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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 led 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 1979 Fastnet and the 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,

Hot action here in Fuerteventura - PWA World Tour 2011  PWA World Tour

So for the action... In Fuerteventura the PWA Tour racers continue to wow as they do battle in crazy conditions. The Freestyle event ended on Wednesday and was followed by a super session where the racers amazed the crowds with their spectacular performances. The Slalom event finishes today and promises to provide more mind-blowing displays of talent.

Perros Guirec Start - La Solitaire du Figaro 2011  © Courcoux Marmara

And our solo sailors... La Solitaire du Figaro is underway and got off to a good start yesterday in Perros Guirec. Hundreds of fans lined the cliffs and crowded onto the spectator boats to see the sailors set off on the first leg of the four stage month long race. Keep watching this space as we bring you daily updates on the solo sailors progress.

And of course the 2011-2012 Clipper Race has started, lots of new destinations and we will bring you all the news.

Check out the stories below

Jeraldine Kennedy, Sail-World Europe & UK Editor

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - A spectacular send off
Heather Ewing,
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is the world's longest ocean race at 40,000 miles. It is the first time since 2004 that a round the world yacht race has started from the iconic sailing grounds of the Solent and the large community of sailing and boating enthusiasts turned out in force to witness the spectacle under blue skies and eight to ten knots of breeze.... [more]
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Copa del Rey Audi Mapfre - Racing gets underway tomorrow 1st August
Eva Dallo,
Copa del Rey Audi Mapfre - More than 1,200 sailors from 16 different countries onboard the 120 registered boats will fill in the bay of Palma as from tomorrow, opening day of the 30th Copa del Rey Audi Mapfre, the most important regatta of the Mediterranean. The world top Melges 32 and J-80 sailors will gather for the debut of the classes in the Majorcan regatta.... [more]
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Global Ocean Race - Ross and Campbell Field
Oliver Dewar,
Global Ocean Race - New Zealand's father and son team of Ross and Campbell Field are running a meticulously planned campaign bolstered by an exceptional degree of experience in round-the-world racing. By April this year, Ross and Campbell Field had identified their Class40 of choice for the GOR: the Verdier-designed Tyker 40 Desafio Cabo de Hornos, originally launched at FR Nautisme, in 2008... [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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Optimist Open and National Championships UK preview
Sarah Alexander,
Volvo Gill Optimist Open and National Championships - Some of the best of Britain's up and coming young sailors are ready for a full week of racing. Over 450 British and International competitors, from 15 nations will take part in the annual event.... [more]
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La Solitaire du Figaro off to a good start
Sabina Mollart-Rogerson,
La Solitaire du Figaro 2011 42nd edition got off to a good start on Sunday in Perros Guirec, despite the light five-knot westerly breeze and unusual downwind start. Hundreds of fans lined the cliffs and crowded onto the many spectator boats to see the fleet of Figaro sailors set off on the first 320-mile leg of the four stage month long race.... [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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Finn Silver Cup - Arkadiy Kistanov maintains lead to win
Robert Deaves,
Leading from the first race to the end, Arkadiy Kistanov (RUS) kept his head on the final day of the Finn Silver Cup in Moscow to win the Junior World Championship after three more races were sailed. Milosz Wojewski (POL) had a great last day to climb to second overall, while team mate Artur Ponieczynski (POL) dropped one place to take third overall.... [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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PWA Fuerteventura World Cup day 8 hammers the elite
PWA Fuerteventura World Cup day eight set off with 40 knots of wind hammering Sotavento beach. Full throttle slalom between the marks, dangerous gybes, explosive crashes and insane aerials, the third day of racing had it all. The spectators on the beach were treated to an exciting show and mind-blowing display of slalom talent as the world's finest racers did battle in the crazy conditions.... [more]
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420 Open and Ladies European Championships Overall
420 Sailing,
The 420 Open and Ladies European Championships resulted in a nervous morning for many as they tried to stay calm, not knowing if races would or would not happen as the wind repeated its disappearing act from Thursday. Fortunately, the 2011 edition was concluded with a final race 10 for all fleets as the wind kicked in this afternoon in a five-six knot breeze and slight swell.... [more]
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La Solitaire du Figaro takes on the tides
Sabina Mollart-Rogerson,
La Solitaire du Figaro 2011's first leg will span 320 miles from start to finish. The fleet of 47 Figaro sailors will take to the water on Sunday 31st July at 11:00 on a course that will take the fleet across the Channel to Plymouth Bay, then eastwards along the south coast of England to Fairway Boy off the West of the Isle of Wight before the return channel crossing to the finish in Caen.... [more]
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Laser 4.7 Worlds on San Francisco Bay - More images by Erik Simonson
Erik Simonson images,
The Laser 4.7 Worlds are underway on San Francisco Bay. More action images by Erik Simonson.... [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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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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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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470 Junior World Championships–Skandia Team GBR claim podium positions
Matt Carter,
470 Junior World Championships - Skandia Team GBR sailors have claimed podium positions in both the men's and women's Championships.... [more]
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Weymouth and Portland International Regatta - 470 fleet well prepared
International Sailing Federation,
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta - The 116 470 sailors comprising of 32 male teams and 26 females teams head to Weymouth well prepared following the ISAF Sailing World Cup series. Eight of the world's top ten Men's 470 teams will sail in the 32 boat fleet at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta.... [more]
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Volvo Ocean Race extends web presence into French and Spanish
Sophie Luther,
Volvo Ocean Race website said bienvenu and bienvenido to fans on Friday, with the launch of French and Spanish language versions of the race's online hub coming exactly three months before the October 29 start. The first phase of the multilingual site provides the latest news and team information, race overviews, host port pages and details of the Legends Regatta among much else. .... [more]
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Flying 15 World Championship - New Champions Vials and Turner
Gerald New,
The Flying 15 World Championship 2011 title has now been decided. After finishing fifth in the penultimate race, Graham Vials and Chris Turner took the win and headed back to HISC for an early shower. Mike Hart and Richard Rigg won the first race of the final day, second Greg Wells and Mark Darling and in third Arnaud Biet and Fabien Constant of France.... [more]
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Weymouth and Portland International Regatta – The Olympic Test Event
International Sailing Federation,
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta is part of the London Prepares Series and allows the London 2012 Organizing Committee to test its operations at the WPNSA one year ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. All of the Olympic sailing events will be contested with nations following games time rules where only one athlete per event is allowed.... [more]
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