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||I like the style of your newsletters - shorter and crisper than most, so people probably open them immediately, rather than putting them to one side if they're busy.
Rounding an island - the best way + Good seamanship - 30 Nov 12
Ah. At last my view of rounding an island - perhaps the most dangerous manoeuvre in sailing.
1. Rounding an island - the best way
I will assume that being a prudent navigator he or she has checked all the standard information if applicable - the race instructions (if it is a race), the weather forecast (not from the television), the Notices to Mariners, local knowledge (if there are any locals) and anything else that might be relevant to that particular island.
Obviously the next thing is to check the charts of the island, looking at any danger points in light of the current weather forecast. Check which are likely to be the lee shores and the weather shores.
Look closely at any gradually shallowing water, usually at the head of a bay between two headlands. That can be especially dangerous if it's also a lee shore.
When satisfied that all the dangers have been assessed, decide how far away from them you want to be when you round them and mark a danger circle on the chart.
Nowadays, many navigators would simply draw a course from the last danger circle to the next and say that that is the course wanted, then use the GPS to apply it. That is an error in my opinion. It is the course wanted but the GPS cannot keep you to it, even with the off course warnings on.
It is worth remembering that the GPS actually gives an historical position only, even if it is updated almost immediately, which means that any adjustments you make are taking you off the ideal course.
What should be done is that the forces which will try to make you sail below your proper course when you are either close reaching or beating should be estimated beforehand and applied to arrive at the magnetic course, which will give you the course made good.
I realise that these assessments which I will spell out are themselves not immutable but you will sail a far better, and usually faster, and definitely safer course to the next danger circle by applying them.
The first and easiest correction is to apply variation, which usually can be read from the chart.
The next should be the boat's deviation for the likely course. The assumption here is that the compass has been swung so that the deviation chart is available on board.
After that is leeway, which is difficult to assess, particularly if the navigator is not familiar with that particular boat. The boat's wake can be used to give some indication but it's only a guess.
Luckily there are two basic rules which help refine the allowance for leeway. The first is when sailing along the course if the boat's bow begins to point below the required distance off shown by the danger circle. Also, ask the helm what course he/she is steering. If it is less than the course to be made good, it must be corrected.
The second is less precise but easier to apply is that the stronger the wind, the more leeway will occur.
The navigator also needs to bear in mind the wind shadow of the island. Obviously a low sandy island with no great hills on it will cast a far different shadow from a mountain peak jutting out of the ocean.
Given all the above, it is still clear that if there is a major windshift during the race the courses must be recalculated, but that's the navigator's job anyway.
That system of pre-planning and course setting is really a bit of a wedding between basic, pre-GPS navigation and the modern embellishments - and there's nothing wrong with that.
2. Good seamanship
We were pleased to read about two examples of good seamanship in the last week - the delays of the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and of Sam Davies' return to her home base in France.
In the first case, the organisers delayed the start for the cruising boats from Sunday to Tuesday, allowing for a strong frontal system to pass. It was only the second time in the ARC's 26-year history that there had been a delayed start.
The announcement was greeted with applause.
The Managing Director, Andrew Bishop said: "As a cruising sailor myself, I would not have enjoyed the predicted conditions for my first night at sea, so we made the sensible decision to delay the start for the cruising boats until the low passed through."
If you've been following the Vendee Globe, you'd know that Sam Davies lost her mast on day five of the single-handed round the world race. She made it to Funchal, Madeira and with help from her boat captain and technical boss, Erwan Lemeilleur, and others, was able to find and fit a broken mast with the aim of sailing Saveol home under her own power.
The replacement mast is significantly shorter than the original, so she is unable to go to windward effectively.
The recently forecast days of strong northerlies have kept Saveol in port, in Cascais, Portugal. To give you an idea how short the current mast is, the storm jib and a Laser mainsail fit perfectly!
In keeping with today's main article, Sam shows her appreciation of the navigational challenge she faces:
"Really that is the problem - I have to be PATIENT. The wind is forecast to blow strong Northerlies for at least the next week and without our mast Saveol and I cannot make safe headway in these headwinds. The Portuguese coast is very wild, with few ports to shelter and huge waves that break on dangerous shores (big-wave surfer paradise!) So we must be careful.
"At least it is not a race and though I really want to get Saveol home as soon as possible, there is no deadline, and seamanship must come first."
Read more and follow Sam's progress.
Ocean islands - be very wary - 14 Nov 12
I have delayed the newsletter for two reasons - the first is that I have a better idea, and the second is to give you this exchange of related conversation between subscriber David Brezina in the USA and me. David gave permission for his comments to be used.
The better idea is that more subscribers may wish to make their comments on David's and his navigator's system of boat management / navigation.
My method of rounding an island will follow next time.
I discussed the US Sailing Ensenada report with my navigator from the Chicago Mac race and confirmed that her waypoints, as well as mine (backup, backup) were located in channels, or a mile or two offshore, not at obstructions.
And, of course, we used the paper chart as a backup (backup, backup, backup) for failure or loss of power to the handheld GPS.
The chartplotter draws a bit too much power for ship battery life in a long race, so it's really a backup - backup, backup,
backup, backup, although I also had GPS on my phone and a GPS watch.
You can see where I'm going here.
Thanks for your good email on backup, of I which heartily approve.
I would be very grateful if you would allow us to publish your letter (obviously attributed to you) as it will help with the next newsletter, which is due out immediately.
I would like to hear from you as early as possible about whether you allowed for variation, deviation, leeway and all those extra course corrections, some of which cannot be applied by the GPS.
Apologies if this is a basic and therefore rude question but the main theme of my newsletter on rounding an island and its dangers very much depends on those amendments, and others such as the rate of shelving of the shore, depths over shoals, state of the tide and so on.
I know that if you've done that GPS can then tell you if you are straying from the course you wish to take but I need to know whether that is what you and your navigator did. It seems to me most likely that you did but it's something that I must confirm.
I hope to hear from you soon.
On the Ensenada race, we all grieve for the loss of fellow sailors. My remarks were not intended to convey any disrespect, imply we were better, or they planned wrongly. My immediate reaction was to learn a lesson and double check our own procedures.
We did not correct for variation, deviation or for leeway in placing waypoints. We were racing the whole time, two three person watches, two drivers each, with the navigator overlapping watch changes. There were always eyes on course and there were always constant corrections anyway. We have no autopilot.
The main use of GPS was tactical - how closely did our SOG match our VMG to the waypoint? If it deviates too far, jibe or tack for better air. This year the Chicago Mac race was downwind the whole way so leeway was not a factor.
The first islands are almost always navigated inshore, except when anticipating a significant adverse current, which is typically a function of prolonged northerly winds, there being no measurable tides. This year winds were from the south, shifting west, so not an issue.
I pasted a screen shot (graphic below full size in new window) where you can see our choice is fairly clear - the turn is your decision point to go inside or outside, but there is also a navaid at the island which is your danger point.
You're also abeam a navaid marking a point of land when you are at your decision point. Some years you go closer inshore for seabreeze, offshore the world's largest sand dune.
Where it can get challenging is a channel through continuous shoal and island chain, but that's your only option and it's plenty wide. It can get interesting with dozens of sailors downbound and a commercial barge string upbound. You want to pass the north buoy close to observe the set of the current.
Staying in the channels, paying attention to the Light List, and special sailing instructions does the job. Sisterships that have skirted navaids too close to shore have had some bumps. Where we put a waypoint for a point without a navaid, it was a mile or two offshore in 30-50 feet depth at least.
Should we have a gear failure and need to duck into a strange port, that would be new navigation with new waypoints and a chart book with large scale charts of the ports.
Thanks for the additional information and screen capture.
Please can you give us your permission to quote for your and your navigator's sound techniques.
Like you, we are not trying to prove anything other than that there are different ways of using navigational tools - and exploring some of the ways. This is our aim for the general good of sea safety.
If you have good things to say, Markell Pool is a good navigator. Permission granted.
My request to our readers:
And so I would dearly like to hear from any of you out there with comments to make involving navigation around islands. Please email me - email@example.com
Rounding an island - the most dangerous part of sailing - 17 Oct 12
Now, where was I when I was so rudely interrupted?
I wish I were clever enough to have been the one to think of that introductory line, but I'm not. However it is the perfect opening in the circumstances.
Well, for most of this year I have been in and out of hospital, and I apologise that during that time I was unable to keep in touch with you through the newsletter. I am glad to say I am better now.
There was one advantage to being in hospital - I was able to think deeply about the Low Speed Chase tragedy in America and to follow some of the events that sprang from it.
The links that follow will refresh your memory, if needed:
Low Speed Chase and the earlier Shockwave accident and comprehehsive report
Rounding an island - the most dangerous part of sailing
This longer than usual newsletter will cover what we have described as the most dangerous operation in sailing, rounding an island. In it we will mark the spot which will trigger what was a weakness we believe some of the yachts concerned displayed.
We are not in any sense suggesting blame or guilt. Simply a dangerous modern habit - over-reliance on the GPS - where more 'primitive' methods would serve better.
The newsletter after this is going to give one interpretation of techniques a navigator could have used when preparing his or her passage plan for the voyage. It is, if you like, a reversal to what might be called 'steam' navigation but that's exactly the kind of navigation that needs to be done to round an island in boisterous weather at sea.
As you can see from some of the film taken during the race there are boats that are already in danger of being embayed and they should have recognised the danger at the time that film was taken. The way you can tell is that the weather bows of the vessels concerned are aiming below the point that is to be rounded.
This means that no allowance has been made to keep clear of the headland or indeed any hazards that may lie close to it.
A voyage from base to destination is relatively straightforward. Circumnavigating an island involves every aspect of sailing manoeuvring pressed into a comparatively short time.
Let's assume a simple example.
If a yacht is approaching an island from the leeward it will be beating into a wind which will diminish slightly as it nears the island and the amount of reduction will depend on the size of the island and the wind shadow that it throws.
When the rounding begins the yacht will go on one tack or the other, depending on which way it intends to go around. As the tack takes the yacht out of the wind shadow, the wind will strengthen and it will then have to go on the other tack to sail, still in the stronger wind, to the windward side of the island.
When it has sailed far enough to safely lay the first windward corner of the island, it then has to tack again to get across the length of the island.
After clearing the corner the yacht can gradually bear away from the optimum beating angle onto a reach. Depending how long that reach has to go on, the boat will gradually have to set its sails for that reach but make sure that it doesn't get set below its safe course by the wind and also the actions of any waves.
This is a function for the navigator. This is the section we will expand in the next newsletter, with a sample of a navigator's pre-planning for the circumnavigation.
As the boat comes into the full force of wind and waves he/she, and the skipper, of course, will discuss the wind and sea conditions and the navigator will have to build into the next course a big allowance for them.
This is the most dangerous part of the rounding because there may well be some formation on the sea bed which can trip waves and make them stand up higher than they normally would in the conditions. This is very tricky because any such feature on the sea bottom is unlikely to be severe enough to mark on the chart and there may well be plenty of depth of water. A larger than usual wave over such deformity might so affect the yacht that it might be picked up and thrown close to the island, which puts it into an even more dangerous position.
When the yacht is able to clear the island on its return course it will have the wind directly behind it and will set a spinnaker if conditions allow.
In enclosed waters all these manoeuvres are fairly safe. If conditions become too severe such sailing is usually called off or there are weather warnings.
Once a skipper decides to go to sea the risks become greater, as there are other factors to take into account. Whether it's a race or a single yacht, the longer the distance being sailed to the island the greater possibility of more serious conditions developing. Even if they don't, the direction and speed of the current around the island must be taken into account as it can affect the courses laid around it considerably.
This is not the time to rely on an inexperienced navigator just because there is a GPS on board. The courses to be laid and the current effect to be catered for are quite difficult calculations.
Another job for the navigator, when preparing his/her passage plan before the voyage, is to look at the large scale chart of the island and very closely calculate how far to stay away from various hazards.
It is imperative to see whether the bottom around the island is gently sloping from the shore or is steep-to.
In most conditions the navigator's safety bearings on hazards will be very conditioned by the sea-bottom. Around South Pacific islands there may well be a reef which usually will fall steep-to into the deep ocean, but not always, so that has to be taken into account.
The last factor is that while on a direct voyage from place to place there are usually long periods of inactivity for the crew apart from sail trimming. Rounding an island compresses every aspect of sailing and navigation into an unusually short time.
This means the crew has to be well-trained.
The most dangerous weather? - 20 Jun 12
I have spent the last two weeks or so trying to analyse a weather system which, outside a tropical revolving storm, is probably the most dangerous weather for any sailor or boater.
It is harder to forecast than a tropical revolving storm, it develops more rapidly, and it can last longer.
The technical term for it is an 'occlusion'.
Before I lose your attention I will describe how the system developed. It was first noticed in the south-eastern corner of Australia, about the latitude of Bass Strait. There were two deep lows, much closer together than is usual, as part of a new front. They were at first moving pretty well north. The satellite picture that was really interesting was when their tracks began to converge and the occlusion took place.
It simply meant that the two lows had joined together into one huge low. And their combined course began to take them north east, along the coast, which trends north east. Winds that had been at gale force strengthened to storm force. The highest gusts recorded were the equivalent of revolving storm strength, about 100 knots. The seas would have been unimaginable. And I say that having been in two cyclones during my sailing life.
The immediate effect on the land was very damaging winds, obviously, and rain of tropical proportions. There was also significant damage to property.
As the low went further north, it naturally began to lose energy, but when it reached Sydney it was still blowing at 50 knots. It caused flooding, even in the city, great damage to properties close to the sea and damage to sea walls.
Even in Sydney harbour there were two metre waves. Ferry services had to be abandoned.
Such a storm is obviously a threat to any yachtsman caught out in it. But it's actually dangerous for any sailor, particularly those sailing close to the coast and unaware of its arrival. During the whole of the storm's life it was blowing on to the coast, meaning that it was a lee shore, the most dangerous situation for a coastal sailor.
But even the inshore sailor, normally safer from such conditions but generally not experienced in them, are going to find trouble if they can't get into a sheltered bay and hide from it.
Even boats on moorings are at risk, although lives might not be. Boats on a mooring exposed to the strength of the wind would have to have sufficient chain in the actual mooring to handle the phenomenally large waves, making them bob up and down to such an extent that the mooring itself can snap.
What made this storm even more dangerous than usual was that it coincided with the area's highest tides - known as king tides - of the whole year.
At sea, the East Australian Current was running at its summer strength of about four knots, which would have made the seas stand up high and break.
The system took a week to lose its energy and allow 'normal' weather to resume.
I tell you all this because the lesson involved is the one that I consider the most important for any boating person to learn: Watch the weather every day.
Low Speed Chase - a tragic end to five lives
- 28 Apr 12
Over the last two weeks we've been following the story of Low Speed Chase, a Sydney 38 that went aground during the annual Full Crew Farallones Race, a race that has been held by the San Francisco Yacht Club since 1907.
The accident, which only three of the eight crew survived,
with one dead and four missing, took place during the
yacht's rounding of South Farallon Island, located 28 miles
west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It appears to have been caused by a mistake in judgment - navigating the yacht to turn too close to the rocky lee
shore. Other skippers said that while they had competed in
the race several times before, this year they gave the
island a much wider berth.
Conditions were not extreme - a 20 knot nor'wester, with
3.3-4 metre (11-13 foot) seas. It was daytime and
visibility was clear.
While rounding, the crew saw a massive wave approaching,
the helmsman turned the yacht to cross the wave at right
angles but the boat was picked up and surfed backwards
towards the island before being rolled.
When the boat righted itself, five of the crew were no
longer on board. The three still on the yacht went aft
to try to pull those in the water back on board.
Before any could be rescued, the yacht was hit by a
second wave, taking two more overboard and carrying it
up onto the rocks. Those two scrambled ashore unhurt
while the one who remained aboard suffered a broken leg.
The US Coast Guard was alerted to the tragedy by Low
Speed Chase's water-activated EPIRB and a mayday from
one of the other competitors.
After airlifting the three survivors to safety and
recovering one body from the island, Coast Guard "kept
searching 12 hours past what we consider the survivability
window" but failed to find the missing four.
Crews of other competing yachts could only watch in
horror, unable to approach to offer help without risking
further loss of life.
All on board were experienced sailors. Although wearing
wet weather gear, inflatable life vests and harnesses,
none was tethered to the yacht.
One of the survivors, Bryan Chong, has written a detailed
letter to Sailing Anarchy describing what happened.
Everyone who sails should benefit from reading his Reflections, of which the following is a brief extract:
"It's simply a bad habit that formed due to a false sense
of security in the ocean," he said. "It's obvious to me now
that I should have been clipped into the boat at every
Chong added, "Until the accident, I believe that to tether
or not was a personal choice. But now my thinking extends
beyond the safety of an individual to that of the team as
a whole. ... One person overboard puts the entire crew
Here is a direct link to Bryan's letter, published on the
Latitude 38 website.
The US Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector San
Francisco has subsequently temporarily suspended all marine
event permits for offshore races and has asked US Sailing to
perform an independent investigation of the Low Speed Chase accident. It is expected that the investigation will take
about a month, after which offshore racing may resume.
We'll watch for what happens but in the mean time we have
some questions that we hope will be answered:
- What is the sea floor like around these islands? For
instance, is it shallow on one side and steep to on the
other as it appears to be?
- Is the crew divided into watches?
- Is there a dedicated navigator?
- Are there any particularly well-known characteristics
to the water around the islands? There seems to be some
evidence of bounce-back along at least part of the coast.
We expect the US Sailing investigation will cover these
and other aspects but in our next newsletter we'll tell
you from experience why rounding any island can be dangerous.
Extraordinary rescue - 8 Mar 12
This newsletter follows a different form than our usual.
It tells the story of the rescue of three people in a
yacht in the Pacific Ocean by a 273 metre long
It is told by Captain Kelleher who was the skipper of
the rescuing vessel, Horizon Reliance.
The complete story is too long to send so we have
taken some quotes from the complete report and with
them created the bare bones of the story, as told
by the captain.
It shows extraordinary understanding of the
difficulties faced by the small yacht and - memorably - by the captain himself. It is a
fine example of seamanship.
At the end of our extract of the rescue story there
is a link to the complete interview. We recommend
it to you most strongly.
Captain Kelleher's story
Shortly after 1800 on Tuesday the 7th [February
2012] I got a call from the mate on the bridge
telling me there was a sailboat in distress. It
was a 38-ft sailboat, and three persons onboard
ages 9, 27, and 31.
They were dismasted, all the sails were destroyed.
The engine was seized and they were basically
adrift in extreme conditions. The weather was very
bad. It looked to only get worse with the approach
of a cold front.
As luck would have it my Chief Engineer John
Williams is a very experienced sailing racer and
offshore sailor. He said first of all cut the
rigging and get rid of that mast.
Shortly after 2300 I was able to speak with Brad
on the sailboat. I told him what our plan was, how
I planned to approach him and what I expected to do.
Brad understood and he seemed very composed. I had
a good feeling. I thought he sounded good after
being out to sea in a small boat for 3 weeks in those
When I thought I was about 45 min away from their
position - this being a 34,000 tonne steamship
- I began our slow down procedures. I slowed the ship
down until about 0100. I had the ship down to
maneuvering speed. I could use the engines, ahead
We could see the boat now. It was extremely low to
the water. It appeared that it had taken on a
serious amount of water if it was that low.
As I made my approach into the wind I got closer
and closer and closer. The boat was very close to
me, broad on my port bow, my plan was to make a
slow turn to port and bring them into the lee of
Now doing this, this being a single screw container
ship, if I were to bring it around upwind of them
the vessel could set down upon them, I'd be able to
bring them alongside, hopefully I would be able to
control the vessel using the rudder, the engine,
and the bow thruster to bring them alongside.
Just as I slowly began this turn a much larger set
of waves came in . After we went over the second
wave - which was a very big wave - the ship rose
up and pitched down.
Now, my forward draft is 28-ft. and when we came
out of that second sea the bow came completely
out of the water, the entire bulb was exposed. as the bow came up it came up directly
underneath their sailboat.
They slid off as we pitched back down and then
the ship continued left and they slid aft right
along the starboard bow alongside the foc'sle
head down the starboard side.
Bradley and his son were pushed towards the ship
and forward and the next thing I know they're gone.
They went around the bow and they went over to the
port side of the ship. They're no longer visible
from the starboard side.
Now I had my whole crew up on the foc'sle head
and the starboard side, so we had plenty of eyes
on the one still on the starboard side, who
turned out to be Mitchell.
I immediately . maneuvered the vessel to hold
my position and get Mitchell onboard. That
whole evolution took another 15 or 20 minutes
until they got a line to him. They got a line
to him from the foc'sle head and we walked that
aft and we got him under the ladder.
The chief mate reported to me - "We've got one
man onboard". I said "Ok, great".
As soon as he said that I immediately ran into
the bridge. I rang the telegraph ahead, put the
wheel hard over, put the thruster hard to port.
I had to get the other two. I began turning the
ship and we still had them in sight. We were
losing them at one point but we had them back
Right at this moment the front hits. The sky goes
black, the rain starts coming down torrentially,
the winds kick up 50 or 55 knots and visibility
I kept asking the Chief Mate, Steve, "Are there
two people?" The next half hour of my life was just
pure hell. I didn't think that the kid was with him.
I thought it was just Brad. I had no way of knowing
at this point.
I didn't want to be up wind of him and put him on
the lee on my port side, because now I have people
in the water, this is not a boat.
If the ship would have set down on them we could
suck them under the ship and they would be finished.
My plan was to stay downwind and then bring the ship
around. I was able to accomplish that.
The only other thing that I knew to do was to start
backing and filling. I had to get the bow to starboard,
so I ordered the engine half astern and I got some
stern way on the ship.
He came closer and closer and closer. As he got close
enough, we still couldn't see them but we could hear
them. That's when we heard the kid, along with his
father and I knew I had them both. Boy I'll tell you
that was a moment.
You have to understand, I can't get too much headway
on the ship, I've got people in the water. I have to
keep the ship basically dead in the water but I have
to keep it moving in 30-foot seas and 50 knot winds.
It was something else.
You can read the full interview with Captain Kelleher here.
Night-time arrivals not permitted + GPS navigation blamed for loss of yacht + John MacGregor - 21 Feb 12
Below you'll find a story about why it's not a good
idea to rely solely on a GPS for navigation.
1. Night-time arrivals not permitted
A very thoughtful regulation applies to any vessel
entering the paradise-like lagoon at the World
Heritage Lord Howe Island.
If you arrive at night, you have to stand off until
next morning. You have to sail up and down, or heave
to at a safe distance from the island.
When you do enter the lagoon, you follow closely
behind the local lead boat as it motors through the
narrow gap in the reef.
This careful regulation ensures that no damage is done
to either a yacht or the reef. The islanders are fiercely
protective of their beautiful location. In fact, to retain
its pristine state, the number of visitors allowed at any
time is limited.
And, if you ever get the opportunity to visit Lord Howe,
whether by sea or air, GO. It's a magic place with a
strong emphasis on its sustainability.
2. GPS navigation blamed for loss of yacht
The situation was vastly different for the 12-metre yacht
Okiana in New Zealand. With three aboard, it was sailing
from Wellington to Milford Sound. They planned to spend
the night at Torrent Bay and were relying on GPS for
On a dark night with only a little moonlight, they made
their approach. They believed what their GPS told them,
that they were in the middle of Torrent Bay just short
of their destination.
But the yacht struck rocks off Pitt Head, to the shock
of the crew. If we assume that the yacht was travelling
at 6-8 knots, it's amazing no one was hurt.
Fortunately for them, the yacht was well equipped
with safety equipment - EPIRBs, flares, grab-bags,
a VHF radio and two inflatable boats - which the crew
deployed. All three were rescued unharmed by locals.
The boat, however, was badly damaged and has since
There is a further twist to this story. At first the
vessel was believed to have been a 15-metre motor
launch also owned by Okiana's skipper. He had taken
both EPIRBs with him, just in case.
A Maritime New Zealand spokesman said that boat
owners should ensure their beacons were registered
with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand.
He reminded them that their emergency contact details
should also be kept up to date. This, of course, is
true wherever you are.
To my mind, the most important thing to learn from
this is not to rely solely on what a GPS tells you.
Like any other instrument, it is subject to faulty
signals, which result in a faulty position.
I've written about this in an article, Don't let
your GPS mislead.
3. In their own words: John MacGregor
The perfection of a yacht's beauty is that nothing should be there for only beauty's sake.
We haven't been able to verify who John MacGregor was who wrote those words. He may have been a Scotsman (1825-1892) who pioneered the development of sailing canoes in England in the 1860s. He wrote A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, which popularised the design and cruising as a pastime.
* * * * * *
Wet weather + Sponsorship and yacht racing + Mystery of missing captain - 3 Feb 12
1. Wet weather
I don't know what it's been like in your part
of the world, but here the weather has put a
real dampener, if you'll pardon the pun, on
cruising and other recreational sailing and boating - although there's still plenty of
racing going on.
Generally though, things have been very quiet.
The rain explains it here and, of course, the
northern hemisphere is in the depths of winter
which is always a quiet time.
It is a good chance though to have a thorough
look at your boat and see what work it needs.
Also, if your boat is on a mooring, it's a good
time to check and see that it is safe and doesn't
need pumping out. You'll probably also have to
spend a bit of time and energy getting rid of any
and all traces of mildew, mould or rot.
2. Sponsorship and yacht racing
It's also a good time to think. The recent Sydney-
Hobart race was marred, as was the one before, by
a protest by the race committee against the
ostensible line honours winner. This time it was
on the grounds that they had accepted outside help.
The situation was that, because it was a sponsored boat, several times had been set aside
for live radio interviews on the boat's progress
during the race. These interviews were then
broadcast to the public.
It was alleged that when the boat's skipper was
not available to do one of those interviews,
the interviewer spoke with another member of
the boat's crew, who happens to be a sailmaker.
During the interview the sailmaker asked about
the mainsail on the nearest competitor to the
eventual winner, which wasn't surprising since
he'd made it. This was the basis of the protest.
In any case the protest was dismissed but the
real damage had been done.
The protest was announced only minutes after
the first boat finished, during their excited
celebration of what they saw as their win. To
say the gloss had been taken off the occasion
for them is an understatement and highlights
what I think is an increasing problem with
The increasing intrusion of the requirements
of the sponsor as against the requirements of
the skipper and crew have brought about an
imbalance that needs correcting. Should there
be, for instance, a blanket ban on such interviews?
Should they be limited to one designated person
It would be naïve to think that sponsorship
should not occur at all. The expensive world
of yacht racing would collapse without sponsorship,
but it has to be, I believe, less intrusive than
it now is.
3. Mystery of missing captain
There was one incident locally that showed the
dangers of boating. At the time of writing the
skipper of a yacht is missing after his boat
grounded on a sandbar in the Hastings river near
Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast.
The 13 metre yacht was being delivered from Sydney
to Brisbane when according to reports it suffered
rigging damage and crossed the Port Macquarie bar
to enter the Hastings river and seek shelter. Some reports said that it lost power and hit either
the breakwater or rocks but the crew was able to
ground it on a sandbar close to a marina.
The yacht had contacted Marine Rescue to ask for
help but said they didn't need that help immediately
and could wait until high tide to be towed.
According to Marine Rescue, when its boat returned
about six hours later to take the yacht to the nearby
marina, two crew members on the yacht realised that
the 75-year-old skipper was missing. He was wearing
a lifejacket, wet weather gear and had an EPIRB,
A compounding problem of this already-complicated
situation is that following the huge downpour of
rain in that part of Australia since Christmas the
Hastings river is in serious flood and is running
at at least four knots. The water therefore is
full of debris and silt.
One fear is that the man has been swept out
to sea. The search is continuing.
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