by Des Ryan
It happened during a race but the ramifications for cruising sailors - indeed all sailors - are vital. The UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published a report (8th March) into the death of a skipper who fell overboard during a race across the English Channel and lost his life as a result, even though he was tethered to the yacht.
Lion - reconstruction of incident
While the crew made an unsuccessful bid to save the skipper the attempted rescue was hampered as no-one was nominated to replace him, the report has said.
The yacht Lion was taking part in the 95-mile Morgan Cup Race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg in France on the night of 17 June, 2011.
Christopher Reddish, from south London, fell overboard attached by his tether to the vessel. It was after a sail that had slipped into the water was recovered that it was noticed that Mr Reddish, 46, from Clapham Junction, had fallen over the port side near the bow 14.5 miles south of Selsey Bill in West Sussex.
It took the crew, which was faced with rough seas and winds of more than 30kts, 16 minutes to recover him. Mr Reddish was recovered but declared dead by a consultant cardiologist who was one of the crew. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
The report found issues particularly with:
1. The initial lack of clarity about who was in charge 'hindered communications' during the rescue of Mr Reddish, whose son was also on board and battled to save him.
2. The use of the appropriate length of tether in poor weather conditions.
3. The report also said not all the crew had taken part in the man overboard drill, conducted six weeks before the race.
4. The extreme difficulty of recovering an unconscious crew member who had fallen overboard.
Deductions for the cruising sailor:
If the leisure sailor is to benefit from inquiries into such incidents, then we should be applying the gained insights to our own inboard systems, namely:
1. The prudent skipper would always have a nominated replacement skipper as a matter of course before leaving the dock as part of the safety briefing;
2. Tethers can be connected in two lengths, so crew should be careful that the length they choose will not allow them to slip overboard;
3. The necessity for as many people as possible to undergo safety training (a familiar cry).
4. The well known extreme difficulty of retrieving a crew fallen overboard should lead short handed sailors to put most effort into the safety requirements necessary to remain on board.
The full report can be read by clicking here.