The WingNuts capsize during the Race to Mackinac wasn’t the only fatal accident that US Sailing investigated in 2011.
Olivia Constants, 14, died June 23 during a training session on Maryland’s Severn River. Sailing a Club 420, she drowned after the boat flipped and she got tangled in the rigging, unable to unhook her harness. John Rousmaniere, a member of the Race to Mackinac inquiry panel, conducted and wrote the Constants study.
“[Constants’] trapeze harness was hooked into the wrong part of the trapeze bail and so awkwardly that it could not be unhooked,” writes Rousmaniere, who has logged more than 40,000 sailing miles, in a 25-page report. “Normally, the sailor places the hook on the trapeze harness into the lower eye of the bail. Here, however, the hook was in the upper eye, the bail was capsized and twisted around the hook, and Olivia was tangled in the trapeze system.”
Rousmaniere is the author of the “Annapolis Book of Seamanship,” which has extensive sections on personal safety, heavy-weather sailing, navigation and other basic and advanced seamanship skills. It has been one of America’s standard sailing manuals for almost 25 years.
US Sailing also investigated the Aug. 15 capsize of the 100-foot racing sloop Rambler 100, which lost its keel off Fastnet Rock in southwest Ireland in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race. All 21 crewmembers survived, but they had no time to grab safety gear.
Ron Trossbach studied the accident, interviewing all crewmembers, and wrote a 12-page report. He is a member of the US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee and has extensive offshore experience — 85,000 miles aboard his own boats. “Only two of 21 PLBs and none of the boat’s three EPIRBs or life rafts were available once the boat capsized,” his report says.
The sailors also were without signaling devices as they clung to the overturned hull awaiting rescue. “To the surprise of all survivors, there was no time to take anything with them. All they could do is get clear of the capsizing hull and its rigging as the boat inverted.”
Trossbach’s review recommends changes to the International Sailing Federation’s special regulations “to require boats with movable ballast to have ready escape capability and safety equipment accessible if the boat becomes inverted … and full implementation of required ISAF survival training in the U.S. for offshore sailors.”
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This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue.