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Old 24-04-2012, 12:35   #1
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Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude
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Old 24-04-2012, 12:49   #2
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Most informative and very touching.
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Old 24-04-2012, 12:59   #3
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

I had the opportunity to participate in the memorial procession Saturday evening during sunset. Many of the yacht clubs in our area sent their race committee boats, and I was invited to be part of the delegation representing my yacht club.

I would guess that there were at least 150 boats present. The procession was lead by a coast guard rescue boat. The San Francisco YC RC boat formed a gate with a Protector RIB with a piper. As we passed through this gate we all dropped flowers into the water. Then, the fleet circled back in among the flowers and there was a long silence while eight bells were rung.

There was not a dry eye on our boat, especially because one of the fellows aboard had been the Principal Race Officer for the race where the five crew had been lost. He may have been the first to shed tears, but he was certainly not alone.

After five blasts from the starting gun, one for each racer who'd lost his life, the entire fleet layed on their horns. It was a moment I'll never forget.

Before the arm-chair quarterbacking starts, let's reflect on the reality that most of the crew on Low Speed Chase were every bit as competent as the finest sailors among us here on CF. If mistakes were made, they were not mistakes that would be unusual for sailors on an offshore race such as this.

I've mentioned on another thread that I've raced the Double-handed Farallones personally, and have won my division in that race, which shares the same course as the Crewed Farallones race a week ago. How close one gets to the islands, which serve as the windward mark, is always a judgement call.

When we got back to our own boat, which we'd moored at Angel Island last weekend, my wife was still sad. I poured a glass of her favorite wine before asking what was wrong. All she could say was, "That could have been you, dying in a race like that."

Yes. It could have. A lot of us in this forum could say the same thing. And we should be especially humble in how we discuss the loss of Low Speed Chase.
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Old 24-04-2012, 13:58   #4
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

It is clear from the account that if they had been a few yards further away from the break they would not have gotten into trouble. Seems like a very, very unfortunate accident to me with no one to blame. Yes, they could have been tethered, but who was on any of the other boats? Not to many I bet. It is well worth noting about crotch straps, I have these and intend to use them ( My PFD's are brand new Spinlocks)
My heart is with the lost souls.....
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Old 24-04-2012, 15:48   #5
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Sitting behind a screen in my comfortable office typing this response certainly detaches me from the realities the crew of Low Speed Chase faced. I read the survivor's account several times; and personally can't say I would have done anything much differently if I were in the race and as seasoned as most of the crew was.

When we become comfortable in performing a task, our level of confidence naturally increases. With this increase, we also run the risk of overlooking critical items many beginners and inexperienced racers would tend to pay attention to. It was perhaps their experience and comfort that played a role in giving them enough confidence to round the islands at such a close proximity. We will never know. What we do know is that they took precautions they felt were reasonable at the given time and place. It is safe to say nobody with a profound degree of experience in racing would intentionally cruise their boat to the break point or anywhere close enough to it.

To say they were cavalier or taking misguided risks is equivalent to eating the cherry on top of a sundae and claiming the entire sundae tastes like the cherry. It is simply out of context to project such an accusation when most of us experienced boaters could have found ourselves in the shoes of the Low Speed Chase crew.

We can certainly learn from this tragedy and become more aware of how we assess risks. Based on this account, tethering (as I originally speculated) would have had consequences that were quite likely unfavorable.

Being aware of your risks, communicating the awareness, and having an active dialog about them are the best assets in preventing such a tragedy. We tend to lose sight of this in our dialogs with one another; and harping on it admittedly takes away from the experience. For what its worth, this incident will certainly continue to have a profound impact on me; and the valuable insight we can gain from talking about it will hopefully stand beside us in how we carry ourselves out on the water.
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Old 24-04-2012, 15:55   #6
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Profoundly surprised by his long mention about tethering in (SaltyMonkey always does because monkey is a scardy katt). But to hear it from him as large advice to sailors everywhere, after this terrible indecent, is brave and moving. I'm grateful so that all of us are reminded and learn, and grateful for his writing up this story.

And who can blame anyone for that wonderful sail around the Fars? The video looked like a really nice semi-calm sailing day! Who would have known?
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:02   #7
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

We can certainly learn from this tragedy and become more aware of how we assess risks. Based on this account, tethering (as I originally speculated) would have had consequences that were quite likely unfavorable.

How can you assume that being tethered would have been "unfavorable"? Staying with the boat would have likely meant that they would have ended up on the rocks with the boat. Were would you rather be? Jacklines and tethers have saved life's whereas water has taken many.
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:24   #8
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Quote:
Originally Posted by bazzer View Post
We can certainly learn from this tragedy and become more aware of how we assess risks. Based on this account, tethering (as I originally speculated) would have had consequences that were quite likely unfavorable.

How can you assume that being tethered would have been "unfavorable"? Staying with the boat would have likely meant that they would have ended up on the rocks with the boat. Were would you rather be? Jacklines and tethers have saved life's whereas water has taken many.
Taken directly from the account:
Heres the logic: If Id been tethered when the first wave hit, I would have needed to unclip to help the others who were overboard, then Id have been hit by the second wave and still ended up in the water.
Tethering would have helped if there was only one wave. The second wave came at about the time he would have been unclipped had he been tethered in the first place. I also noted it would have been "quite likely unfavorable' -- as it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty what the outcome would have been had he been tethered.
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:28   #9
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

That is presuming the others were not tethered and were washed overboard. Had they been tethered, he would not have needed to unclip to go to their aid.
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:31   #10
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Quote:
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That is presuming the others were not tethered and were washed overboard. Had they been tethered, he would not have needed to unclip to go to their aid.
One can be tethered and still be washed overboard, hanging from the line. The length of the line and distance from tethering point all play a role in the extent to which the tethered person is on board. This is a much more of a common occurrence than many believe.
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:34   #11
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

The article was outstanding. It takes a certain fortitude to admit that there were some safety errors. Regarding the immedatiate presumption that one needs to unclip from the jackline to assist others, I must disagree. But I do not want to drift.

Once again cudos for a solid debriefing that has tons of lessons.

Bill
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Old 24-04-2012, 16:36   #12
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

Aside from the issue of tethering, I think a lesson to be taken away from this is that a set of really large waves can cause the area of breaking waves to suddenly occur further offshore than has been previously occurring. In other words, you might think yourself safely a few hundred yards outside the zone of breaking waves, but if a really big set arrives, their deeper troughs will cause them to break further offshore than preceding sets. This can present an unexpected hazard. A larger safety margin than many would previously have considered acceptable seems to be in order.
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Old 24-04-2012, 17:05   #13
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

His point on tethering was reflective that they should ALL have been tethered. Any single broken link in that chain of a requirement would have required one of the others to untether to provide help. If all were tethered they might not have an issue.

Its also interesting to note the "three sisters" as described that seem to be the recurrent theme - where different periods combine to form larger waves and deeper troughs.

A larger safety margin is good point, but I don't second guess. I would have loved to sail that race that day, and would never have expected rogies, to my bad experience either.
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Old 24-04-2012, 17:07   #14
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

It is impossible to know the outcome of having been tethered in such a case... sheer conjecture. But, I must think that being tethered to a boat while it is violently rolled and then thrown upon the rocks may not be preferable to being in the water. Ones tether combined with the tangle of sheets etc that must have quickly formed may well drown you as surely as being free and in the water.

We'll never know for sure, and I'm not arguing against the use of tethers, but I can't see that the outcome would necessarily have been better had they all been tied in.

Bryan Chong's revealing and thoughtful account has certainly helped me understand what happened. I too have done several single-handed Farallones races in the distant past, and had to make decisions about the best path around the rocks. I was luckier than they were...

Cheers,

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Old 24-04-2012, 17:16   #15
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Re: Farallones Survivor's Full Account

His account is not entirely accurate, nor is he a safety expert, as I am not either. He states that the mast snapped, but the Latitude 38 photo of SSC on the rocks clearly shows the mast looking intact. I'm not surprised of this error given the situation. As a windsurfer of many years I have been dumped into the ocean many times and have experienced the washing machine effect. It certainly numbs the memory.
I am not a armchair sailor but one who uses his boat. I am upgrading my Jacklines to 24,000lbs very, very soon. Not using them is just like the argument that seat belts will kill you because you will get trapped in your car.
Your choice....
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