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Posts Tagged ‘keel’

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Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.13.03 AMJust a year ago,  the charter-racing Beneteau 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki was enroute the UK with four souls aboard after a long and fun 2014 Caribbean racing season.  It was a typical delivery until a personal EIPRB signal – and no further contact – was received.  After extensive searches the hull was found, but the crew was never seen again.

Today, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Bureau released their full report on the loss, and as usual, there’s plenty of good information in it for all of us, and in an age where keels are less and less reliable, it behooves us all to pay attention to things that make them fall off.  Read the report here, and below is a statement from Chief Inspector.

This has been a challenging investigation. Cheeki Rafiki capsized and inverted, almost certainly as a consequence of its keel becoming detached in adverse weather, in a remote part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Despite two extensive searches, its four crew remain missing and, as the yacht’s hull was not recovered, the causes of this tragic accident will inevitably remain a matter of some speculation.

Nevertheless, a thorough investigation has been conducted, that has identified a number of important safety issues, which if addressed, should reduce the likelihood of a similar accident in the future.

The investigation has identified that in GRP yachts that are constructed by bonding an internal matrix of stiffeners into the hull, it is possible for the bonding to fail, thereby weakening the structure. In some yachts, including the Beneteau First 40.7, the design makes it harder to detect when the bonding is starting to fail. The report therefore highlights the need for regular inspections of such yachts’ structures by a competent person, and for the marine industry to agree on the most appropriate means of repair when matrix detachment has occurred.

During the investigation it became clear that opinions were divided as to whether or not Cheeki Rafiki’s return passage across the Atlantic Ocean was a commercial activity. I have therefore made a recommendation to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to improve the guidance on when small vessels are, or are not required to have commercial certification. This should help resolve what has, for too long, been a grey area.

Finally, I hope that this report will serve as a reminder to all yacht operators, skippers and crews of the particular dangers associated with conducting ocean passages, and the need for comprehensive planning and preparation before undertaking such ventures. On long offshore passages, search and rescue support cannot be relied upon in the same way as it is when operating closer to the coast, and yachts’ crews need a much higher degree of self-sufficiency in the event of an emergency. Thus the selection and stowage of safety and survival equipment needs to be very carefully considered before embarking, together with options for contingency planning and self-help in anticipation of problems that could occur during the passage.

 

April 29th, 2015 by admin

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Speaking of keels, Chartered Surveyor E.S. Geary says the Cheeki Rafiki tragedy wasn’t an accident, and that someone needs to be held accountable for playing a big part in the deaths of four sailors.  We’ll hold off until we hear the report from the MAIB, but we’re not disagreeing…more from Captain Geary:

At the moment the loss of the vessel is viewed and has been reported as an unfortunate accident – it wasn’t an accident.

The tragic death of the four crew and loss of the yacht was a result of third party incompetence and negligence and was preventable. Those who were responsible and negligent in the proper care and maintenance of the vessel should be indentified and held accountable to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. Having recently dealt with a number of claims on behalf London underwriters with similar deficiencies I believe the cause of this tragedy is obvious.

FF6FThe skipper’s first message reported the yacht was taking on water and requested the owners permission to divert to the Azores; he didn’t report striking anything. It’s apparent that the ingress of water reported by the skipper was experienced and began as the keel bolts lost integrity. The keel bolts were loose and leaking water as evidenced by the rust stains on the apertures which could have resulted from corrosion or metal fatigue; their ultimate failure allowed the keel to separate from the hull. Tightened keel bolts don’t fail, loose ones do. When total failure occurred the keel fell free causing the superficial damage to the hull laminates amidships. The damage, limited to the hull/keel join (amidships), is displayed in the photo below.

With a locator beacon being placed on the hull it could be recovered, but the keel will never be found. Unless it loses its buoyancy, the hull will continue in the prevailing currents towards Ireland and could, if necessary in subsequent litigation, be salvaged, though there’s no evidence to support their theory some ‘experts’ have speculated that the keel may have struck a semi-submerged object such as a container. With no impact damage to the hull there is no basis to support this theory.

A544However, whether the keel struck anything is irrelevant considering the undamaged hull and the undamaged apertures of the forward and aft keel bolts; their clean separation indicates the keel bolts were structurally unsound.

During the 640 nm voyage north the approximately 3500 kg keel was only partially held against the flat hull surface by the defective keel bolts which initially allowed to keel to move with a limited ingress of water. Unknown to the crew because of the sea state and parametric rolling which would have aggravated and accelerated ultimate failure, the keel would have experienced a slow swinging motion before it eventually dropped from the hull.

The inverted hull of the Cheeki Rafiki was found and the photo silently speaks volumes confirming the keel bolt failure that led to the loss of the keel and the rise of the VCG that resulted in the immediate capsizing of the vessel. The crew were experienced sailors so they would have been wearing life-vests, safety lines and in that area of the Atlantic probably were also wearing TPA’s (Thermal Suits). When the keel parted from the hull at night in the turbulent seas and fierce winds the four man crew would have had little time to avoid being dragged under by the sails and/or standing rigging when the immediate change of the VCG caused the hull to roll. It’s possible, but sadly I doubt the bodies will ever be recovered.

Having recently completed a survey with a similar problem, the life-raft didn’t inflate because the painter was improperly secured. If a life-raft painter line is loose or was improperly secured the life-raft won’t activate, can’t deploy and goes down with the vessel. Which is exactly what happened in this case.

This tragedy should not have happened. Through no fault of the crew the Cheeki Rafiki was sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition and those responsible should be held accountable. The families of the victim’s have a right to know of the unseaworthiness and that their loved ones paid a terrible price and died because of the gross negligence of others.

-Capt. E. S. Geary, P.Eng (UK),MRINA, SNAME
Chartered Surveyor (Admiralty & Maritime) – The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Registered Marine Surveyor – Federation of European Maritime Associations of Surveyors and Consultants
UK-Maritime & Coastguard Agency Code of Compliance Inspector (SCV)
MCA/US Coast Guard/US Maritime Administration Certified ISPS Code Port/Facility, Company & Vessel Security Officer

 

June 18th, 2014 by admin

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