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US Sailing to conduct independent study on Chicago Race to Mac tragedy

by Jake Fish on 3 Aug 2011
The Chicago Yacht Club has requested US SAILING, the National Governing Body of the sport, to conduct an independent study on the capsizing of a competing sailboat on Lake Michigan during a storm at the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac that resulted in the deaths of two sailors on July 18.

US SAILING has appointed an Independent Review Panel for the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, who are responsible for researching the factors involved in the accident, determining what lessons can be learned and making recommendations for future consideration.

On Tuesday, August 2, the Independent Review Panel created and distributed an online questionnaire asking participating skippers to report their experiences from the race. The Independent Review Panel will present its report during US SAILING’s Annual Meeting at the Loews Annapolis Hotel in Annapolis, Md. on October 27-29, 2011.

'It is essential that we understand what happened during this tragic event,' said US SAILING President Gary Jobson. 'Once we have an accurate account, we can improve safety standards for all sailors. I would like to thank the Panel for volunteering for this important project.'

For relevant inquiries regarding this independent study or pertinent information and helpful commentary on the incident or race, please contact US SAILING at macracepanel@ussailing.org.

The members of the Independent Review Panel are Chuck Hawley (Chairman / Santa Cruz, Calif.), Sheila McCurdy (Middletown, R.I.), Ralph Naranjo (Annapolis, Md.) and John Rousmaniere (New York, N.Y.). The four panelists are experienced offshore sailors. Each have been longtime members of US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee and served as moderators for US SAILING certified Safety-at-Sea Seminars. The Chicago Yacht Club appointed one if its members, Leif Sigmond, Jr., to serve as the club’s liaison to the panel.

Independent Review Panelist Profiles

Chuck Hawley
- Hawley has sailed approximately 40,000 miles on vessels ranging from ultralight 'sleds' to singlehanded sailboats to the maxi-catamaran PlayStation. His voyages include two singlehanded passages to Hawaii, three crewed Transpac races and a world record attempt on the west to east transatlantic record. As a member of US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee, Hawley has moderated many US SAILING Safety-at-Sea Seminars. He is also a powerboat instructor for US SAILING. Hawley has done extensive research into crew overboard recovery, life raft design, anchor design and storm tactics. He is a member of the American Boat and Yacht Council Technical Board of Directors and a former board member of the Transpacific Yacht Club. Hawley is a former Commodore of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club. Currently, he is the Vice President of Product Information at West Marine.

Sheila McCurdy - McCurdy has logged over 90,000 offshore miles, including 15 Newport Bermuda Races, two Marion Bermuda Races and many other races on either side of the Atlantic. As skipper and navigator in the 1994 and 2008 Newport Bermuda Races, she and her crew finished second overall in divisions of over 120 boats in her family boat, Selkie, a 38-foot cutter designed by her late father, Jim McCurdy. She runs US SAILING’s National Faculty for Training and is a moderator for Safety-at-Sea Seminars. McCurdy holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master’s license and a Masters degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. She serves as Commodore of the Cruising Club of America for 2010-11. For the past 15 years McCurdy has been an advisor to the U.S. Naval Academy sailing program, as a member of the Fales Committee. She serves on US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee and the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee.

Ralph Naranjo - Ralph Naranjo’s sailing experience includes a family voyage around the world aboard his sloop Wind Shadow. For 15 years he served as a judge for Cruising World magazine's 'Boat of the Year' Contest. He has managed a full service boatyard and provides consultation on boat projects. For 10 years he served as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, overseeing the sail training program and acting as the Academy’s lead agent on the development of the new Navy 44 sail training sloops. He moderates US SAILING Safety-at-Sea Seminars and is a past Chairman of the Safety-at-Sea Committee. Naranjo has provided documented research on a wide range of marine topics. He is Technical Editor of Practical Sailor and Electronics Editor for Sail.

John Rousmaniere – Rousmaniere’s 40,000-plus miles of offshore sailing includes a Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, a Bayview to Mackinac and multiple Newport Bermuda Races (twice in the second place boat) and Fastnet Races. In small boats he was on a Soling pre-Olympic team and helped win a Thistle National Championship. He has moderated or spoken at more than 100 seamanship safety seminars and he wrote the final report of the most recent crew overboard rescue trials. He has authored books including, Fastnet, Force 10 and After the Storm, A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship. Rousmaniere is a member of the New York Yacht Club, the Cruising Club of America, the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, and US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee, where he coordinates the Hanson Rescue Medal program. US Sailing Website
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