Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Portugal, West Coast
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy
I have a feeling that this tragedy was some time in the making; that the decision to sail in closer to the surf line was due to an erosion of the fear about staying further out over the many years of successful roundings during prior events. IIRC the Farallones race is over 80 years old.
It seems obvious that Alan Cahill, the skipper of LSC, did not think he was doing anything wrong; nor did the other skippers who successfully made a rounding on the same layline in similar conditions. The problem with feeling secure outside of a break line is false because when a big set comes the break location moves further offshore.
Surfers have long known that bigger waves come in sets and they wait patiently on days when the swell is mild for them to come in. The same thing happens on days when there is significant swell; only the sets are monsters, not just above average. These are not rogue waves. They are sets of larger waves within large average wave seas. It is not uncommon for the large set waves to be twice the size of an average size wave. When you add to that the effect of shallow water you can end up with a 30' breaker within seas that are an average height of 12'.
Yes, I was going to say exactly this. When doing surf you can be for a long time on the place the waves are breaking and from time to time there are huge ones that break 100m more offshore. Keeping an apparently safe but minimum distance of where the waves are breaking is a bad mistake. As someone has pointed up on another thread the right thing to do is to keep the boat on a safe dept.