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  #11  
Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

An honest account of a sailing tradgedy that, before it struck, looked a lot like many days I have sailed. RIP to the sailors lost.

As time goes by I'm beginning to feel more and more strongly about carrying my own MOB safety equipment (including a waterproof VHF) on my sailing harness. I seriously doubt that the 5 souls lost were dead when they hit the water. More likely they drowned for lack of ablity to be found.

A VHF would have allowed a MOB to steer the helocopter or other boats to them, and a dye marker would have helped immensely as well. For night use a strobe is apparently impossible to miss with night vision.

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  #12  
Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

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Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
I seriously doubt that the 5 souls lost were dead when they hit the water. More likely they drowned for lack of ablity to be found.
No. They got too close and were dumped into a raging surf zone against rocks. Bryan himself mentioned that he felt he was going to lose his pfd due to the water pressure alone. And the CG mentioned how beat up the other survivors were from the rocks.

Once they were all in the surf, it was over. 15' breakers onto rocks? Think about that. It'll hold you down and strip you clean. Other racers 100 yards away knew exactly where they were - there was just nothing that could be done...by boat or helo.

The lesson here, as Bryan points out, is what we all already know...stay on the boat. Period.
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Last edited by smackdaddy; 04-25-2012 at 01:11 AM.
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

The boat surfed backward and then was turned beam and rolled....This must have been at least a 18-20 foot wave by the sound of it...Heading out to a place where big swells are known to break as they come upon a world-class upwelling zone that's compared to the Galapagos...well...I am frankly amazed this race had such a good history of safety prior to this....It may have been a "rogue wave" but on "monday morning", at least, this would certainly seem like the place to "expect" one...condolences to the families...hope this brave and eloquent post by Mr. Chong and discussion of this tragedy serves to educate and save a life... somewhere... sometime...

Last edited by souljour2000; 04-25-2012 at 01:18 AM.
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

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Originally Posted by souljour2000 View Post
The boat surfed backward and then was turned beam and rolled....This must have been at least a 15-18 foot wave by the sound of it...headin out to a place where big swells are known to break when they hit a world-class upwelling zone that's compared to the Galapagos...I am frankly amazed this race had such a good history of safety prior to this....may have been a "rogue wave" but this would seem like the place to expect one...condolences to the families...hope this brave and eloquent post by Mr. Chong and discussion of this tragedy serves to educate and save a life... somewhere... sometime...
I don't buy the rogue wave theory - in the true sense of the word. They were on the rocks in only 2 wave strikes:

Quote:
As we approach the second point I estimate we’re inside of 10 boat lengths – which is 128 yards on a Sydney 38 - from the beginning of the break zone.
Yes, it was a big set. But not a "rogue". They were just too close.
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  #15  
Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Having been tossed around in whitewater like a rag doll on more than one occasion, in a fraction of the volume of water in pounding surf crashing on rocks, I agree with Smackdaddy: stay on the boat. This may be the most important lesson from the tragedy. Makes one wonder what happened to the blow-up vests!
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Well; I must say Thank You to Bryan Chong for coming forward so soon after this tragedy to explain the events while it is fresh in his mind. Many people would be too stricken with grief or post traumatic stress to come forward and write such a well composed account of the situation and the events that led to such loss of life. Again, Thank You for your well written letter.

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'.

On the issue of survivability; going in the water in front of a 30' breaker (visualize Mavericks here) gives little chance of survival. The wave broke over a shallow area (4-5 fathoms) which was more shallow due to the wave pulling water away from the ground. With a wave that large crashing down; you would be smashed down against the sea floor and either knocked unconscious, wedged in against rocks, or blacked out and drowned due to loss of oxygen. I suspect that the only thing that saved Bryan's life was his auto-inflate PFD, and lots of luck.

While I agree with Byian's comments about the personal responsibility to clip in and "stay on the boat"; I suspect that tethering might not have saved everyone in this situation. The forces imposed in a breaking wave (and rolling boat) can be too great to prevent failure of harness D-Rings, Tethers, and Jacklines (which would have had more than one person attached). The root cause and ensuing loss of life was sailing too close to the break line. There is a corollary to "dont fall overboard"; it's "don't get close to a lee shore". Hopefully this lesson will be learned and maybe some changes to the race will be made to prevent racing sailors from 'cutting it too close'.

My wife and I would like to give our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the survivors who will always remember their friends who were lost.
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Last edited by KeelHaulin; 04-25-2012 at 06:55 AM.
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeelHaulin View Post
Well; I must say Thank You to Bryan Chong for coming forward so soon after this tragedy to explain the events while it is fresh in his mind. Many people would be too stricken with grief or post traumatic stress to come forward and write such a well composed account of the situation and the events that led to such loss of life. Again, Thank You for your well written letter.

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'.

On the issue of survivability; going in the water in front of a 30' breaker (visualize Mavericks here) gives little chance of survival. The wave broke over a shallow area (4-5 fathoms) which was more shallow due to the wave pulling water away from the ground. With a wave that large crashing down; you would be smashed down against the sea floor and either knocked unconscious, wedged in against rocks, or blacked out and drowned due to loss of oxygen. I suspect that the only thing that saved Bryan's life was his auto-inflate PFD, and lots of luck.

While I agree with Byian's comments about the personal responsibility to clip in and "stay on the boat"; I suspect that tethering might not have saved everyone in this situation. The forces imposed in a breaking wave (and rolling boat) can be too great to prevent failure of harness D-Rings, Tethers, and Jacklines (which would have had more than one person attached). The root cause and ensuing loss of life was sailing too close to the break line. There is a corollary to "dont fall overboard"; it's "don't get close to a lee shore". Hopefully this lesson will be learned and maybe some changes to the race will be made to prevent racing sailors from 'cutting it too close'.

My wife and I would like to give our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the survivors who will always remember their friends who were lost.
Agreed. Staying far off a lee shore should be plain common sense, rogue wave or not. From the looks of the boat, staying attached may have saved some of those missing if they were not crushed or held under too long. My question is, where are the lifejackets? If they were wearing them, and I assume they probably were, it can only be surmised that they punctured, whether still attached to people or stripped away by water. If still inflated, they surely would have been spotted, either on or off. Solid jackets take a hell of a beating and bring you to the surface eventually, even when held under for a long time. They do feel like they are being pulled off when being tossed around but they do stay on. I have always questioned the wisdom of trusting anyone's life to a fragile bag of air. There are just too many sharp or hot things that can render these useless. Inflatables are more comfortable and allow better movement but are they really safe when the going gets rough? Did they actually activate? Plenty of questions still need to come to light.
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

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Originally Posted by smurphny View Post
Agreed. Staying far off a lee shore should be plain common sense, rogue wave or not. From the looks of the boat, staying attached may have saved some of those missing if they were not crushed or held under too long. My question is, where are the lifejackets? If they were wearing them, and I assume they probably were, it can only be surmised that they punctured, whether still attached to people or stripped away by water. If still inflated, they surely would have been spotted, either on or off. Solid jackets take a hell of a beating and bring you to the surface eventually, even when held under for a long time. They do feel like they are being pulled off when being tossed around but they do stay on. I have always questioned the wisdom of trusting anyone's life to a fragile bag of air. There are just too many sharp or hot things that can render these useless. Inflatables are more comfortable and allow better movement but are they really safe when the going gets rough? Did they actually activate? Plenty of questions still need to come to light.
An important point Bryan made in his story regarding the pfds was that most of that racing crowd had a habit of tucking in (hiding) their inflate pull-tabs to avoid accidental inflation. Many people, including me, wear manual inflate pfds - for perfectly good reasons. But, if you can't find your tab when you're under, you're screwed. That very well could have been the case here.
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Great comments....I agree with Keel-haulin that in the past their may have been due respect for the surf-zone at the Farallons...but it may have been a gradual erosion that was passed down over time as their had never been an incident or very few in a long while...kinda like the most car accidents happen a mile from home thing maybe...we all have a potential killer in our backyard like this...depending on what you are doing on the water..and the killers name may be "Familiarity" ...
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Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Here is another video of the helo bringing LSC in:



I think I saw AdamL talking about the free-spinning wheel. You can clearly see here that the rudder is crushed and wheel is spinning. I think it's safe to assume though...judging by Bryan's account...that the major breakages occurred after everyone was in the water.

It is amazing though how little damage there is to the port side.
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