Dinghy tragedy caused by stability fault

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by zerogara, Mar 16, 2006.

  1. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
    Posts: 3,644
    Likes: 185, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2247
    Location: Pontevedra, Spain

    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval


    Sunsail staff found guilty

    By Practical Boat Owner (PBO)

    Three Sunsail employees were found guilty today of the manslaughter of an 11-year-old girl. At the trial in Lefkada Town, Greece, Sunsail admitted no rescue knife was used and there was no masthead flotation on the Hobie Cat, which capsized at Club Vounaki in 2003, trapping Laura Morgan by her harness.

    Only four of the five staff charged with 'manslaughter by negligence' appeared in court. Three were found guilty. Hotel manager William Hutton (31), watersports manager Rebecca Morgan (30) and assistant manager Kevin Jones (25) were given 18-month jail sentences suspended for three years. The other two employees, Ben Annetts (39) and Colin Bradley (28), were found to be not guilty.

    Laura's mother, Lynne Morgan, who was a witness at the trial, said she was "hugely relieved" with the verdict, but did not see it as a victory. "I've lost my beautiful child and nothing's going to bring her back. There are no winners but I feel justice has been done for Laura."

    Laura and her two friends were trapezing on the 4.9m (16ft) catamaran when it capsized and Laura became trapped by her harness. The boat did not have masthead buoyancy so inverted and dragged Laura under the trampoline. Despite desperate attempts by the safety boat officers to free Laura, she had drowned by the time they managed to unhook her.

    Normally Sunsail's modified Hobie 15s carry masthead flotation, but the ones at Club Vounaki did not. However, for Lynne, the issue was that Laura was allowed to wear a harness. "She should never have been given it," she said. "It was only the third time she'd been out on a Hobie Cat."

    RYA national sailing coach David Ritchie published a report on dinghy entrapment last year, and said it was fine for beginners to use harnesses "in the right conditions." Since the accident, Sunsail have made it their policy to ensure parental permission is gained before allowing children under the age of 18 to use a harness.

    In February 2005 the RYA made it mandatory for sailing schools to carry a rescue knife which, in the event of a catamaran capsize, is essential for slashing the trampoline. "This allows the casualty to breathe, as there is no air pocket between the trampoline and water," explained Ritchie. "The instructor's instinctive reaction is to dive under the boat to free the casualty but it's better to try to right the boat."

    Lynne says she's pleased all the evidence was presented in open court during the six-hour trial. "It's a small consolation but hopefully something like this will never happen again," she said.

    Sunsail are disappointed with the verdict and have lodged an appeal on behalf of the three staff. In a statement they said:

    "The company recognises this has been an extremely difficult time for Laura's family and wishes to reiterate that the thoughts of everyone in the company remain with them…This is the first time in the company's 30-year history that a tragedy such as this has occurred. The safety of guests is the number 1 priority for Sunsail in everything it does and sailing at its clubs meets, and often exceeds, the very stringent guidelines laid down by the Royal Yachting Association."

    (22 March 2006)
  2. zerogara
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 142
    Likes: 5, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 67
    Location: Preveza

    zerogara build it and sail it

    An 11y old on a catamaran!
    Should catamarans be banned to "ensure" public safety, should boats with trampolines be banned, should trapeze use be banned? What about righting regulations for windsurfers?
    Where does it end?
    If one (2 or 3) go out on a high performance skiff to sail (practice) and must have a rescue boat behind them or have the practice be an organized activity by a club (club liability) it will shrink the market to a handfull of clubs around the world and their capacity. If you have been incapacitated with a 49er out in the open sea chances are nobody will rescue your butt. Unless 49ers (and the like) are mandated to have VHFs and other distress signaling equipment.
    Should we also wear helmets and other safety gear?

    I disagree! I think a little aluminum plate on such fast little boats with safety warnings is adequate. DANGER SEVERE INJURY OR DEATH MAY RESULT ... blah.. blah.. blah....

    Those who seat at the table (behind closed doors) and agree on the rules are expressing their own economic interests through those rules. Everyone else has to pay (pay them who were on the table) and abide by their rules.
    Give me ONE regulation and I betyou there is a whole bibliography behind the history of its establishment that explains who were the parties at the decision making process and their benefits.

    The EEC is created and evolving based on this strategy. Regulate every little thing there is, and can be converted into value, because that creates an economy! If it works for a while everyone will follow suit! But the more regulation there is the more enforcement is needed, if we didn't have enough policing already. Have you guys read 1984? Read it again, if you read it 10-25 years earlier it may have seemed more of science fiction than it seems today.

    And don't judge by how things may be done around you, find out what is legal on how to do it and what will happen when those rules will become strictly enforced!
  3. gggGuest
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 814
    Likes: 19, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 76
    Location: UK

    gggGuest ...

    So next time they have a masthead float and the boat gets blown off downwind, the crew can't catch it and drown...
  4. casavecchia
    Joined: Jan 2004
    Posts: 103
    Likes: 2, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 14
    Location: Italy

    casavecchia Senior Member

    Saying that laws and regulations are made to create an economy is like saying that boat hulls are made to create a resting place for barnacles.
    A short sighted opinion indeed.
  5. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
    Posts: 3,001
    Likes: 202, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1279
    Location: Lakeland Fl USA

    messabout Senior Member

    I do not think we can not legislate, successfuly, against incompetance. Whether it be sailing, rock climbing, skydiving, and a myriad of other "sports", it is not an altogether safe thing to do. Far too many people overestimate their own abilities and judgement. There is very little we can do to legislate against that.

    Guillermo has some solid ground from which to speak. I believe that he knows more than most of us about boats. Here in the US we have all kinds of drasticly unqualified people who are infected with the notion that they can design a boat. I'm thinking of a welding and fabrication shop whose people are very good at what they do. What they do well is welding. They built a metal boat "because they could". They had never heard of Archimedes and had no knowledge or concern about stability calculations. Not surprising that the boat turned into a disaster. Well, that is only one case of incompetance leading to a bad result. There are people all over doing similar stuff. We can not really save them from themselves.

    A bad boat is just one of the factors involved in tragedy. I don't sail on a local lake anymore because there are too many PWCs and boats with metal flake gel coat. Too many of them have lunatic drivers with an overload of testosterone. I have often wondered why in hell a bass boat needs to be capable of 60 MPH. The people themselves are a major part of the risk equation.

    I am not suggesting that we should not care about people who put themselves in harms way. We do care about them or we would not be writing in this forum.

    I have sailed some pretty hairy boats like International 10 meter canoes, A- cats, and such. Somebody up there likes me. I never flipped the A-cat because I had enogh sailing experience to respect it genuinely. I held no desire to drown and I knew that that beast of a boat would dunk me with precious little provocation. What to do for the beginner who has little experience and/or fear? People with little experience see sailboats as a languid pass time. Little do they know that dinghys may well require athletic prowess and cerebral processes that surpass thier comprehension. Can we possibly educate them all ? We can try. All you veteran sailors out there, go out and introduce someone to the joys, the intricate details, the thrills, and dangers of sailing. You might just save a few of them from themselves. Davy Jones don't take no prisoners.
    hoytedow likes this.
  6. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
    Posts: 1,438
    Likes: 59, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 841
    Location: Southern England

    Tim B Senior Member

    A very interesting article.

    A 16 foot boat (especially a cat because of the sail area) can be a handful even for grown men at times, perhaps the problem in this case is not about wearing the harness, but that they were allowed to sail it.

    Also, being a catamaran, they are a pain to right, but even if they couldn't right it, there were three of them, so the other two should have been able to help (presumably they were ok). I'm going to take a random guess here, I suspect they panicked. There is very little else (except incapacitating injury to all three) that would cause a death by drowning with two other crew present.

    It's not a nice feeling to be trapped under a trampoline (or sail) and it is quite frightening, but it's rarely fatal if you have a little experience behind you.

    Tim B.
  7. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
    Posts: 3,644
    Likes: 185, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2247
    Location: Pontevedra, Spain

    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    IMO rules on stability of ships. Go on.
  8. solrac
    Joined: Feb 2006
    Posts: 138
    Likes: 5, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 42
    Location: 34'54"35"47S - 56'07"48"98W

    solrac 100% sudaca

    can't belive.... this kind of fundamentalism only seen on arab tv....
    excuse me for a diferent point of view, security (think yet posted before) can not be viewed only as an evil invention of capitalistm for profit purposes !!!
    not all what mankind invented all along history can be blamed as useless, evil or unfair, there are a lot of examples of progress as a consequence of that (or you still live on a cave, wearing animal furs?)
    Any contribution to progress, science or technology fact a man (or woman) did along history has been congratulated for improving mankind in some aspect, even if the inventor paid with his life, and also blamed by selfish ****** who did not contribute at all.
  9. echristophe
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rochester, MN

    echristophe New Member

    I built a 15ft plywood knockabout and am rather inexperienced at sailing, being concerned for what happens if I tip her when out sailing--what does a masthead buoyancy device consist of and how do I install one?
  10. DanishBagger
    Joined: Feb 2006
    Posts: 1,540
    Likes: 46, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 523
    Location: Denmark

    DanishBagger Never Again

    You asked what rules were in play in other countries, so I will say what it is here in Denmark.

    Here, you need a "driver's license" in order to drive a speed boat of a certian horse power. It is not necessary if it's a sail boat or motor sailer, a normal motor boat and what have you.

    there is an EU-directive comin into effect soon, that, instead of the above (all boats under 20 tons), will make the above true for any boat (except speedboats) under 15 metres.

    In essense, you can take anything sailing here if you want - except it might be hard insuring "anything", and we still have to be accountable for "good seamanship".

    I have attached a picture, showing when a "speedboat license" is needed. The "HK" mean HP, of course, and the boat is a planing one:

    Attached Files:

  11. DanishBagger
    Joined: Feb 2006
    Posts: 1,540
    Likes: 46, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 523
    Location: Denmark

    DanishBagger Never Again

    Usually closed-cell foam, but an inflated "bag" is also sometimes used. And you can even get self-inflating ones, working just like a those life-vest.
  12. tspeer
    Joined: Feb 2002
    Posts: 2,244
    Likes: 215, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1673
    Location: Port Gamble, Washington, USA

    tspeer Senior Member

    The best masthead flotation devices I've seen are flotation panels in the sail. There are many possible ways to implement these. A sailmaker could add pockets in the sail between the headboard and first batten into which you slip pieces of closed cell foam. Or you can put the foam into a sleeve that fits over the head of the sail before you raise it. Or you can have a sailmaker put a grommet through the sail to secure clamshell flotation attached to the sail (http://www.mcscow.org/rigging/float.htm).

    Flotation panels can be effective on surprisingly large boats. They are mandatory at most clubs on the 28 ft E-scow when racing in high winds. Here's a picture of an E-scow sporting its flotation panels even though the wind is light:

    Talk to your sailmaker about adding them for you.
  13. echristophe
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rochester, MN

    echristophe New Member


    Thanks for the helpful information - As I said my biggest fear about sailing a lot this summer is that she'll tip and i dont want the mast to go under. Am also genuninely worried because I really made the boat itself too heavy- I was working off a 40 year old plan and was really eager for the woodworking part but when she was all finished I think its weighs about 500 pounds with the 92 pound centerboard - which is a lot bulkier than I expected (i've never actually calculated its weight). I suppose I need an awful lot of flotation foam in the benches so she doesnt sink down if she does tip.

    Have any of you had experience with righting a boat this heavy after she flips? How many cubic feet of foam do you reccomend? I figure with 62 pounds buoyancy per cubic foot of foam, i need about 6 cubic feet per side? Any thouhgs would be appreciated.

    Picture below of her being test floated w/o mast stepped - 15ft knockabout.

    Thanks - i'm New to the forum and am very impressed with advice I'm getting - a very novice sailor/hobby boatbuilder.

    Attached Files:

  14. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
    Posts: 1,438
    Likes: 59, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 841
    Location: Southern England

    Tim B Senior Member

    I must disagree about flotation panels in the sail... they do work, sort of, but they also kill the performance. Instead, I have a ball-cock (standard plumbing ball about 100mm dia) with an eye on some studding screwed into it. Just hoist the thing on the main halyard and it works very well. It won't stop the boat inverting, but it will slow it down enough to get to the centre-board. An inflated bag at the masthead would work fine as long as it didn't chafe too much. The size depends on what you want it to do, give you a bit more time, or stay afloat indefinately.

    Tim B.

  15. Herman
    Joined: Oct 2004
    Posts: 1,617
    Likes: 89, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 1240
    Location: The Netherlands

    Herman Senior Member

    I have sailed a Topper Boss for quite some time. This sailing skiff is equiped with bowsprit, too long a mast, too much sail, 3.5 foot wide racks on the sides, and double trapeze to keep the right side up.

    Needless to say, I did swim next to it more than occasionally. However, the mast was sealed completely, with all the halyards outside the mast, and all fittings sealed. I only managed to turtle the boat completely once (Lake Garda, 700 ft deep, so I did not hit anything).
    This sealed mast did a great job keeping the boat from turning turtle. Could be used on other boats as well, without looking awkward. (which I think is one of the main reasons not to equip boats with flotation up the mast)

    However, a boat that can be considered "safe" is no reason not to rely on your own experiences, and not going on the water because there are circumstances that you don't like, is nothing to be ashamed for.

    In other words:

    [SIZE="5"]No single regulation can replace common sense[/SIZE]
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.