An ill-fitting life jacket (or maybe lacking a crutch strap) and the weight of wet weather gear may have been the ultimate cause of the death of a sailor who lost his life when their yacht Time to Burn lost its keel off the coast of New Zealand.
Time To Burn capsized - photo by Jimmy Joe.
Warren Clark told Marty Sharp of the Dominion Post that they both had trouble staying afloat after the incident because of the weight of their wet weather gear.
`I wanted to give up too. I kept on going because we were together.'
But after doing all he could to save his mate's life in the incident, Clark could only watch as he floated away, face down.
Cold and fatigue overcame Napier businessman Mike Claudatos early on Sunday after the 12-metre racing yacht the pair were sailing lost its keel and flipped.
They left Gisborne early on Saturday in Time To Burn and weren't far from Tauranga when the boat hit what Mr Clark believes was a discarded spinnaker from another yacht.
Time to Burn happier days
They were sailing at more than 30kmh in an easterly wind about 20 kilometres off the coast of Mt Maunganui about 5.20am on Sunday when they felt the yacht hit something.
'We sailed for another couple of hundred metres before the boat went on its side,' Mr Clark said. 'I was inside. Mike was steering. He came inside with me.'
The yacht remained on its side for 20 to 30 minutes, during which time the men were able to fire two flares and activate radio beacons.
'Claudy got out as the boat started turning upside down. I had three attempts at getting out.
'I broke the surface and there was Claudy at the back of the boat yelling out my name.
'He said his lifejacket was coming off. It kept coming up over his head.'
Mr Clark found a rope from the boat and threw it over the hull and around the upturned rudder, to give the men a way of clambering on to the hull.
'While I was tying off the rope I pulled Claudy out of the water three times.
'He kept going under. His lifejacket came off again. I put it back on.
'When I next turned to him to say, 'Claudy, we're made, we're going to be getting up on the hull,' he was face down and drifting away.
'You've got to remember we're in sea boots and wet-weather gear and we're getting dragged under. It saps your strength, it really does. I wanted to give up too.
'I kept on going because we were together. If Claudy had hung on for another 10 minutes he'd be here today with us.'
When Tauranga coastguards arrived about 7am, they found Mr Claudatos' body about 200 metres from the yacht.
Mr Claudatos, 52, and Mr Clark, 57, had been sailing together for 15 years. They bought Time to Burn with two others in 2002. She was designed in 1994, constructed by Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders and raced successfully ever since in New Zealand.
Maritime New Zealand will investigate the accident. The yacht has been salvaged and is being towed to Tauranga.
Letter from Reader:
Sender: Manfred Schreiber
Message: Thanks for reporting this. Did not Larry Klein lost his life due to wearing seaboots after the 'balkony' of a Hobie 33 broke and he felt into the water in SF Bay many years ago. A tragedy as Dawn Riley´s father tried to save him. I am not wearing seaboots since than. No matter what the manufacturers are claiming about their quality.