Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy - Page 3 - SailNet Community
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post #21 of 317 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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They were just too close.
With the clarity of hindsight and from the comfort of my desk, I have to say that IMHO, Smack's comment says it all - 100 yards or so off a lee shore with North Pacific surf breaking on it? I noted Mr. Chong's comment about no-one on board saying anything about how close they were - I sure would have. There have been similar deadly incidents locally, where racers got too close to a lee shore in wind and sea. Even without that freak wave, what would have happened if the steering chose that spot to fail or a shroud let go or any of the other serious problems that can befall a sailboat? From everything I've read and seen of this incident, there was no room to recover from anything going wrong.

In the other thread on this tragedy, someone commented about the possibility of race committees using GPS waypoints to keep racers from overenthusiastically cutting the corner like this - sounds to me like an excellent idea which could very likely have prevented this terrible incident.

Having said that, I fully agree with the comments about the guts it took to write the personal account of the incident and I extend my sympathy to the friends & families of the victims.
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post #22 of 317 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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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.
Yep, according to Chong's account, the last time anyone even attempted to steer was when the helmsman pointed her into the first wave just before the wave broke - It appears she made that final turn just fine.

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post #23 of 317 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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...
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.

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post #24 of 317 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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With the clarity of hindsight and from the comfort of my desk, I have to say that IMHO, Smack's comment says it all - 100 yards or so off a lee shore with North Pacific surf breaking on it? I noted Mr. Chong's comment about no-one on board saying anything about how close they were - I sure would have. There have been similar deadly incidents locally, where racers got too close to a lee shore in wind and sea. Even without that freak wave, what would have happened if the steering chose that spot to fail or a shroud let go or any of the other serious problems that can befall a sailboat? From everything I've read and seen of this incident, there was no room to recover from anything going wrong.

In the other thread on this tragedy, someone commented about the possibility of race committees using GPS waypoints to keep racers from overenthusiastically cutting the corner like this - sounds to me like an excellent idea which could very likely have prevented this terrible incident.

Having said that, I fully agree with the comments about the guts it took to write the personal account of the incident and I extend my sympathy to the friends & families of the victims.
The hard thing, though, is that we're talking about racing. Racing is all about the ragged edge - not playing it conservatively. Whether it's auto racing - where you try to slow down in a corner only enough to not lose grip and careen into the wall, or cycling, or skiing, etc. where you do the same...it's all about cutting corners as closely as you can.

As we have seen in this VOR, the organizers can always take steps to mitigate the risk with stuff like GPS marks, but the racer will still push to the edge until something goes horribly wrong - and the cycle starts again.

So it's hard to apply "conservative logic" to incidents like this. You get closer and closer to that edge for the speed - then you lose it...and the outcome is out of your hands at that point.


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post #25 of 317 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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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.
Not to mention that intact keel after being pounded repeatably against rocks till the boat was on dry. A strong and light boat.

Regards

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post #26 of 317 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 Izzy1414 View Post
Yep, according to Chong's account, the last time anyone even attempted to steer was when the helmsman pointed her into the first wave just before the wave broke - It appears she made that final turn just fine.
Can you imagine what that helm/rudder did, though, when she started to surf backward at several knots?


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post #27 of 317 Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

Smack-

I'm not trolling for an argument. Just wanted to add a little more perspective. I don't disagree that in racing accidents can happen resulting in injury or even death; but in the case of comparing this to a NASCAR event or other racing sport, can you recall a recent event where 5 people in race cars were killed because someone cut a corner too tight or took too big of a risk? The only thing I can think of was the Reno Air Race; which were mostly spectators and the accident was also preventable (don't put the stands so close to the race course). The reason injury or death in racing cars are so few today is because of the continuous development of safety equipment and engineering of the protective cages in the race cars. I don't see a problem with using a technology like GPS to improve racecourse safety in events which require sailors to take ever increasing risk to shave time off of their ET to win.
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post #28 of 317 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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Can you imagine what that helm/rudder did, though, when she started to surf backward at several knots?
I was thinking the same thing. I doubt very much if the helmsman was attempting to steer the boat at this point. If he didn't get violently spun off and he was still at the wheel, he had to just be holding on for dear life.

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post #29 of 317 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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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.
Yeah, I have a couple of inflatable pfds that have auto and manual but I still wear my 20 yr old old kayak pfd. It's not all that uncomfortable, has a rugged knife sheath, and cannot deflate. I've never really noticed that it gets in the way and I know it works. The darned manual pulls on the inflatables seem way too exposed to not quickly get caught on something. Tucking them in is something most people will probably do rather than have to shell out $20+ bucks every time they pop off. I can tell you, once you're underwater and being tossed around, you don't know which way is up. Grabbing that tab even in its intended position would be difficult unless practiced until it's second nature. In rolling a kayak in whitewater, which must be very similar to being dragged under on a tether, it's all about knowing where things are by practiced body awareness.

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post #30 of 317 Old 04-25-2012
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Re: Bryan Chong's first hand recount of the Low Speed Chase tragedy

"Agreed. Staying far off a lee shore should be plain common sense,"
But that is not racing. Racing routinely means rock-hopping. Means figuring how far you can push the most favorable tack. Means putting up ever so slightly less than too much canvas, and as the saying goes "if you didn't break anything, it was all too heavy and you weren't really racing."

As your insurers might say, racing is inherently dangerous and that's why many of htem won't cover a boat racing.
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