Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Coast Guard Recommendations for Dauphin Island Race Investigation

P
Paul Zupan
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • National Judge
  • Regional Umpire
The US Coast Guard concluded their investigation into the aftermath of the storm during the 2015 Dauphin Island Race that took six lives.  Their recommendations are:
  1. that the U.S. Sailing Association amend their racing rules to require all crew members to wear Coast Guard PFDs.
  2. that the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) amend their Racing Rules of Sailing Part 4 rule 40 to read that PFDs shall be worn at all times.
  3. that the U.S. Sailing Association amend racing rules to stale that boat skipper(s) shall have a handheld VHF radio (on a lanyard) available for their immediate use in the cockpit at all times during sanctioned events.
  4. that the U.S. Sailing Association amend racing rules to require every boat to check-in with all crew members on deck, properly wearing Coast Guard PFDs suitable for the activity and displaying an operational handheld VHF radio prior to the start of a sanctioned event.
  5. that U.S. Sailing Association amend racing rules to require every boat to submit an accurate finalized crew list to the organizing authority 30 minutes prior to the start of the race.
Thoughts?
Created: 19-Apr-17 01:17

Comments

J Dwight Leblanc Jr
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
1
Ridiculous each person is responsible for his own safety.
Created: 19-Apr-17 03:51
Philip Hubbell
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
  • Judge In Training
0
4 will be at best unworkable and at worst put RC at risk of liability.
5 will help keep new pick-up recruits out of our too-elite sport.
Created: 19-Apr-17 03:53
Tim Hohmann
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
0
Well firstly, one of the things we were taught in the Navy is that when the question includes "ultimately responsible" the answer is always "the captain." Not the regatta organizer.

Secondly, it doesn't sound like the issues with the Dauphin Island event were in any way unique to racing. So if the Coast Guard thinks that these kinds of safety measures are necessary for safe boating and acceptable to the public they should get a law passed or issue a regulation, applicable to all boaters. There's no justification to expect US Sailing or World Sailing to do their dirty work.

Alternatively, each boat, skipper and crew can be responsible for their own safety and use their own judgment as to what safety measures are appropriate.
Created: 19-Apr-17 04:21
Charles Darley
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Certifications:
  • Regional Umpire
0
In some countries (Ireland for example), it is a legal requirement to wear personal buoyancy whilst on the water in a small boat.  Some of the other points would be better in sailing instructions than RRS.
Created: 19-Apr-17 09:27
Paul Hanly
Nationality: Australia
0
Some items apart from the formal recommendations are also worthy of discussion.

Loss of life in this event is on par with the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Sydney_to_Hobart_Yacht_Race (6 fatalities) if not the 1979 Fastnet Race https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Fastnet_race (19 fatalities). Those two races were wake up calls for many involved.

1 The morning forecast would seem inadequate (it seems to have been dramatically wrong).
2 The relay of major weather changes possibly affecting safety would seem inadequate. It would seem that a change in forecast from 12mph to gusts of up to 70mph should be communicated to competitors when received by a race committee member or other official.
3. The withdrawal of Coast guard assets without immediate advice to the race PRO would seem inadequate.
4. The monitoring of the radios by many boats may have been inadequate, given the length of the race.
5. The briefing of some crew members by some skippers would seem inadequate - each crew member should know where the major safety equipment items, including pfd's, are stored and how to use them.
6. The checking by the PRO for weather changes over the course of the day given the length of the race might seem inadequate, although it seems unbelievable that such a benign forecast could be given in the morning. If weather is that changeable then it needs to be checked more regularly by race officers and skippers.
7. The observation of weather from boats, or reactions to it, would seem inadequate as it would be likely that the coming weather could be seen for at least 10 to 20 minutes before it hit the vessels.

Unfortunately there is no report as to the exact cause of the multiple sinkings, all in vessels of 20 to 25 feet. Were they centreboarders which would not self right?

The report deserves scrutiny and consideration by all race committees and skippers.

The first half  of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia report into the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race is here http://www.equipped.org/sydney-hobart/Vol%2013%20Docs/Report%20Cover%20to%20Page%2086.pdf 

This is the depth of analysis that might be applied to a race that lost the same number of lives.




Created: 19-Apr-17 09:38
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer
0
Like receiving a multi-colored hand-crocheted scarf from your mom, the best instincts are to acknowledge the effort and the intent of the giver.  In this case the USCG took their time to put together something specifically tailored for us (US Sailing members) in the hope to keep us safe and to reduce the need for USCG to rescue us, all the while still enjoying the sport.

I'm thankful they did and I want to keep that in the forefront of my mind.

So with that thought, what can we pluck out and like about the scarf?

1) Requiring the wearing of PFD's and V-Flag
I have never been in a regatta where the RC flew the V-flag.  There are times when prudence dictates everyone should be wearing PFD's and for some reason, RC's do not fly the flag.  That might be something to consider and to look into establishing firmer guidance/protocols.  On my boat everyone is wear some sort of PFD in 14kts+ and the mast and bow positions wear inflatables with built-in retrieval harness.

2) Communication
Even in a 0.8 nm W/L course, if the winds are howling, sound signals from the RC won't be heard.  In this case we are talking about an 18nm course.  Requiring a VHF in the cockpit (either handheld or a wired remote) seems sensible for any race where the distance is greater than 1nm, when the RC resources are modest (i.e. not a lot of mark/PC boats to spread the word).

In this case, it's not only communicating the abandonment of the race, but also communicating the imminent danger, the need to secure the boat and crew and possibly seek shelter immediately.  For instance, if the V-Flag wasn't raised at the start, the RC could raise it and communicate that if they were confident the fleet would hear it.

3) Weather Related Race Cancellation
I was the one who had to make that call for many years for our Wed night series.  Week after week, it's a stressful thing to watch the mid-summer afternoon TS's start forming and try to determine if and how they will impact the race area.  When you have 60 boats with an average of 5-6 crew each .. you're impacting the plans 300+ people as they leave work early, some commuting 1hr to get to the race area.  At the same time, their safety is in your hands to an extent.

Sure, it's up to each skipper to determine to race or not, but the RC's don't want to create a game of chicken in a long series and also thinking about the RC volunteers and putting them out in possible bad or dangerous weather.  Personally, I erred on the side of caution.  If possible I would delay the start to let something pass or just bare the brunt of complaints post-cancellation after the TS passed just outside the race area.

In this case it was a distance race.  I think maybe it's harder for RC's to cancel a distance race due to weather, given the time-span of the race.  Perhaps it's easier to rationalize that the weather event will be a blip or simply that it just too hard to predict what will happen 6hrs in the future.

It goes back to communication maybe in this case (not knowing the specifics around the forecast at the time).  Having a determined way to communicate an unforeseen weather-danger immediately and unambiguously is key.

Ang
Created: 19-Apr-17 13:15
Lloyd Causey
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
I think that I must say that the U S Coast Guard suggestions were poor.

Several facts need to be brought out to folks trying to think about the suggestions.
1. This race has TWO starting points.  Some boats start at Mobile, AL and some at Fairhope, AL with a common finish at Dauphin Island  so there are two courses that are far apart at the beginning.
2. This is mostly a FUN race that often involves folks that never or seldom race so the level of seamanship varies greatly between boats.
3. This race often involves sailboats that seldom race and may not be well maintained or had PFDs aboard.
4.  There are often a very large group of boats scattered across Mobile Bay and communication to them by VHF very difficult.
5.  There would have been little opportunity for a safe change of course when the weather as many boats were far from safety.

I was in Mississippi Sound at the time of the race taking my 38' sailboat back to Lake Pontchartrain.   I watched its approach on my radar and tracked the black wind shear visually.  The storm travelled fast from North part of Lake Pontchartrain along the Mississippi coast.  We dropped all sail and powered into the storm because we could not get to a safe anchorage.  The top speed I recorded was 52 knots and it may have got higher. I could not see past the bow of the boat but we just kept 3-4 knots for steerage. A J105  travelling along near us was able to do OK with just a man and woman aboard.When the wind went < 30 knots we could see and proceeded on course.  The worst was about 2 hours or maybe less.

Suggestions
1.  Make sure the boats do have PFDs aboard for crew.
2. Get everyones cell phone number in a database.  Then the PRO could TEXT pertinent information to all boats as they all keep the cell phone active.



Created: 19-Apr-17 18:31
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer
0
Lloyd, your first-hand info on the race and storm is really helpful. 

Also your text alert idea is also good.  This is EXACTLY what I did when I was running racing in the Magothy (just north of Annapolis).  We used a service named “Call-em-all” which was a combo robo-call/txt service. 

It allowed me to upload all the phone numbers before the race and group the numbers together for that race. Then from my cell phone, I could record a 30 second message and blast that to all the phones simultaneously.  We bought a block of calls so it cost about 8 cents-per-call. (<30 second message). 

Before the race/racing season I would send out a test-message and encourage everyone to save that number to their contact list and assign a unique alarm ring-tone to the number and emergency bypass DND phone settings .. so they knew it was a racing safely/cancellation issue. 

The system worked GREAT and was very inexpensive in the picture of costs. 

Ang
Created: 19-Apr-17 19:02
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