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Jack Sparrow View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jack Sparrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: 18ft skiff / skiff safety
    Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 5:07pm
First off, condolences to the family. This is very sad news indeed.

link

It looks like the crew member was trapped between the racks and hull in a capsize. And did not regain consciousness after he was freed.


I thought I should post this here for a few reasons.

First this forum is away from the heat of the original post on SA so things can be discussed sensitively hopefully without offending people.

And secondly as I know there are some recent Y&Y forum users that have ventured into the 18foot world and it seemed a good idea to discuss the issues for there sake.

And safety on skiffs is quite a hot topic around here and I was interested in peoples views on whether we just have to live with the dangers or should we be considering a change in safety measures for other classes, or is it just the 18 that is more dangerous because of the width of it's wings. This is of particular interest to me as I am building a boat with proportionally wide wings.


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This from a SA forum poster:

First off, condolences to the family. This is very sad news and particularly chilling for me. "There for the grace of God go I".

Safety when sailing 18 foot skiffs is a much talked about subject. In Sydney, at the skippers briefing before the start of the season, we talked about this for about 15 minutes. There have been a number of near misses in recent years. The 18 has it's own set of particular problems which make it a dangerous boat to sail. The size of the boat, wide beam and big net filled wings mean that if you are under the boat, there is a long way to go to safety. And there is a lot of string you can get caught up in. 2 weeks ago I had my foot wrspped around the mainsheet and if we had come upright and flipped the other way, I would have been dragged down.

There are a few lessons that have been passed on by those older and wiser. First off, you don't sail an 18 wearing any bouyancy. This is not trying to be tough. This can save you from being trapped. The next thing is that you are better off getting the boat upright rather than fighting to free the person trapped as in most circumstances, freeing them takes too long. Some of us have taken to attaching a knife to the rudder gantry but I believe that the advice is still to get the boat upright unless it is very obvious how to cut away and get to the person. By the time you work it all out, it could be too late.

There is a reason you see spectacular back flips from skiff crews when things go wrong. They want to be as far away from the boat as reasonable so they don't get tangled up. Having said that, sometimes there is nothing you can do. We pitchpoled while practicing a few weeks ago and I looked up to see the boat on end and then falling towards me. I coild swim away but if I had been distracted, who knows.

I write this for no other reason than to point out that this is not a simple matter of somebody drowning when sailing or whether it should or should not have happened. If the most experienced skiff club in the world can spend time discussing such matters, you know it is serious.

As for anybody who mentions compensation, that stinks. I have to assume that Shark wasn't stupid enough to go out in unsuitable conditions and it seems to me that Peter knew what he was doing, even if he wasn't experienced in an 18. The fact they had a chase boat speaks volumes. Unfortunately, these boats are dangerous and we cannot change that. Before the first race, our team had a chat about what we would do in a capsize so we are prepared but I know that this will make us talk it through again.

While my thoughts are naturally with Peter's family, we should not forget those who were there at the time and tried to save him. May Peter rest in peace and those who were there find a way to come to terms with the tragedy they witnessed.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 5:37pm

Very sad news; the quote above pretty much says it all.

I guess the only way we will never have another incident like the above is if we never sail ... but perhaps we can learn from these incidents to minimise our risks as we sail.

I always carry a knife and I always wear a BA on the Musto as there is no-one to help if I get in a mess but I would not wear one on an 18.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jack Sparrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 5:51pm
So are you saying that the wider the wings go the more dangerous a BA is? Does this mean boats like a B14 with wide wings are more dangerous than say your Musto?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 6:09pm

Originally posted by Jack Sparrow

So are you saying that the wider the wings go the more dangerous a BA is? Does this mean boats like a B14 with wide wings are more dangerous than say your Musto?

I don't think I'm worried about wing width; it's more to do with being single handed.

If you get in a mess on a 2 person boat there is the chance you crew can help you ... on the Musto you are on your own so I prefer to have the BA.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Skiffybob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 7:15pm

Always very sad to hear of any incident that results in a loss of life.

I would suggest that this situation is pretty-much unique to the 18. It's a combination of fast boat, wide wings (with netting), trapeze hooks, etc.

In the 12 we have never felt in any more danger of being trapped than in any other twin-wire boat (the only problem I've ever had is hanging upside-down in the toe-loops with my head in the water), and in the B14 you don't have these issues because the wings are made of a fine mesh (so you don't get caught in them), and you aren't wearing trapeze harnesses.

I think that it's something that anyone who sails an18 needs to be aware of and accept that these boats come with risks.

A sad day for our sport though.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote JimC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 7:29pm
Originally posted by Skiffybob

and you aren't wearing trapeze harnesses.

It doesn't seem to have been a trapeze harness related entrapment. From what I hear he was tied up in rope, so neither trapeze harness nor buoyancy aid (or lack of) were factors.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote feva sailor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 7:30pm

drowning and other inguries are the risk we all take.

but we take them because we love the sport, this individual died doing something he loved doing, yes it is tragic but it was a risk he was happy to take because it was the speed and the danger that will have given him a thrill.

 

I've just gone into the 29er and have been under the jib on a bad light wind tack.
I have also been under inverted boats but have been lucky in having air pockets.

 

im sure we have all had a moment where we go "oh that could have been bad" but its all part of the sport.

pilots may have the engine make an odd sound that will make them miss a heart beat and race drivers will have an unexpected slide but we take risks in life.

 

i think its important we make it all as safe as possible but sailing with no risk?
i cant see that hapening.

On the BA side of things i will always wear mine but i'm sure im safer with it on in a generally low performance boat (compared with an 18)

 

condolences to the family and it is a sad day for the sport, unfortunatley i doubt it will be the last.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Iain C Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 08 at 8:33pm
Very sad and a very sobering thought.  Deepest condolences to all involved.

However before passing comment I'd like to know exactly what the circumstances were...SA forum seems down at the mo.  I could see that getting caught between the racks and the hull is a possibility...some boats have this bit filled in with fine mesh, some don't.

Funnily enough I've often felt safer in the 18 as there are two of my mates there if it all goes wrong and we carry a knife.  However our club insists on us wearing BAs although if the general consensus is not to then I might get this reviewed.  Sailing at Draycote we are unlikely to have a big crash so it has not bothered me that much.

My biggest fear when sailing skiffs is going round the front and getting a face full of cheese wire on the way round...apart from that I really don't think they are much more dangerous than any other boat.  In fact, the one time I got really caught up and started to get dragged under, was in a Buzz.

I'm doing the JJ next year, be very interesting to see what the safety requirements are at that event.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jack Sparrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 08 at 9:45am
Hi Iain,

I think going around the front is pretty safe, unless the boat comes over on top of you.

I sort of posted this for you mate as the UK has a bit of funny thing about BA's and risk. And I thought you should be aware of what it seems are the very real dangers. I have to say I think you should have a word with your club.

But I am also trying to work out if boat's like the one I'm building or things like the SK4 are more dangerous because of the rack design. The Cherubs have moved to racks and the dimensions are such that the distance between the hull and rack tube is around 30 > 40cm which is a bit of an entrapment issue. I was wondering if extra rules should be considered?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JimC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 08 at 10:18am
Originally posted by Jack Sparrow

as the UK has a bit of funny thing about BA's and risk. And I thought you should be aware of what it seems are the very real dangers. I have to say I think you should have a word with your club.

I'm still not completely convinced by the 18s BA thinking. I've never found it much of an issue to dive under sails or hulls with the extra buoyancy (or for that matter the extra built in buyancy round the waist). 18s are much bigger of course...

The buoyancy aid helps a lot with secondary drowning by water ingestion because it helps you keep the water out of your mouth, its not just being able to float.

The trouble with all this is that people do their risk evaluation by emotion and talking about high profile incidents, but actually the only way to get a realistic evaluation is by stats, and they are difficult to come by... When the RYA did some evaluation of entrapment incidents, for instance, trapeze hooks came well down the list.

So what are the relative risks?

You'd need to evaluate all fatalities and work out the primary causes. If secondary drowning, for instance, is a common cause of death, and being unable to dive away from a capsized boat is a very rare one, then the 18s stance against buoyancy aids is not a sensible one. If the reverse then it is.
If losing contact with boats is a major risk then boats must be designed to invert as soon as possible so you can catch them. If on the other hand its very rare, but drowning due to getting trapped is a major problem then maybe boats shouldn't invert... Or if they are both problems then maybe design needs to ensure that there's always an air pocket.
But as ever its always a question of compromise. You need to reduce the total risk. Rules or whatever to minimise one risk will almost inevitably increase another risk... No point in working to eliminate a very rare occurrence if by doing so you make a common occurrence even more likely. But until you know which are common problems and which are rare ones by real stats, not just the "everyone knows" process you are stuck. Almost every time I do some serious stats about anything to do with sailing I find out that what "everyone knows" or "commonse sense says" is wrong...

Edited by JimC
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