Tragedi under Farallones Race

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Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase under Pacific Cup 2008. Foto: Larry Ho.

Farrallones är en liten ögrupp knappt 30 distans utanför San Francisco, mest känd för att man seglar solo eller doublehandedrace dit i tid och otid. Men nu var det dags för Full Crew Farallones Race som lockade 60 båtar i tufft väder; 25-30 knops vind och tuff sjö.

Något verkar ha gått snett på James Bradfords Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase. Tre har räddats, en person har funnits död och tre eller fyra saknas fortfarande.

Inga detaljer ännu…

Full Crew Farallones Race

On April 14th, 2012 The Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay learned from the U.S. Coast Guard that the sailing vessel, “Low Speed Chase”, was lost during the 2012 Full Crew Farallones Race. Of the seven crew members aboard, three crew members were rescued from the SE Farallon Island, one crew member has been confirmed dead, and three additional crew members are still missing.

According to nearby competitors who reported a vessel in distress, the accident occurred around 3 p.m.. “Low Speed Chase’s” EPIRB was activated and Coast Guard and National Guard Helicopters’ were dispatched to the scene. Two Coast Guard Vessels remain on the scene, still searching for the unaccounted for crew.

The Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay, The Ocean Yacht Racing Association, and the Board of Directors would like to express our deepest sympathies at this time of sorrow to the family and friends of the lost crewman of “Low Speed Chase”. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the missing crew in hopes they are returned home safely.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

Gällande säkerhet så tar man det på allvar. Här är det som gäller under dessa race. Till exempel är EPIRB obligatorisk.

Low Speed Chase tränar inför Pacific Cup.

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30 Comments

  1. Patrick L Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Usch vad sorgligt. Det var väl på det racet en J/80 tappade kölen 2009 också?

  2. Feffe Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Hoppas att de hittar resten av gänget. Tragiskt, fy sjutton.

  3. maX Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Inga flytvästar på bilden….

  4. Author
    Peter Gustafsson Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Video från helikoptern: http://bcove.me/izvh8mb2

    The eight-member crew aboard the 38-foot Low Speed Chase was participating in a yacht race from San Francisco Bay around the Farallon Islands on Saturday afternoon as their craft ran aground.

    Seas were running high at 10-12 feet when the Low Speed Chase was hit by a larger wave and the four were washed overboard, Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said.

    “They turned the boat around to go rescue those people and they got hit by another wave,” sending the boat onto rocks, he said.

    A Mayday call reporting the accident went out at about 3 p.m. PDT.
    Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters and water craft rescued three crew members who were clinging to rocks, Read said. The body of the other crew member was pulled from the water.

  5. Author
    Peter Gustafsson Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Kollade in sjökortet ovan. Inget kul ställe att runda på när det blåser hallonbåtar.

    Tydligen seglar folk innanför Seal Rock även när det går rejäl sjö…

    • Andreas Apr 15, 2012 Reply

      Det var ikke mulig å seile innenfor seal rock igår. Ingen med vettet i begold ville gjort det. I allefall ikke med vilje

    • SED Apr 16, 2012 Reply

      Är det vekligen möjligt att segla innanför Seal Rock, är inte djupangivelserna på kortet i fot?

    • Author
      Peter Gustafsson Apr 16, 2012 Reply

      Tydligen famnar. Och det verkar finnas delade meningar om när det går och inte. Lite som Djävulshålet…

  6. Pelle P Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Får ju D-hålet att framstå som rena smörseglingen… Fruktansvärt tråkig historia.

  7. F424 Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Hmmm. Banbegränsning någon? Håller med Pelle, Djävulshålet är smalt men här har man iallafall ingen sjö att ta hänsyn till. Av kort och bild att döma ser det inte ut som innaför seal rock är en option annat än i mycket lugnt väder…

  8. Andreas Apr 15, 2012 Reply

    Max: det var påbudt med vester på denne regettaen. Alle hadde det på og det var såpass friskt vær at på båten jeg seilte var alle klipset inn.

    Vi var nærmeste båt da low speed chase gikk på. Vi trodde først de hadde riggproblemer, men nyhetene idag sier at de var nære land i ett forsøk på å plukke opp fire av mannskapetsom ble skyldt overbord av en bølge. Fra de kom 200m fra land tok det bare en bølge før de grunnstøtte og to bølger til før vi ikke så båten lenger. Ikke et pentsyn. Med ti grader i vannet og store. Bølger er det nok dessverre meget små sjangser for de tre som er savnet. Trist resultat på en fin regatta med mye vind og strålende solskinn.

    Andreas

    • Author
      Peter Gustafsson Apr 15, 2012 Reply

      Tack Andreas för förstahandsiformation.

      Vad seglade ni? Kan man säga någonting om hur mycket det blåste?

      • Andreas Apr 15, 2012 Reply

        Blåste jevnt 25 knop med kast opp til litt under 30. Vinden var ikke noe problem, på olson34′ en jeg seilte hadde vi tre’er og fullt storseil.

        Største utfordringen var bølgene. Vi hadde to bølger som brøt på oss på vei inn og slo oss inn i kræsjibber. Kald, vindfull, og våtdag på sjøen, men ikke umulige forhold.

        Andreas

        • Pelle P Apr 16, 2012 Reply

          Detta liknar det som hände med 606:an på TR; vind är sällan problemet, det är vågorna…

  9. Jessica Apr 16, 2012 Reply

    Fy va hemskt!

    http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/fyra-saknas-efter-olycka-i-stor-vag/

    Det står att flera hade “skyddskläder”.

    • Jessica Apr 16, 2012 Reply

      Neeej så unga! Usch, riktigt hemskt.
      Jag förstår inte riktigt “broadsided” i sammanhanget.
      Drog monstervågorna med båten i sidled eller bröt den över båten?
      Vilken mardröm!

    • Author
      Peter Gustafsson Apr 16, 2012 Reply

      “Broadsided” kan väl översättas med bredsida, dvs att man får en stor våg rakt från sidan. Så som jag har uppfattat det så bröt den första vågen över båten och drog med sig 4 personer överbord. När man vände för att plocka upp dem kom ytterligare vågor som drog in båten mot klipporna och fler personer överbord.

      Man antar att det kommer att göras en ordentlig utredning, men det mesta tyder väl på att man hamnade lite för nära ön där vågorna blev rejält stora.

      Många ganska sportiga båtar tog sig runt, bland annat en 11:a, men det var också ganska många som bröt. Så det verkar inte ha varit onormala förhållanden. http://www.yra.org/OYRA/docs/Results/OYRA_farallones_2012_results.htm

      • Jessica Apr 17, 2012 Reply

        Jag blir riktigt omskakad. Har en gräns vid 14 m/s om vi inte har med någon riktigt duktig ombord (vilket inte alltid är fallet) så 12 – 15 känns inte helt främmande. Men hur vågor byggs upp är ju beroende av många faktorer och här kommer ju även strömmen in i bilden om jag förstått rätt. Vi kappseglar mest på Vänern som gärna bygger riktigt besvärlig sjö, oförutsägbart och snabbt redan vid 10 m/s. Man kan vara ganska säker på att det kommer komma grymma vågor (var sjunde) om det blåser lite. Jag kommer gå igenom säkerheten extra noga och se över vår utrustning. Och lägga till några våglängder till land vid sådan rundning… Man vill ju komma hem igen.

  10. Andreas Apr 16, 2012 Reply

    Her er en oppsummering fra skipperen på båten jeg seilte på i helgen:
    Temerity sammedrag

    Hvis dere ser på GPS-sporet fra rundingen av øyene så fikk Low Speed Chase problemer ca halvveis mellom oss og land akkurat i det vi gjorde det ekstra slaget over på bb for å komme rundt nordsiden.

    Zoomer dere inn på det andre sporet ser dere også 360en vi endte opp med å ta etter at en bølge slo oss rundt på vei inn til San Francisco

    Som dere kan lese i sammendraget fra David var det endel forvirring etter ulykken og noen båter trodde det var vi som var gått ned. Istedet for å prøve å kalle opp oss på kanal 16 ringte de rundt. Blant annet til alle på pårørende listen for å sjekke om de visste om båten var i nød eller ikke(!). Var en veldig glad og lettet kone som tok telefonen da jeg ringte hjem etter målgang.

    Poenget mitt med å nevne det over er at alle de pårørende fikk en rekke spørsmål fra Coast Garden som de ikke kunne svare på, og som jeg tror de fleste pårørende ikke vet. Alt de lurte på var informasjon for å identifisere en båt som ikke lenger er hel, og for å vite om det er restene etter en eller to båter som ligger på skjæret i biter:
    – hvilken farge har skroget*, dekket*, mast,bom, og bunnsmøring?
    – hva er seilnummeret?*
    – hvilken farge er det på seilene de ville brukt i 25 knop vind?
    – har du bilde av båten du kan sende på epost ASAP?
    – kan du bekrefte EPIRB nummeret?*
    – har noen ombord personlige EPIRB’er?

    *= var allerde rapportert inn som endel av påmelding og sikkerhetskontroll

    Tips til skippere er å sette opp en liste over dette og lignende informasjon og være sikker på at de som er på pårørendelisten har tilgang til dette dokumentet.

    Andreas

  11. David Apr 16, 2012 Reply

    Hi Peter and Andreas,

    I was just about to post my link. Andreas and I had some good discussions about Scandinavian rocks on the way to the islands. And then we saw some very dangerous rocks indeed.

    I’m not sure about the question of ‘floor wax’, perhaps Google Translate is the one with the sense of humor. The detail that the USCG expects emergency contacts to provide has never been communicated to sailors here before. Most people list their wives or close relative — I always understood the intent was to see if the boat was actually safe at home, even if they missed checking in at the finish or retired early.

    Also please reserve judgement when reading media reports — there are many details that are reported wrong, like “tethers are not required by USCG”. That is true, but the race rules specify ISAF Cat II gear, with some exceptions made.

  12. Author
    Peter Gustafsson Apr 17, 2012 Reply

    Thanks David & Andreas. Maybe we should leave a card back home with the answers to all the questions above? I’m not really sure I want this discussione with my family…

    Btw, found some images of Low Speed Chase on the rocks. So sad.

    http://blueplanettimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Low_Speed_Chase.jpg
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/16/BASV1O3UU5.DTL

  13. Author
    Peter Gustafsson Apr 25, 2012 Reply

    Bryan Chong – Full Crew Farallones Race 2012

    On Saturday, April 14, 2012, one sailor died and four others remain missing after waves pummeled James Bradford’s Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase, which was competing in the Full Crew Farallones Race, sponsored by San Francisco Yacht Club in San Francisco, CA.

    Bradford, along with Nick Vos and Bryan Chong, survived the accident that took the life of Marc Kasanin. The four that remain missing are Alexis Busch, Alan Cahill, Jordan Fromm, and Elmer Morrissey.

    The following onboard account is provided by Bryan Chong…

    – – – –

    A Letter to the Community:

    This letter goes out to a devastated sailing community still confused about the events surrounding the 2012 Full Crew Farallones Race. There have been inaccuracies in the media, mostly stemming from the survivors’ silence as James (“Jay”), Nick and I are still reeling from tragedy and the loss of close friends and loved ones.

    I’ve chosen to use Sailing Anarchy, Seahorse, Latitude 38, and Scuttlebutt for distributing this story because they’re of a kindred spirit and were the favorites amongst the crew of Low Speed Chase and those who already know the answer to the question, “Why would you sail in the ocean on a windy day with big swells?”

    I’ve also included the Marin Independent Journal and The Tiburon Ark, as they’re the hometown newspapers in an area teeming with sailors. Many sailors relocate from around the world to Marin and the Tiburon Peninsula in order to live in proximity to the world’s best sailing. Alan Cahill moved from Cork, Ireland to race sailboats professionally in the Bay Area and the Pacific Ocean. He was the best man in our wedding and will be dearly missed while I journey this planet.

    This letter does not contain every detail, but my account should provide a basic understanding of our day on the water and what happened after the first wave hit our boat. It is meant both to illustrate how things can look normal until one event changes everything and to begin to address what we can learn. It’s my hope and intention that it will spark a wider dialogue within the sailing community about safety standards and, more importantly, safety practices.

    Why do we sail?

    A sailor’s mindset is no different from that of any other athlete who chooses to participate in a sport that has some risk. It’s a healthy addiction. Despite the highly publicized deaths of Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy, skiers all over the world continue to hit the slopes each winter. Sitting on the couch is safer than ripping down a slope, but the reward makes the risk worthwhile.

    Next, we should all agree there are a wide variety of interests within the sailing community. Some sailors prefer racing to cruising, small boats to big, or lakes to oceans. We all make personal decisions about the risks we’re willing to take to enjoy our own brand of sailing.

    Naturally, I have personal preferences. I most enjoy one-design and ocean racing. I generally consider sailing to be at its finest when you’re coming around a mark alongside 20 identical boats, or when you’re in the ocean with a kite up on a windy day, the wave action is perfect and you’re surfing downwind at speeds usually reserved for powerboats. I was a guest crewmember on Low Speed Chase and I got the sense the others were seeking the same downhill ride back from the Farallones as I was. There were eight sailors on board: one professional, six experienced sailors and one sailor excited for his first ocean race.

    The Start Line

    It’s Saturday April 14, 2012 around 8:30 in the morning. Seven of us are aboard Low Speed Chase as we leave the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere. We head across the bay and swing through the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco, where Jay hops on from the docks. We motor to the St. Francis race deck start line. Alan grabs the handheld and with the brevity learned from years of flying small planes says, in a heavy Irish accent, “Farallon Race Committee, Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase 38009. Checking in. 8 souls on board.” No response. He repeats and the voice on the receiver sounds back, “Confirmed, Low Speed Chase. Thank you.”

    We raise our sails as we traverse the starting area, checking currents and winds and working out a starting strategy. Meanwhile, the crew double-checks sails, lines, safety equipment, and clothing layers. Today our starting strategy, unlike buoy racing in the bay, is simple: avoid an over-early penalty. This is especially true given the light winds and ebb tide.

    A few minutes before the start, someone notices that the reef line for the main isn’t tied. Our new Quantum sails were delivered only a couple of days before. They still have that stiff new-sail feel that never lasts long enough. It’s going to be a windy day and we need to rig it before we get out in the ocean. I have a harness in my sail bag but Nick is already wearing his. He clips into a halyard and 5 feet up he goes to tie on the line. Alexis grabs his foot to guide him down the boom, and after a few minutes we are ready to get underway.

    “Boom!” First Gun.

    We are well behind the start line but as the countdown continues we realize our distraction has taken us slightly outside the starting box. The air is still and we’re trying to trim our sails to squeeze everything we can from one knot of wind.

    The start gun goes off and we’re still fighting to get inside the box. Ebb is not our friend today and we soon find that we’ve drifted past the start line without going through the designated gate, so we’ll have to backtrack for a proper start. The pressure seems to be hiding just under the Golden Gate Bridge, almost like it’s mocking us. It kind of reminds me of Friday night races in Belvedere Cove when the wind shuts down right before the start but continues to tease you from out in the bay.

    Already critical of our “start”, we anxiously wait for the wind to fill so we can make it back to the line. “Should we pop the kite?” gets floated for a second but it’s killed when the wind dies to nothing. We’re floating backwards toward the bridge and our drift takes us abeam of Anita Rock. We decide to anchor to prevent any more backwards “progress”. Jay pulls the anchor from down below and Jordan heaves it into the bay from the bow. Other boats that have started the race now begin to sail – rather, float – past us. A few find humor in our plight and aren’t shy to share. Even Berkeley, a regular crew member on Low Speed Chase who couldn’t make the race due to an injury texts “nice start…” to Alexis from the shore.

    Finally, the wind begins to fill in behind us. Dislodging the anchor is another challenge but with a winch, a halyard, and some muscle from Marc, we bring it up it from the bottom of the bay.

    By the time we make it across the start line our botched start has cost us over an hour. Our objective for the race has changed now, and the only victory we’re hoping for is to avoid the notorious DFL.

    The Uphill Slog

    Non-sailors often ask what it’s like to sail in the ocean, and what’s the appeal. I usually compare it to backcountry skiing or mountain biking. The reward is in the descent. You work through the uphill portion in exchange for the downwind ride when your boat flattens, apparent wind drops to a light breeze and, on the right day, your boat skips along as it planes and surfs down the front side of swells.

    As we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, Peter Lyons clicks a picture from the shore. We tack a few times and set up a starboard lay-line that we will stay on for the rest of the day as we head out to the Farallon Islands. The skies are clear and we’re seeing 20-23 knots. It’s always been hard for me to gauge swell height from the water. Each swell has its own personality. To me it seems the seas are 10-12 feet with larger sets around 15 feet.

    The upwind leg is uneventful and we fill the quiet moments with our usual banter. We tease Elmer about his difficulty emptying his bladder. Jordan snaps at Alan for being Alan. All in all, it’s turning out to be a beautiful day on the ocean with conditions as expected. The wind and swells are big but consistent in speed and direction. Nick, Alan, Jordan, Jay and I all take turns on the wheel, maintaining between 7.5 to 8.5 knots of upwind boat-speed.

    The mood on the boat is relaxed. We chat about which of our three kites will be safest for the ride home. We’ve accepted our place in the back of the pack now, so there is no need to risk equipment or safety. Our mindset is definitely not aggressive. We peeled to our smallest jib just outside the bridge and there’s no need to reef the main since we aren’t being overpowered.

    We set up earlier in the day for a port rounding or “taking it from the top” as I’d heard it referenced amongst sailing buddies. I’ve done a number of day-long ocean races to Monterey, Half Moon Bay and buoys like the lightbucket. This is my first race to the Farallones – a race that I’ve wanted to do for years. My anticipation heightens as our boat approaches the islands.

    Around the Island

    The Farallon Islands have a rugged, haunting beauty about them but there’s no time for sightseeing as we approach. The waves and wind have steadily built and we start seeing scattered white caps. As the conditions intensify, I’m on the main and Alan – by far the best driver with the most ocean experience – is on the wheel.

    We soon approach the first rocky point on the northeast corner of the island. The swells are much larger and the wind has been building. We saw another boat pass a few minutes earlier on an outside line. Behind us, one boat is outside of us and another appears to be on our same line.

    There’s a YouTube video titled “Crewed Farallones April 14, 2012” showing the Santa Cruz 50, Deception, and several other boats rounding the island. They would have rounded about an hour before us in similar, if not slightly lighter, conditions. The video shows the difference in swell sizes before, during and after rounding the island. Michael Moradzadeh, who thankfully radioed in the initial distress call, notes that the video doesn’t do justice to the intensity of the day. I agree, but it does provide a good baseline for those who didn’t make the race. As I watch the video, Deception’s route feels eerily similar to our own. In fact, when we passed the first point I think we were just slightly outside of their line.

    The South Farallones consist of two primary islands, which together form a crescent with its arms toward the north. Between the two northern points we begin to crack off the sails into a close reach as we head toward the next point. The boat in the “Crewed Farallones” video had about the same amount of sail trim but it appears they turned after we did. Our route takes us inside the line of Deception and closer to the island.

    Fellow sailors can relate to trimming sails during intense racing or weather conditions. We assimilate data in a series of snapshots taken from within the boat and across the race course. I suspect that’s the reason sailors show up to race protest rooms with 5 different accounts of an incident that happened at a speed no faster than a run.

    I’ve been asked by investigators, friends and family just how close we were to the rocky coastline. Truthfully, this is one of the most difficult questions to answer; my focus was almost purely on the distance to the beginning of the break zone. Staying away from the rocks was a secondary concern to staying away from the breakers – an ocean feature that has scared me since long before this weekend. Swells are fine. Breakers aren’t.

    As we approach the second point I estimate we’re inside of 10 boat lengths – which is 128 yards on a Sydney 38 – from the beginning of the break zone. Our distance looks safe and no one on the boat comments. I catch a glance of clear swells off the port side of the boat between the break zone and us. We keep sailing. The boat is heeled toward the island. Alan is driving, I’m trimming main, and everyone else is on the rail.

    Then, we come across the largest swell we’ve seen all day. It begins to crest but we pass over it before it breaks. Thirty seconds later, we will not have such luck.

    The Wave

    I see another wave approaching in the distance. It’s coming from the same direction as the other swells but it’s massive. I’ve seen large waves before but this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen outside of big-wave surf videos.

    As the wave approaches it begins to face up, its front flattening as it crests. By the time our boat meets it, there’s no escape route. Alan steers the boat into the wave and the bow of Low Speed Chase ascends the breaking wave, which seconds sooner would have been a giant swell and seconds later would have already broken. Instead, we’re heading into a crashing wall of water with 9-10 knots of boat-speed and it breaks directly on us. I lock my right arm to the bottom lifeline and brace for the impact. The last thing I see is the boat tipping toward vertical with a band of water still above it. A single thought races through my head: “This is going to be bad.”

    After the Impact

    I was underwater until the boat righted itself. Confused and disoriented I looked around while water cleared off the deck. Nick and I were the only ones still on the boat. The sails were shredded, the mast snapped and every flotation device had been ripped off. We immediately began to try pulling our crewmembers back into the boat but a second wave hit us from behind. This one ripped me off the boat and into the break zone. Nick barely managed to stay aboard as the boat was tossed by the breakers onto the rocks.

    I couldn’t tell if I was in the water for a minute or an hour, but according to Nick it was about 15 minutes. People have asked me if I swam for shore. The best way to describe the water in the break zone is a washing machine filled with boulders. You don’t really swim. The water took me where it wanted to take me, and when I was finally able to climb from the surf onto low rocks I heard Nick shouting from the distance for me to get to higher ground. Together we located Jay further down the shoreline. He was out of the surf but trapped on a rock surrounded by cliffs. From what we could see, nobody else had been able to climb to safety.

    As for what happened in that first wave, my head was down and I initially thought we might have pitch-poled. Nick, who broke his leg while it was wrapped around a stanchion and had a better view, tells me the boat surfed backwards with the wave for a stretch then rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise before the wave finally barrel rolled it. This seems logical and explains how we ended up pointed back the same direction we started.

    The US Coast Guard and Air National Guard performed the rescue operation with a level of professionalism that reinforces their sterling reputation for assistance during these types of emergencies. We’re incredibly fortunate to have these resources available in our country. If we had been in another ocean off another coast then Jay, Nick and I may not have been rescued.

    Correcting the News

    There have been various inaccuracies in the news of what happened that Saturday. I believe they stem mostly from misinterpreted information. For example, many sources reported that we attempted to turn the boat around to help other crewmembers after the first wave hit. This is not accurate. I believe our statement immediately upon being rescued that, “we turned around [while on the boat] to get people out of the water” somehow became “we turned the boat around to get people out of the water”.

    Additionally, some assumed Jay, the boat’s owner, was driving. While one person can be the owner, captain, skipper and driver, this is often not the case. Jay loves sailing but uses professionals like Alan to coordinate his sailing program. This had always been the case with Low Speed Chase and it was no different this day.

    Reflections

    The sailing community might want to know what we could have done differently that day. It all really centers on a broader commitment to safety – preparation that happens before you get on the boat to race. When sailors “talk sailing” it’s usually about winds, currents, tactics, rules or the events of the day – not about safety. I almost never hear conversations about the benefits of different life jacket models, pros and cons of tethers or about practicing man-overboard drills before a race.

    That day we had all the mandatory safety equipment including two installed jack lines. Everyone was wearing life jackets and there were 8 tethers on the boat – mine around my neck. Unfortunately, none of us were clipped in when the wave hit. I can’t speak for other ocean sailors, but I’d reached a level of comfort where I’d only tether at night, when using the head off the back of the boat, or when the conditions were really wild. It’s simply a bad habit that formed due to a false sense of security in the ocean. “Besides,” I’d say to myself, “I can just clip in when something bad is about to happen…”

    It’s obvious to me now that I should have been clipped into the boat at every possible opportunity. Nevertheless, arguments for mobility and racing effectiveness over safety are not lost on me. Some safety measures can indeed limit maneuvers, but if you’re going to spend an hour driving, trimming or hiking in the same spot, why not clip in? Additionally, there are legitimate concerns about being crushed by the boat. Those 15 minutes in the water were the absolute scariest in my life. The boat was the place to be – inside or out.

    Until the accident, I believed that to tether or not was a personal choice. But now, my thinking extends beyond the safety of an individual to that of the team as a whole. Here’s the logic: If I’d been tethered when the first wave hit, I would have needed to unclip to help the others who were overboard, then I’d have been hit by the second wave and still ended up in the water. Crews need to talk as a team about tethering strategies. One person overboard puts the entire crew at risk, as others might need to unclip to quickly maneuver the boat back to their location.

    I truly consider myself lucky to have a second chance at life with my wife and 8-week-old son. Looking back, there were a number of factors that might have helped me survive in those waters. After years on the foredeck, I wear shin guards, ankle pads, neoprene kneepads, full-finger gloves, Dubarry boots, full foul-weather gear and no cotton fabrics. I also wear my auto inflate personal floatation device (PFD) for ocean races. Additionally, the well used gym membership my wife got me early last year was invaluable. Luck was truly on my side but I also think that maybe I left the door open for it.

    There are other lessons that can and should be learned from the incident. My auto-inflate suspenders inflated as designed. However, my manual override cord was tucked away and unreachable – a practice amongst sailors who are worried about an accidental opening. A PFD with a crotch strap would have been far better. It would have held the device down and freed up my hands to climb out of the water or swim. My built-in PFD harness was also too loose and I was concerned about it slipping off. A rash guard would have been a worthwhile layer for warmth. All flotation devices attached to the back of the boat were ripped off by the first large wave. And it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each PFD and make sure it matches the conditions. Safety lessons shouldn’t have to be learned the hard way.

    Hopefully this incident will spur a wider discussion on sailboat safety. However, the biggest lesson I learned that day wasn’t about any piece of equipment. It was about taking personal responsibility for my own safety. Our EPIRB, a water-activated GPS tracking device, fortunately went off as intended, but who double-checked the batteries that morning? It wasn’t me and I didn’t ask who did.

    It’s my wish that no crew or community will ever go through what we’ve endured from this tragic accident. The memorial flotilla on Saturday (April 21, 2012) for my lost crewmates was by far the most touching memorial I’ve ever seen. I watched from the SFYC host boat as over a hundred sailboats and powerboats, many filled to capacity, came together on the water in a display of something beautiful and heartwarming in the midst of a week filled with terrible pain and sorrow.

    At a service this weekend, I heard a quote from a 1962 speech by John F. Kennedy to America’s Cup competitors that, in my mind, captures the essence of our fascination with the sea:

    “I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.”

    Alan, Marc, Jordan, Alexis and Elmer. Keep your rig tuned, your kite full and your foulies dry. We’ll one day finish our race together.

    Bryan Chong
    Saturday Crew on Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase

  14. Sam V Apr 29, 2012 Reply

    Ännu en tragedi, tre döda under havskappseglingen Newport to Ensenada efter att deras båt kolliderat med ett fartyg http://www.nosa.org/

  15. Author
    Peter Gustafsson May 25, 2012 Reply

    US Sailing Releases Preliminary Findings in Farallones Race Tragedy

    PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (May 24, 2012) – A US Sailing Independent Review Panel has released a set of preliminary findings and recommendations from the research conducted on the 2012 Crewed Farallones Race that resulted in the deaths of five sailors from sailboat, Low Speed Chase, on April 14, 2012. The panel presented this information to the new San Francisco Bay Offshore Racing Council, which includes local race organizers and yacht clubs, on Tuesday, May 22. The council has developed its goals to enhance safety and communications practices for all upcoming offshore events in the Bay area.

    The US Sailing preliminary recommendations are as follows:

    1 – Enhanced training of sailors in seamanship and piloting, including understanding of wave development in shoaling waters and safe distance off a lee shore.
    2 – Once-a-season training seminars in appropriate safety gear and mandatory skippers’ meeting for offshore races.
    3 – Assurance of compliance with existing Minimum Equipment Requirements, including post-race inspections.
    4 – Improved race management, including accountability for boats on the course, crew members’ information, compliance with Coast Guard Marine Event Permit conditions, and improved communication with sailors and Coast Guard.
    5 – Consistency of protocol and requirements for all Bay Area offshore races.

    Panel Chairman, Sally Honey (Palo Alto, Calif.) explains, “The US Sailing Independent Review Panel for the Low Speed Chase accident has completed a substantial amount of its fact-finding agenda, including a questionnaire to all racers in the Fully-crewed Farallones Race; personal interviews with racers, including survivors and witnesses; and plots and analysis of two dozen GPS tracks around Southeast Farallon Island.”

    “We are heartened by the seriousness with which the council has set priorities and assigned tasks to meet their mandate,” continued Honey. “We believe they are off to a good start in achieving more consistency between the various organizing authorities and making offshore racing safer for all.”

    “I am especially pleased with US Sailing’s outreach to the boating community both by conducting interviews and by briefing the preliminary findings to the newly formed local offshore racing council,” said Capt. Cynthia Stowe, Coast Guard Captain of the Port of San Francisco. ”The Coast Guard appreciates the tremendous support of the offshore race organizers and sponsoring yacht clubs. It’s the coordination and support from this local community which will ensure we learn all that we can from this tragic loss.”

    The members of the panel including Honey are 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. Michael Jacobs (Vineyard Haven, Mass.) and Dr. Kent Benedict (Aptos, Calif.). Jim Wildey (Annapolis, Md.) will advise on investigation procedures and formats.

    A full report from the panel will be released by US Sailing in June.

  16. Author
    Peter Gustafsson Aug 7, 2012 Reply

    Nu finns en läsvärd rapport här:
    http://media.ussailing.org/AssetFactory.aspx?vid=18654

    De gick för nära ön och “borde vetat bättre”, men det finns en del annat som kan vara intressant för både seglare och arrangörer.

    FARALLONES REPORT BY US SAILING – 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.

  17. Sam V Mar 9, 2013 Reply

    En död i en olycka under en kappsegling skriver SA. Det är det sjunde dödsoffret under havskappsegling i USA på mindre än ett år. Minst. En tragedi för alla inblandade men ställer även en del frågor om säkerheten på båtarna, både i konstruktion och hantering. Allvarligt.
    http://sailinganarchy.com/2013/03/09/1-dead-5-rescued-from-surf-after-sailboat-accident/

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