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Fatal sailing dinghy capsize report suggests safety measures

by Jake Fish/Sail-World Cruising on 24 Sep 2012
Capsized dinghy - what are the issues? .. .
As a response to a 2011 fatal sailing accident in Annapolis, Maryland, members of US Sailing recently conducted three days of intensive on-water tests of dinghy safety methods and equipment. Sailor entrapment and the causes were also addressed. The tests were carried out in New York and California, but the resultant conclusions are of interest wherever you sail.

The tests were organized by Chuck Hawley (Santa Cruz, Calif.), Chair of US Sailing’s Safety-at-Sea Committee, and Timmy Larr (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), member of US Sailing's Training Committee National Faculty. They were assisted by John Rousmaniere (New York, N.Y.), author of the U.S. Sailing report on the Annapolis accident and Safety-at-Sea Seminar moderator. Hawley, Larr, Rousmaniere and the 25 other volunteers participated as individuals, not in their official capacities.

An illustrated report of these tests, written by John Rousmaniere, is available here. The report describes and evaluates each of the methods and equipment that were tested, and offers recommendations for policies, rules, and further testing.

Among the questions answered in the tests were:

- What is the best way to rescue entrapped sailors?
- What is the minimum weight for bringing a 420 back from a turtle?
- How helpful is it to add buoyancy to the top of the mast?
- Which boat-righting methods work with different types of powerboats?
- How do we handle disabled or helpless sailors?

The tests and the report were welcomed by Gary Jobson (Annapolis, Md.), President of US Sailing, who said, 'The volunteers who undertook these rigorous tests deserve our thanks. Anything we can learn that advances our understanding of the causes and solutions of sailing accidents is important.'

Richard Jepsen (Berkeley, Calif.), Chair of US Sailing’s Training Committee said, 'This is a very professional report. These trials came up with compelling, repeatable findings, while also presenting questions that the Training Committee will address in its own trials, whose results we will report.'

Jepsen added that the tests, the report, and plans for future action will be discussed at the Training Committee meetings at the US Sailing’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco on November 1-3, 2012, but all who are involved in sailing dinghies, whether as a sailor or an organizer could do well to take benefit from these very controlled Click here for US Sailing’s Dinghy Capsize Report.
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