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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #1  
Old 07-16-2013
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Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

From US Sailing Farallones Panel Report of Low Speed Chase Capsize (April 14, 2012):

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Even though several boats provided assistance through VHF communications, the panel found it troubling that no boats appear to have dropped out of delayed their race in order to render assistance, which is a basic tenet of the sea, as well as the first Fundamental Rule of the Racing Rules of Sailing under which the event was sailed. Although it is unlikely that the outcome would have been changed in this case, there were many ways other boats might have provided aid by signaling with those on shore, searching for those in the water, or providing continuing relays for radio communication.
(Note: I am not a racer, so at least part of my question is just curiosity.)

I am sure that part of the reason that none of the racers dropped out is that it was not immediately clear to them what the severity of the situation was, or if there was anything they could realistically do to help. Clearly this sentiment is incorrect, but it is understandable.

So, hypothetically, what would someone do to assist in this sort of situation? Should racers, when they observe a capsize/grounding like this, immediately drop out of racing, before they have a clear idea of how they're going to help, even if it ultimately might prove that they can't be very helpful?

The main barrier to doing anything useful, in this sort of case, is that the safest thing to do is to keep a wide berth from the danger area, since it's full extent may not be completely clear.

Does the answer change if there are committee boats near? eg, does that make it OK to continue racing, assuming they'll let you know if some specific assistance is needed?

Another factor is severity. Clearly a capsize at ocean is pretty serious. But I routinely see racers in the Bay bypass other racers who are in some distress. The best example are the hilarious races out of the channel where a sizable portion of the participants run aground and try various, mostly ineffective, measures to try to get unstuck without using their motors (which would disqualify them presumably). Another is higher-stakes televised races, where I've never seen any boat stop to check on another boat, no matter how severe the capsize, crash, or damage. Is there some rule or guideline for when it's OK to bypass a distressed boat in a race, and when you should stop to check things out?
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

Though I can't remember every detail, I followed this pretty closely between here and SA. The reason for the panel's statement on this is that there we quite few boats that knew what had happened, where it happened, yet decided that "there was nothing they could do" - so they kept racing.

As the statement reads, this is without doubt against everything we all hold to in seamanship.

Granted, there was not much that a boat could have done in this case since the LSC was in the breakers then on the rocks in a matter of minutes...

BUT...there is absolutely no reason boats could not have stood by at a safe distance looking for survivors and/or simply providing visual support.

Brian Chong was one of the survivors. He said something along the lines that he climbed to a spot where he could see his fellow racers to signal them and was heartbroken to see that no one was stopping.

That's unforgivable.

PS - In your scenarios above, I'd say if actual help is already at hand (like an inshore race) you'd have some leeway. If it's not, as in this case, you should have only one obligation...to either help directly or stand-by on lookout until help arrives.
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Last edited by smackdaddy; 07-16-2013 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

Sadly, The OYRA community did not acquit themselves with valor during the LSC incident. As a person who has done the Farallones race as both a crew and helmsman, let me offer some perspective. The winds were out of the north and that side of SE Farallone is a dangerous lee shore. The crew will all be on the windward rail, facing away from the island and their view blocked by the bot’s sails. The helmsman will mainly be looking for the wash rocks on the northernmost point which is some distance from where LSC went ashore. He will also be looking at any boats ahead of him to ascertain their tracks through these dangerous waters. He will also be looking to windward and steering to avoid larger waves and the potential knockdown. Unless one saw the actual capsize or happened to glance away from the course and onto the island the odds would be against making a successful sighting of a stranded mariner ashore. IMHO, that place is too dangerous to “hove to” or sail in circles. Where the community did a poor job was the total lack of a comms watch. Very few boats called in the capsize and aftermath and no effective radio net was established to relay sightings and status.

When faced with mariners in distress, we do come to their aid. We have recovered a MOB from another boat in a race and diverted when another racer lost his steering gear (another racer towed him in). Simple groundings like what you see at Mare Island Strait from boat trying to cut across the bar does not raise to the level of mariner in distress. Racers tend to have a higher level of seamanship and things like knockdowns, broaches and round downs do not, in themselves, constitute a distress unless there is a mariner in the water.
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Old 07-17-2013
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Re: Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

Contrast this with s/v Sociable:
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Old 07-17-2013
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Re: Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

Given that LSC was wrecked because she was too close to the island, and that the boat and her crew would have drifted toward the island (in fact, that is exactly what happened), I don't see how other sailboats could realistically have done anything without seriously endangering themselves.
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Old 07-20-2013
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Re: Assisting capsized vessel, in Low Speed Chase situation

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlowButSteady View Post
Given that LSC was wrecked because she was too close to the island, and that the boat and her crew would have drifted toward the island (in fact, that is exactly what happened), I don't see how other sailboats could realistically have done anything without seriously endangering themselves.
This was kind of my thought, and I'm sure what the skippers were thinking.

And presumably they were right, because the write-up said that this didn't contribute to the outcome. I can also see their resistance if they've had to make a lot of preparations and a substantial financial outlay just for the race, if they think there is nothing to be gained by assisting.

But I guess there's a lesson here that you should try to help whenever there is a capsize in the ocean, even if it might be pointless; I'm still not sure on what the exact criteria are though.
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