Yacht sunk, human life lost; heavy weather sailing choices and decisions


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Spike.Braunius
Spike.Braunius
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A horrible but true story analyzed by Maritime New Zealand and written up in the attached report.

Passage planning missing vital understanding of meteo resulting in being at the wrong position at the wrong time. Extreme hull flexing in very heavy sea state blew out cabin windows and a hatch resulting in an inundated yacht that would ultimately sink. Storm covers were on board but not mounted. Skipper unfortunately passed away.

A very sobering but interesting read.

https://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/commercial/safety/accidents-reporting/accident-reports/documents/Essence-mnz-report-22July2021.pdf
Simon Currin
Simon Currin
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Thanks for posting and yes an interesting and sobering read.
Dick
Dick
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Simon Currin - 24 Jul 2021
Thanks for posting and yes an interesting and sobering read.

Hi Spike and all,
The sinking of Essence (an Ocean Series Bavaria 47) and the death of the skipper was tragic. Reading the CG report, and looking at the pictures: I have a few thoughts:
The windows were large enough to require storm shutters, but were not out of line with many yachts nowadays, especially those with “raised salon” design. The windows “exploded outwards” after a fall off a wave. Therefore, it was not that the windows were stove in by outside water pressure when falling off a wave (for ex. and which storm shutters would have prevented). I believe the only way the windows could have exploded outwards is if the hull flexed enough to “pop” the windows out of their frame. So, Spike, I agree that hull flexing must be the cause. (I did not see reference to the hull flexing in the report: did I miss something?)
Storm shutters likely would not have prevented the windows being compromised, but likely would have prevented much of the water from entering the boat if they had stayed fixed in place.
Furniture was dislodged and broke free: a heavy table and stairs: a grave threat to anyone inside the boat.
And then, the life raft had been ripped off the deck where it was installed and was unavailable when abandoning the ship..
I am only casually acquainted with the categories for European yacht building, but the CG report seems to indicate that the vessel was built to category standards for ocean passages. If so, these evaluations of sea-worthiness should be examined closely.
Falling off a wave is a jarring experience for the boat and for all the crew. That said, it is not a rare experience in heavy winds and seas and any offshore vessel boat should be able to experience a fall without damage.
To me, the issues that contributed to the boat loss and death of the skipper speak to serious design/engineering/manufacturing problems if only furniture is dislodged. Even more serious is if the windows “popped” out as the hull flexed. Whatever the reason, the fact that the windows came out reflects poor engineering on a boat designated for ocean passages.
That the life raft was swept away and not available when needed may not have been a manufacturing shortcoming as it may have been an aftermarket installation, as many are. Far too many liferaft installations would not survive the forces involved in falling off a wave: vulnerable locations, installed with screws and not bolts, no backing plates, etc. Far too often these installations are left to jobbers who just wish to get the work over as quickly as possible. A good secure installation is often a good deal of work and should be skipper installed or supervised.
Finally, offshore passage-makers should resist the impulse to attach items to lifelines and stanchions (more writing on the reasoning for this elsewhere in the Forum). These include solar panels, jerry cans, but especially kayaks and paddle-boards. Just imagine the distraction of this vessel’s solar panels breaking loose from its mount on the stanchion at a time when all the crews’ attention should be on boat management. (And how dangerous for the crew to deal with.)
Random thoughts and reactions,
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



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