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 01 Aug 2011

Independent Review of Fatal Yacht Race

A guest editorial from Sail-World USA's editor David Schmidt, who lead our Sail-World official coverage of the Chicago Mackinac event.

By far, the biggest sailing news of the North American summer has been the tragic deaths of Mark Morley and Suzanne Bickel during the Chicago Yacht Club's 2011 Race to Mackinac. Winds possibly exceeding 100 knots lashed the racing fleet on July 17 at roughly 2300 hours, EST, as lighting pulsated through the pitch-black air and torrential rain fire-hosed sailors.

During this melee, Morley's WingNuts, a Kiwi 35, capsized. Six sailors were rescued by Sociable, but, horrifically, Morley and Bickel were lost.

Chicago Mackinac storm   

In the wake of this disaster, Joseph S. Haas, Commodore of the Chicago Yacht Club (CYC) has asked US SAILING to conduct an independent investigation of the events that occurred during this fateful storm.

On July 28, Gary Jobson, President of US SAILING, announced that a panel of world-class offshore sailors who are also heavily involved with US SAILING's Safety At Sea seminars would execute this investigation. This panel is comprised of Chuck Hawley, Sheila McCurdy, Ralph Naranjo, and John Rousmaniere. According to the CYC's recent press release, the independent panel will present its findings to US SAILING and the CYC in mid-to-late October.

Commodore Haas demonstrated excellent leadership during this crisis and quickly asked US SAILING to launch this independent investigation.

While never easy, positives can (eventually) come from awful situations such as this one. For example, following the disastrous 1998 Sydney Hobart Race and its sub-sequential coronial inquiry, best-practice standards for long distance racing have been improved worldwide. It seems likely that US SAILING's independent investigation will bring more improvements.

While these are the first sailing-related deaths to have taken place during the Race to Mackinac's proud 103-year history, it's important to recognize that weather patterns the world over seem to be intensifying with climate change.

Certainly the high-90s heat wave that was washing over the Midwest at the time of the tragedy compounded the storm's already-terrible power, but freshwater sailors and race organisers worldwide must now be prepared to encounter beyond-cyclone-force winds such as the supercell-cum-meteorological juggernaut that rolled this fleet.

David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor


More from the local scene, we've just spent five glorious days at Sydney International Boat Show.

We are not the tiniest bit biased, the best show entertainment was our Nancy, our Sail-World Cruising Editor and her husband Ted Nobbs talking about their 10 things they wished they'd known before they set out to sail around the world.

The next 12 hours will decide if its a big boat or a small boat race in the Sydney Gold Coast race.

We will have all the latest from Weymouth for the Olympic test event. We are expecting to have a big Sail-World team there in 12 months time.

As the Northern adventure continues we will catch up with the Keppel fleet and then be in Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island and Magnetic Island, in Queensland until the second week of September. Someone has to do it!!

Note there are already 117 boats for Airlie Beach, seems it will be a new record fleet for the Meridien Marina sponsored event. Hope you have new tropical shirts ready ...

The Sail-World Team

David Schmidt US Editor

Record fleet for Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week 2011
Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week media,
With close of entries still five days away, there is already a strong fleet for the 22nd annual Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week, which will be conducted on the waters of Pioneer Bay and the Whitsunday Passage from 11th to 18th August 2011.... [more]
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Hicko recommends a Mariner Boating Holiday
Roger Hickman,
I recently returned from an exciting adventure holiday on the beautiful coast of Croatia which was organized by Mariner Boating Holidays. Well want can I say? It was just a wonderful experience in every sense of the word.... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race start images by Howard Wright
Howard Wright images,
Photographer Howard Wright was out on beautiful Sydney Harbour for the start of the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race.... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race - a giant big parking lot,
With little breeze to propel them towards the finish line, the bulk of the fleet racing in the annual Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race have had their worst nightmares realised, as they ‘sit' dead in the water at South Solitary Island (Coffs Harbour) in what the sailors call a ‘parking lot', waiting for a decent breeze to fill sails again and allow the crews to head for Southport where the race of... [more]
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ORCV Winter Series images by Alex McKinnon
Alex McKinnon images,
ORCV Winter Series images from photographer Alex McKinnon.... [more]
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Chicago Yacht Club asks US SAILING to review Mackinac 2011
Chicago Yacht Club,
After two sailors' lives were lost during the recent Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, Commodore Joseph Haas of the Chicago Yacht Club, the race's organizer, asked US SAILING to conduct an independent study of what happened. On July 28 Gary Jobson, the President of US SAILING, appointed the Independent Review Panel for the 2011 Mackinac Race, and directed it to consider what lessons might... [more]
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Laser 4.7 World Championships race win to Ben Walkemeyer
Peter Campbell,
Laser 4.7 World Championships. West Australian Ben Walkemeyer today notched up the first win by an Australian sailor at this year's Worlds. Today was the first when neither of the two top-placed Spanish sailors won a heat, although they still hold a commanding lead in the 112 boat fleet.... [more]
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Governor's Cup International Junior Match Racing Championship video
Nancy Mellon,
Balboa Yacht Club's 45th annual Governor's Cup International Junior Match Racing Championship, held July 19 to 24, 2011, was the closest competition in recent memory. Two US teams battled it out for the win.... [more]
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Solo sailor battles towards Southern Ocean
Suzanne Arms,
At 12 noon on Sunday, 31 July 2011 Bruce was 75 nautical miles west of Fremantle, and he was expecting strong westerly winds averaging 35-40 knots, and reaching 50 knots as he makes his way south to the next rounding point off Cape Leeuwin. 'Late last night I used a drogue (sea-brake) to slow the boat down as the highest wind gust recorded by my instruments was 52 knots.'... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race line honours to Wild Oats XI
Di Pearson,
Wild Oats XI, took line honours in the CYCA's 384 nautical mile Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race this morning. Investec Loyal finished the race just nine minutes 22secs behind Wild Oats. Sixty four yachts remain at sea in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and the next one expected to cross the finish line sometime after 11.00am this morning.... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race images by Andrea Francolini
Andrea Francolini,
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race images by photographer Andrea Francolini.... [more]
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Fans have chance to interview the Australian Sailing Team
Craig Heydon,
The Australian Sailing Team is giving sailing fans the chance to interview the athletes during the upcoming Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The team has launched the ‘Ask the AST' campaign and is offering sailing fans the chance to get an insight into what makes the athletes tick during a major regatta.... [more]
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ORCV Winter Series - Sun arrives for race four
John Curnow,
ORCV Winter Series race four was held under wonderfully sunny skies and some 15 knots of Northerly breeze, which in turn provided for flat water on Melbourne's Port Phillip.... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Wasabi loses keel
Di Pearson,
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Last night at 9.55pm, Bruce McKay reported his yacht Wasabi had lost her keel while racing in the 384 nautical mile race. All aboard are safe. At the time of the incident, Wasabi was sailing around 17 nautical miles south of Port Macquarie and four miles north of Camden Haven on the NSW coast when her keel fell off around 3 nautical miles offshore.... [more]
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Volvo D-One Gold Cup - Tom Slingsby takes top spot
Elena Giolai,
Volvo D-One Gold Cup - After four days of competition at its highest level racing drew to a close today. The event is valid as a fourth round of the Volvo Cup 2011. It was a pleasure for Fraglia Vela Riva to host this emerging and innovative D-One fleet, since its creator Luca Devoti trained right here on Lake Garda.... [more]
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America's Cup: New TV graphics will be a sporting first
Bernie Wilson, AP,
The yellow first-down line that has become a staple of football broadcasts is coming to the America's Cup. Thanks to improved graphics, viewers sitting in front of their TVs or computer screens will easily be able to tell which boat is ahead, see the line the boats will use as a final guide into the next turning mark and know when the fast 45-foot catamarans are within a certain number of boat... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Living Doll in the lead
Di Pearson,
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Brindabella's 1999 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race record is safe for another year; race leader, Wild Oats XI, is well behind the time of 27 hours 35min 03 sec, the super maxi was just south of Coffs Harbour and 148 nautical miles from the Southport finish line at 4.45pm... [more]
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18ft Skiffs: Can Seve Jarvin do it again this season?
Frank Quealey,
Seve Jarvin goes about his business with a minimum of fuss as he and his team prepares and rigs their ‘Gotta Love It 7' skiff for the day's racing. The 23-year-old has amassed a wonderful record since he first began sailing as a four-year-old, then racing at age five.... [more]
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Laser 4.7 Worlds - Mixed results for Australians on day 3 of sailing
Peter Campbell,
At the Laser 4.7 Worlds in San Francisco, West Australian Ben Walkemeyer remains the top placed Australian, in 13th place overall after a ninth and a 22nd today. The best performance today came from NSW sailor Nicholas Vos, who finished fourth in heat six.... [more]
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International Cadet World Championship - Three Aussie crews in top ten
Peter Campbell,
Victorian brothers Anton and Julian Sasson are in third place overall after the first day of racing at the Cadet Worlds in Germany. Three Australians crews are in the top ten of the 75 boat fleet.... [more]
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Laser 4.7 World Championships Day 3 - Pin end crowd
Paige Brooks,
While the girls start their second race, a gun at the club goes off indicating it's time for the 112 boys to get their boats from the lawn, down the drive, to the ramp, and off the dock before the girls come in. The boys' yellow and blue fleets started on time at 1400 today; after a recall, the races started under black flag.... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race led by small boat
Di Pearson,
Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal were going at it hammer and tongs in the 2011 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race. Legendary small boat sailor, Anthony Paterson, has sailed Aroona, into the lead this morning, the Archambault 31 was 12nm east of Port Stephens this morning.... [more]
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Australians take over iconic English pub
Craig Heydon,
With preparations still being made for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Australian sailing fans prepare to take over an iconic pub on the south-west coast of England. The Cove House Inn in Portland, within walking distance of the sailing venue at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, will become a home away from home for the Australian Sailing Team during July and August 2012.... [more]
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OK Dinghy World Championship to Nick Craig
Mary Reddyhoff,
OK Dinghy World Championships 2011's final day had the sailors awaking to find that the sun had returned and the temperatures were rising but that there was very little breeze. As the morning went on with little change in the conditions, some competitors started to pack up.... [more]
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America's Cup: First preview program released online - View here!
The first of a weekly series of programs to be produced for the 34th America's Cup is now online and available for viewing In this edition there is a review of some of the major milestones that have occurred so far in the 34th America's Cup, a look at the atmosphere generated by the last home-town Cup - the 31st America's Cup in Auckland, plus a quick look at Cascais, Portugal... [more]
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D-One Gold Cup: Tom Slingsby capsizes and goes on to win + Videos
Pierre Orphanidis,
The second day's racing on the 2011 D-One Gold Cup in Fraglia Vela Riva del Garda produced yet another thrilling duel between Australian Tom Slingsby and Great Britain's Nick Thompson. 'Ora', the local southerly breeze, started at 16 knots and dropped to 12 in the second race. Slingsby scored an incredible come-from-behind win in the first race... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race fleet settles into a rhythm
Di Pearson,
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Even though it was only a light five knot nor-easterly wind that got the 69 yachts away at 1.00pm today, the battle was no less exciting, as Anthony Bell's Investec Loyal and Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI set the scene for a thrilling chase to the finish of the 384 nautical mile race.... [more]
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International Cadet World Championships - Australians on track
Mariji Sasson and Peter Campbell,
International Cadet world championships - Once again, the top seven boats from the 2010-2011 Nationals (held at Sandringham Yacht Club in December/January) all accepted their invitation to attend and are expected to be highly competitive. Whilst competitors have been able to train for the past week, strong winds and rain saw the practice cancelled... [more]
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Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race images by Andrea Francolini
Andrea Francolini,
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race images from yachting photographer Andrea Francolini... [more]
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Laser 4.7 Worlds - It's all about the shifts
Paige Brooks,
At the Laser 4.7 World Championships, the St. Francis Yacht Club Race Committee is alternating the girls and boys fleets, 165 competitors in total, on a daily basis. This morning was overcast with increased wind from yesterday, ranging from 15-22 knots, and shifty.... [more]
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North South Yachting's Bob Mulkearns talks to
Steven Sun,
North South Yachting dealer principal Bob Mulkearns introduces the Greenline 33 Hybrid at the 2011 Sydney International Boat Show in Darling Harbour.... [more]
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Sydney to Gold Coast race weather will challenge crews
Di Pearson,
Tacticians and navigators taking part in the 2011 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race will need to keep their humour well intact if they are to survive the weather conditions that were dished up to them by the Bureau of Meteorology's Michael Logan this morning.... [more]
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Road to Southport looks long and light for TeamVodafoneSailing
Wilde media,
TeamVodafoneSailing will line up against Sean Langman's Team Australia in Sydney, for what could be an epic duel all the way to Southport, Queensland.... [more]
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Newcastle Yacht enjoys 'One for the road' ahead of the Gold Coast Race
Will Canty,
Newcastle businessman and sailing identity Kym Butler of Butlers Business and Law aboard his Yacht 'One for the Road' is once again representing the City of Newcastle contesting the 2011 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race.... [more]
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Halfway mark passed in Australian Solo Circumnavigation Record attempt
Terry Travers,
Bruce Arms, experienced solo sailor, has reached the half-way mark in his world-record attempt to sail around Australia non-stop, solo and unassisted in under 42 days. Bruce is still on schedule to complete the circumnavigation in about 35 days.... [more]
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F16 World Championship - Bundock and Van Dooren claim the crown
2B Sailing,
F16 World Championship - Darren Bundock and Celine Van Dooren have struck a major blow for mixed sailing with the new sailing combination claiming the world Formula 16 crown in their first ever regatta together on a Viper catamaran. Dutchwoman Van Dooren and Australian Bundock, sailing for The Netherlands, were the stand-out team in the regatta, and in which Vipers filled the top eight places.... [more]
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Auckland International Boat Show – on show in Sydney
Making its presence felt this year at the Sydney International Boat Show, NZ Marine representatives are spruiking their own event – highlighting the various facets of this year's show and all the many reasons to head to Auckland in September, including the Rugby World Cup 2011.... [more]
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