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Chicago to Mackinac Race Fatalities - Unreleased Harnesses
When I created this thread, I had not yet learned of the Chicago to Mackinac race accident (July 2011) where two crew members where found still attached to the capsized boat by their "safety" harnesses.
These harnesses need to have a release that can be operated: 1) while the tether is under tension (carabiners won't release under tension), 2) by operating a single-point system with either hand, 3) a release that is always in the same location on the harness with a distinctive shape so it can be found in absolute darkness, and 4) is operable after the user is stunned and disoriented from being flipped into cold water.
I hope someone takes the initiative to develop such a product. Meanwhile, I'll continue to use my goofy looking parachute harness with its three-ring release system that allows me to separate from the boat by pulling a single handle (with either hand). I've had three "reserve rides" with that harness, and I know the release works under tension (when I had less than 10 seconds to separate from my main parachute).
That boat capsized at around midnight. It was surely as dark as a cave under that boat. Reportedly the race safety rules require: "a knife with a blade that can be opened with one hand so a harness could be cut away using a single motion." Are they completely out of their minds?! You get flipped into cold water in the dead of night by a gale force wind, drug by your tether under water at high speed and probably thrashed against various parts of the boat, and you're supposed to find a knife? Did I miss the part about needing superhuman skills to crew on that race?
In my parachute training, we practiced pulling the reserve handle, oh, maybe 50 times, before they'd let us get in the plane for our first jump (there were only "static line" jumps back then). Not because we planned on cutting away our main and using our reserve, but because we were DEAD if we needed that reserve and there was any uncertainty or hesitation. They called it "muscle memory," and the jumpmaster needed to be satisfied that we'd pull that handle instinctively. So how many sailors do you suppose would practice taking out a knife and cutting their safety harness... a sufficient number of times to make it instinctive? If they'd had some sort of sane release system, they could have practiced using it once or twice.
Last edited by patrickbryant; 09-06-2011 at 01:36 AM.