Reading about accidents may give the impression that boating is a particularly dangerous sport, but remember that safe days on the water usually are not reported in the press.
Thirty-eight foot sailboat Low Speed Chase capsized during the 58-mile Full Crew Farallon Islands Race, San Francisco, California, April 14, 2012. Five lives were lost, the first time for a fatality since this race series began in 1907.
During the race, Low Speed Chase sailed over a relatively shallow area (28 ft.) along a lee shore and was capsized by a series of large waves and driven on the rocks. Seven of the eight crew were thrown into the water and five persons died. The investigating panel held that the “failure of seamanship in negotiating shoal waters on a lee shore” was the direct cause of the incident. “If the crew of Low Speed Chase had sailed in deeper water, they could have prevented the tragedy.” In addition to the primary cause, there were other safety issues which “may have mitigated the outcome.”
1. "Inadequate personal safety gear in use for offshore conditions.”
2. “Communication difficulties and discipline among the entire fleet” [of racing sailboats]
3. “Race management protocol flaws creating uncertainty around search and rescue
[above quotes from pp. 4-5, Farallones Report]
Recommendations of the panel. There were four factors that may have increased the survival chances:
1. staying with the boat on the rocks
2. higher buoyancy lifejackets
3. water activated lifejackets
4. thigh or crotch straps on inflatable lifejackets
The use of harness tethers is also discussed extensively in the report.
Take the time to read the very comprehensive full report, the excellent footnotes, and the appendices. There are many details applicable to sail and power boats, whether cruising or racing. Especially note Appendix D, pp. 35–39, for very good information about the behavior of waves in shallow water. Appendix E has Capsize Incident Details from Survivors; Appendix G includes Medical Reports, Injuries to Crew, Survival (with analysis and recommendations); Appendix H discusses Vessel Damage, with photos; Appendix I covers Race Organization/Communications; Appendix K summarizes the responses from race participants to a post-race questionnaire. These appendices are very instructive and interesting.
Find the US Sailing summary of the accident and the link to full report at http://media.ussailing.org/Latest_News/2012/USS_Farallones_Report.htm