I've read most of this thread, and have formed some strong opinions.
After careful consideration, I've decided not to share most of them because:
1. I am still unsure of all the facts, despite what has been presented here from media and "live witnesses" so I won't opine on these participants' decision-making.
2. Although I have raced and cruised in some strong conditions, I have not yet left the Chesapeake Bay, and I don't want to offer misinformation on ocean sailing.
I guess I can safely offer one very general opinion on "regulation":
Recent trends in U.S. society indicate that when groups of people frequently engage in activities that result in injury, death, and a perceived
drain on public resources, these activites end up being heavily regulated or curtailed. Often, these negative events are extremely amplified by national and local media. (I won't opine on the reasons why, here.)
MANY activities share this common thread with sailing:
Hot air ballooning
It all boils down to "If you poop in your own bed, your parents will be along shortly to control you, to prevent future occurances".
Therefore, "self-regulation" is the safest, least intrusive option. Self-regulation, is simply taking responsibility for one's self.
So how do we do that?
Rallies could require participants to demonstrate a minimum level of seamanship. This could be demonstrated by producing proof of attending SAS seminars, or other educational processes. Failure to provide proof= non-participation.
Rallies could require (and offer) free, in-depth vessel inspections and specify minimum equipment requirements. Failure to pass= non-participation.
Rallies could offer refresher training seminars prior to departure (not to be counted as a replacement for SAS training, but as a supplement or refresher)
This doesn't infrigne upon anyone's freedom, because participation in rallies is not legally required, but rather it encourages good seamanship and leverages that feeling that sailing in a rally promotes safety.
In short: If rallies provide a false sense of safety, then let's turn this into a genuine source of safety and good seamanship.
I do NOT NOT NOT agree that rally organizers should be held in any degree responsible for what happens on a vessel at sea. This sets a dangerous, legal precedent. Eventually a line must be drawn in the sand, where the skipper is responsible.
We don't sue meteorologists when their forecasts are wrong, and a family minivan spins out in the snow because they opted to ignore real-world conditions and set out for a drive to the movie theater.
All the rally can do, is promote preparedness, good seamanship, and offer the best meteorlogical information and routing possible. The skipper is the actual "man on the scene" and must make decisions that sometimes contradict what a weather-router 900 miles away, is telling him.
In the spirit of self-regulation, responsibility, and keeping our sport free from government interference, we should each of us, strive to continually learn and improve our seamanship. We should encourage good seamanship within our community, especially among new sailors, be they old or young.
Offering a wide variety of affordable
, comprehensive education and hands-on training, and selling good seamanship as "cool skills to have" instead of some kind of elitist thing, will encourage people to do the right thing.
I apologize for the length of my post.