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Sail-World.com : Lessons to be learned from inquiry into fatal sailing incident

Lessons to be learned from inquiry into fatal sailing incident

'MacGregor 26, similar to the one that capsized'    .
Only the thorough investigation which is currently taking place will answer all the questions about why two men died when their sailing boat capsized last weekend. Plainly there will be some lessons to learn, whether it be about the design of the sailing boat or the actions of the people on board. In the meantime there are many theories being aired.

The yacht was a Mac Gregor 26, a hybrid trailer-sailor which can act as a power boat or a sailing boat. On board were ten people, and bystanders said that it appeared just before the incident that many of them seemed to be crowding on the bow.

All ten were thrown into the water, and some of them - it is not at the moment known how many - were not wearing life-jackets, in particular the two men who drowned. That's lesson No. 1.

There are other issues. Was it overloaded? The manufacturer says yes, the skipper says no.

'It doesn't have a great reputation of being a great sailboat or great power boat, but it does have the unique ability to do both,' Andy Kurtz of Seaforth Boat Rentals in Mission Bay told television reporters after the incident.

'It has a retractable centerboard, or keel, and that's something we're looking into to see if it had a role in this incident,' said San Diego Harbor Police Chief John Bolduc.

At the time of the incident, the jib was flying, and according to witnesses there was a sudden gust. This would not normally make the yacht capsize unless ...was the centre-board locked down?

Kurtz said, 'If the sail was up and the centerboard was up, then it's no surprise the boat capsized.'

Then there is the question of weight distribution.

'If the weight is on the bow, then as the boat moves through the water and the nose goes down as the wind pushes against the sail, it would accentuate the ability to capsize,' Brandenburg said.

Investigators said it will take at least three weeks before their investigation is complete.

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