Chicago-Mackinac 2011 -US SAILING's Independent Investigation Released
WingNuts floats upside down in Lake Michigan after it capsized during the annual Race to Mackinac. (2011) AP Photo/John L. Russell
The single biggest piece of sailing news to have taken place in the U.S. this year was the massive storm that swept the Chicago-Macinac fleet, resulting in the tragic deaths of Mark Morley and Suzanne Makowski-Bickel. Immediately following the tragedy, the Chicago Yacht Club reached out to US SAILING and requested that they conduct an independent investigation of the events that transpired. This report, which was written by offshore-sailing experts (and veterans) Chuck Hawley, Sheila McCurdy, Ralph Naranjo and John Rousmaniere, was presented at US SAILING's annual meeting, which took place in Annapolis this past weekend.
For people unfamiliar with the tragedy, Morley and Makowski-Bickel were racing aboard Morley's WingNuts, a Kiwi 35 sportboat that carried a narrow beam and big hiking 'wings' that helped get crew weight to weather, but certainly didn't help the boat's stability in the lashing winds that were delivered by the supercell. According to the report, 'WingNuts was a highly inappropriate boat for a race of this duration, over night, without safety boats, and in an area known to have frequent violent thunderstorms. Her capable crew and preparation could not make up for the fact that she had too little stability, which led to her being 'blown over' by a severe gust.'
Interestingly, the report also found that, 'The Selection Committee of the Chicago Yacht Club-Race to Mackinac Island used a combination of the experience of the crew and the characteristics of the vessel to determine whether a vessel would be invited to enter the race.' It will be very interesting to see what changes will be made to the race rules going forward. If the Club reacts as the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia did as a result of the inquiry findings after the six deaths in the 1998 Sydney Hobart race, then we can expect to see tighter rules but safer sailing. The summary findings which is inside this issue, is a must-read and please find the time to read the whole 70 page document.
Meanwhile, the Volvo Ocean Race began Saturday in Alicante, Spain with the first in-shore race. Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing proved the boat to beat, followed by Ken Read's Puma Ocean Racing and Chris Nicholson's Emirates Team New Zealand. 'We are thrilled with second,' said Read. 'These are the types of days you're trying to escape in one piece, and it was hard work.' Get the full scoop inside, and stay tuned for next Sunday when the first offshore leg begins, taking the fleet from Alicante to Cape Town.
In other offshore circles, David Raison has won the prestigious 2011 La Charente Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50, a race for 21-foot singlehanded Classe Minis, aboard his decidedly unorthodox boat, 747. Raison also set a new course record for this particular leg, ticking off 3,120 miles in 17 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 32 seconds, averaging 7.53 knots. 'Yes indeed I have the feeling that my boat is like a kick in a bees nest of naval designers. The question is whether or not we'll see 60 footers based on my design. This I do not know. There's so much to study.'
And in One Design circles, the plot has thickened substantially in the International Laser Class Association's quest to change the class' official rules. Despite designer Bruce Kirby's best efforts to keep the class, the design and the builders aligned, the ILCA itself is pressing hard for this change. If it goes through, the definition of what a 'Laser' is and who can build it becomes complicated, with little gravity to hold all key players together. Could this mean the end to the world's most successful One Design class? Be sure to check out Rob Kothe's story, inside this issue.
Also inside, check out the latest from the Global Ocean Race, the Clipper Around the World Race and the now-postponed Transat Jacques Vabre.
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