix A / Multihull MSR Requirement 62 and appendix A
• Man-over-board poles will need to be attached in a way that allows for “instant use and affixed in a manner that allows for “quick release”. Monohull MSR requirement 61/ Multihull MSR Requirement 66
Personal Safety Equipment:
• Tethers: “not more than seven (7) feet long with a snap hook at one end and a quick release shackle on the harness end that is releasable under heavy load.” Monohull MSR requirement 70/ Multihull MSR Requirement 75
• Safety Knife: A knife, fixed blade or, if folding, able to be opened with one hand, to be attached to or carried on each crew member at all times when on deck. The Personal Safety Knife must be readily accessible at all times including while wearing foul weather gear and PFD/Harnesses. Monohull MSR requirement 71/ Multihull MSR Requirement 76
Continuing Sailor Education:
• Safety-at-Sea: It is strongly recommended that at least 30% of the crew (including the skipper) have completed the US Sailing Approved Safety –at-Sea seminar within the five year period preceding the start of the race. Monohull MSR requirement 73/ Multihull MSR Requirement 77
Minimum Boat Stability:
• One of the changes implemented for 2012 was the issuing of a minimum stability for a boat’s eligibility to compete in the race. The handicapping rule used for the Race to Mackinac- (Offshore Racing Rule-ORR) has adopted the new version of the Stability Index discussed in the US Sailing report of the 2011 Race. The minimum Stability Index required has been established at 103. Your 2011 ORR certificate (or prior) reflects the “old SI” number. Your new 2012 certificate will reflect the “new SI” number. Any questions on Stability Indexes or ORR ratings should be directed to the Offshore Office of US Sailing.
Requirement 18 of the NOR
18.1 Pre-Race Safety Inspections
a. CYCMC reserves the right to perform a Pre-Race Safety Inspection on any boat.
b. CYCMC shall identify boats to participate in Pre-Race Safety Inspections.
c. Once a boat is notified of its requirement for Pre-Race Inspection, it is the responsibility of the Invited Competitor to contact the CYC Staff Race Coordinator to schedule the inspection.
d. Pre-Race Inspections shall be scheduled to occur within a two month window prior to the boat’s Pre-Race Sign-In.
e. Boats identified for a Pre-Race Safety Inspection that fail to participate in the inspection, shall not be eligible to complete the Pre-Race Sign-In and will not be eligible to race.
18.2 Post-Finish Safety Inspections
a. All boats should plan to be inspected upon finishing the Race.
b. The Race Committee has sole discretion to choose which boats shall be inspected.
c. Boats failing a Post-Finish inspection shall be subject to protest by the Race Committee.
18.3Additional Safety Inspections – In addition to the Safety Inspections outlined above, all entered boats shall be subject to inspection by the Race Committee from 1000 CDT Thursday prior to the Race until the boat has properly completed its Post-Finish Sign-In.