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Old 06-11-2008
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Cape Fear 38 -- Lost Keel Fatality Investigation

This thread is posted in response to the incident of June 7 2008, in which the Cynthia Woods, a two-year old Cape Fear 38, lost its keel while competing in the 700 mile off-shore race from Galveston Texas to Veracruz, Mexico.

The boat was crewed by a team from Texas A&M University. Five of the six members of the crew were recovered by the U.S. Coast Guard after spending more than 24 hours in the water. A sixth member, safety officer Roger Stone, assisted other members in escaping the overturned hull but was himself trapped below and drowned.

The salvage and recovery of the Cynthia Woods is underway. The Coast Guard plans an informal inquirey, and Texas A&M appears to be contemplating their own separate expert investigation. The linked article immediately below provides some additional details:

The Galveston County Daily News

The purpose of this thread is not to parse the actions of the crew or to memorialize the fallen. Nor is it to discuss proper PFD use, safety protocols, etc. Other Sailnet threads exist for this purpose (see e.g., Texas A&M Sailing Team Missing, and Life Vests )

The purpose of this thread is to discuss structural or other aspects of the boat's design that may have led to the loss of the keel. Primarily, this thread should be used to post and discuss factual data as it becomes available, such as information about the boat design, as well as information disclosed by the various investigations.

It could be weeks or months before definitive information is available from the investigations, but if we stay tuned there may be valuable lessons. If there is someone knowledgeable about the design, or simply tech savvy, who'd like to post the Cape Fear 38 boat specs/schematics/drawings, etc, that might be a good way to get this thread started.
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Last edited by JohnRPollard; 06-11-2008 at 06:23 PM. Reason: Typos
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Old 06-11-2008
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Here is an article on the Cape Fear 38.

Sailing Magazine : Boat Test
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Old 06-11-2008
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I should probably do a search, BUT, I seem to recall this boat being discussed here one other time, and an employee, disgruntled as I recall brought some issues up on a 3 yr old thread, new boat buying area?!?!?! I do not recall it saying anything bad about construction, then again........

I have to admit, I have not heard of any issues besides this one on this boat at this time. If they hit something, say a slighty submerged ocean container, IIRC one per day falls off a ship some where in our oceans, then it would not matter "WHAT" brand it was, the keel might get stripped off depending upon speed etc.

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Old 06-11-2008
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I could not find the article I was looking for, but did find this 3 page discussion from 02 or there abouts, with the designer popping in to say a word or two.

http://www.sailnet.com/forums/buying...fear-38-a.html

Maybe what I was thinking could also be another boat manufacture too.........

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Old 06-11-2008
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Marty,

Thanks for that link. Here are Bruce Marek's comments about the design, excerpted from that thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceMarek View Post
To Jack, Jeff, et al: Designer''s Comments

Thanks for all of the great comments on your individual perceptions of the Cape Fear 38. While signing up to get access to send this message, it was interesting that SailNet had a distinctive category in areas of interest for long distance voyaging. I think that Jeff has it closer to right in what the purpose of The Cape Fear 38 is, as either a racer/cruiser or fast coastal cruiser. And maybe I should give Jack a bit of credit for pointing out that the Cape Fear 38, as configured, is not a world voyager, although from a construction standpoint, the 38 is capable of ocean passages and even a circumnavigation. If Robin Lee Graham was able to successfully singlehadedly sail around the world in the late 60''s in a Lapworth 24, I can''t imagine with today''s technologies why someone couldn''t figure out how to have enough space/electronics/sailhandling and safety gear to make it around the world, in more comfort than Dove did.

However, rather than get too far into the debate on marketing terminology of what a cruising boat is, or what a racer/cruiser is (I even found on one computer search that a Westsail 42 was listed as a racer/cruiser. Everyone has their own opinions!!), maybe in our next revision to the web site (Cape Fear Yacht Works) we will be be able to better address some of the points brought up on this bulletin board.

For the boatshows this fall, Cape Fear Yacht Works will be displaying a wheel version that has a partially enclosed transom (ie. transom seats with a walk thru through the center, down to the swim platform.) This version will be at the Newport and Annapolis Boat Shows. Additionally, at the Annapolis Show this year will be a "Regatta Version" of the boat, which has a Kevlar Hull, deeper keel (7'' or 7''-9" drafts will be available, the boat at the show will have 7'' draft), and a retractable pole for the assymetric spinnaker.

Marketing a sailboat is a difficult proposition. There is no governmental or world wide standard for terminology, and even if someone could define a standard, that wouldn''t/couldn''t guarantee that the the buying public would find the boat attractive and/or meeting their purposes.

If you walk down the dock and take a look at any boat, you will have your own opinion on whether you like the way the boat looks. Then you wonder what it is like down below. and then you have to resolve if you are just admiring the boat (or not) or if you are truly an interested, qualified prospect for such a boat. There are many megayachts that I admire or find fault with, but I know that they are out of my price league -- ever. When I have bought boats (of course being biased to my own designs), the question still remained on appearance, and if the boat was able to meet (or be close enough to meet) my purposes at that time in my life. The Cape Fear 38 definitely has shown itself to be an attractive, fast, comfortable racer/cruiser and coastal cruiser (my biased opinion of course).

Check out the above mentioned Fall Boat Shows, come visit us in Wilmington for a boat tour, check out the Website, or contact Cape Fear Yacht Works for more Information.

We are still developing a second deck layout, which will address certain cockpit seating issues, and most likely allowing us to create an enclosed cabin for the aft quarterberth. We have still not reached critical mass in production to go forward with the new mold, so at this point, someone interested in such a version could have a chance to give us some input to their likes and dislikes (no guarantees, but we do like to listen to constructive opinions and ideas.)

In regards to the small shop atmosphere of being able to allow customer variations. The boat is now offered with 2 rig plans, both wfractional rigs with swept back spreaders, no runners, and both fractional & masthead spinnaker halyards. The standard rig is a 2 spreader fractional rig (47''I, 13.75''J,45''P, 16.25''E) with continuous rigging (all shrouds) going to the deck, and Regatta rig (50''I, 13.75''J, 48''P, 17.2''E) has triple spreaders and discontinuous rod rigging (spreader tip cups & tip turnbuckles). On both boats the cap shrouds go to just inboard of the sheer, and the D1''s (lower diagonal shrouds) are now attatched to the cabin house side, giving more room for walking along the deck. Our standard set up is for our 2'' stainless bow sprit(16'' J) which accomodates the assymetrical spinnaker tack line and/or a roller furling assymetrical reaching spinnaker, as well as having an anchor roller. The Regatta Version has the retractable pole, for a 4.5 ft extension (18.5'' JSL/SPL). And for the more traditional sailor, the boat can be purchased with traditional spinnaker pole or downwind pole, and no sprit or strut.

There is still the availability for solid laminate hulls or fully or partially cored hulls. For the real world cruiser, as an option we can add a few more laminates to bring the boat up to anybodies own perception of what they think is a thick enough hull.

Standard Keel is 6'' draft: 5'', 5 1/2'', 7'' and 7''10" are also available.

I could go on, but best is to contact Cape Fear Yacht Works for more details.

Hope that answers most of the discussions. If not, feel free to e-mail me at marekyd@ec.rr.com


Bruce Marek
Marek Yacht & Design
Wilmington, NC
To which Whoosh replied (in part)

Quote:
Originally Posted by WHOOSH View Post
Can this boat go offshore? Around the world? Sure; the Cal 27 did. Does the boat deserve to be billed as a cruising boat? Incrementally, as they modify the boat to accommodate these needs, that will obviously help. OTOH builders who like to use the ''racing/cruising'' label are IMO trying to cover lots of bases and may be doing so for marketing reasons, not as a result of the original design brief. Buyers need to look closely at whether one size really fits all.

Jack

And Marek followed-up:

Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceMarek View Post
Tankage on the Cape Fear 38 is approximately 60 gallons of fuel and 50 gallons of water. Also, there is plenty of space in the starboard aft "mechanical room" for a watermaker or an additional tank.

To Jack - it is always tough to guess which model will do best first. When I was involved with the Morgan 45, they ended up selling 7 race deck versions, and about 52 cruising deck versions. Morgan introduced them simultaneously at the 1982 Annapolis Show. It was great. If someone on the cruiser wanted more performance, they were sent over to the racer, and vice versa. I think 15 boats were ordered at the show.

On the Santana 30/30 the racer cruiser came first, and a year later the Grand Prix 30/30 was introduced. About equal numbers, I think 45 of each were sold. On the Schock 34, the Grand Prix boat came first, selling only 3 boats. The next year, the Performance Cruiser came out, selling 30 something boats.

If it can''t be done simultaneously, then maybe the more racier version should be first. We definitely seem to be getting feedback onto what our boat should have. Hopefully when these changes get implemented, the boat will interest you for your next cruising/voyaging adventures.

To Jeff - The anchor well was a little small on the prototype boat at the show last year. We have since angled the top of the Anchor Locker Bulkhead aft about 10 degrees, which gained us about 8" in the anchor well and its lid, with virtually no noticeable change to the foreward stateroom size. I believe we are also a few inches deeper, making the addition of a windlass more credible. I have only had to anchor once with the boat, and the bow sprit/bow roller seemed to work fine. The 2'' sprit does keep the anchor from dinging up the shapely plumb bow.

To Jack (or any other interested buyer)- I am also a structural engineer in addition to being a longtime yacht designer. If you buy a Cape Fear 38, and have particular strength concerns, I would be glad to sit down with you and go over loads and safety factors with you.

Bruce Marek
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Pacific Seacraft Crealock 31 #62

NEVER CALLS CRUISINGDAD BACK....CAN"T TAKE THE ACCENT

Last edited by JohnRPollard; 06-11-2008 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 06-11-2008
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I must admit that I really enjoyed that thread a lot back then and in re-reading it today. I truly miss having Jack (Whoosh) around here. He is an extremely experienced sailor who could clearly explain his ideas making for wonderful exchanges of ideas that was a lesson in gentility and intelligent sailing to all that read his posts.

With regards to the Cape Fear 38, I am very anxious to hear what they find when they examine the wreckage. There are all kinds of reasons that boats lose keels; some are design issues, some are build quality issues and some are the result of intentional or unintentional (electrolysis, groundings, bolts loosened and not tightened, etc) changes to the boat.

What I recall that I saw on the early boats looked like very high quality glass work and a seemingly well designed, hand laid up structural grid. I would be hesitant to even venture a guess at what happened here without hearing more about what happened.

Jeff
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Old 06-11-2008
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Here's the Houston Chronicle artice about the Cynthia Woods, when you get to the page there's also a video you can click on.
A&M sailor killed in sunken boat called a hero (w/video) | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
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Old 06-11-2008
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I'm interested in this eventual outcome regarding this particular boat, because I don't think sailors who don't run aground, or don't hit something, should have to worry about whether the keel will stay on. They have enough to worry about already.

A keel failure any time is frightening, and at night in brisk weather, it's sudden and horrifying. The Cynthia Woods crew were all solid sailors, and even they didn't all escape.

I hope that between designers, builders, and repairers, we all learn something for the future. This just can't keep happening. I remember seeing the photos of the offshore racer "Moquini", found months later turtled with no keel, and no survivors, and it gave me the chills.
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Old 06-11-2008
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Old 06-12-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
I must admit that I really enjoyed that thread a lot back then and in re-reading it today. I truly miss having Jack (Whoosh) around here. He is an extremely experienced sailor who could clearly explain his ideas making for wonderful exchanges of ideas that was a lesson in gentility and intelligent sailing to all that read his posts.

With regards to the Cape Fear 38, I am very anxious to hear what they find when they examine the wreckage. There are all kinds of reasons that boats lose keels; some are design issues, some are build quality issues and some are the result of intentional or unintentional (electrolysis, groundings, bolts loosened and not tightened, etc) changes to the boat.

What I recall that I saw on the early boats looked like very high quality glass work and a seemingly well designed, hand laid up structural grid. I would be hesitant to even venture a guess at what happened here without hearing more about what happened.

Jeff

JeffH,

I enjoyed reading that thread too. I was on hiatus back when that took place so never saw it.

All,

The Cynthia Woods has been recovered. The maintenance log book was no longer aboard as had been hoped. The article below includes the first comments I've seen by the builder concerning the incident. I was not previously aware that the donor of the boats to Texas A&M was also the father of the boat builder!

Quote:
From the Associated Press

Capsized sailboat recovered in Gulf of Mexico
13 hours ago
T GALVESTON, Texas (AP) ó Salvage experts have recovered a racing sailboat that sank in the Gulf of Mexico last week, killing one crew member and leaving five survivors adrift at sea for 26 hours.

The Cynthia Woods was towed back to shore Wednesday and will be inspected as investigators try to determine what caused it to capsize. Officials believe the keel of the vessel ripped off shortly after the Regata de Amigos race began Friday, filling the boat with water.

They had hoped the sailboat's log book could give answers about maintenance and repairs on the 38-foot vessel, but the book was not found.
Development tycoon George Mitchell donated the Cynthia Woods and an identical boat to Texas A&M University in 2006, the Galveston County Daily News and Houston Chronicle reported Thursday.

The university has taken the other boat, the George Phydias, out of commission until officials can determine whether a design defect caused the keel failure.

The company that built the boats, North Carolina-based Cape Fear Yacht Works, said in a statement Wednesday it stands by its products. The company is owned by George Mitchell's son, Keith. "We believe in the design, construction and safety of our vessels," the company said.

It also said it was not responsible for maintenance or repair work after the vessel left the factory.
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