Rudder, Rescue

post of the week

Rudder, Rescue

From anarchist Estar…

"The ARC yacht Auliana II has been abandoned and the crew evacuated following the loss of the yacht’s rudder in the early hours of Monday morning.

At around 04:00 on Monday 23/11/2009 the yacht lost its rudder some 70 nautical miles southwest of Gran Canaria. The exact cause of the breakage is unknown, though the on-watch crew doesn’t think that the yacht struck any debris in the water.

Unable to make steerage back toward Gran Canaria, the skipper contacted MRCC Las Palmas at 0600 on Monday, requesting assistance with a tow. At around noon, a lifeboat from the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service (Salvamento Maritima) was on station and the tow was soon underway. However, owing to the increasing wind strength (between 20 and 28 knots) and direction of the swell, the towing line repeatedly pulled deck cleats off the lightweight racing yacht – Auliana II is a one-off JV53.

With the daylight fading, the entire crew was evacuated from the yacht as a safety measure, though attempts to tow the yacht continued. The salvage crew was unable to secure a line to the deck-stepped mast, and after several more frustrating attempts, the decision was made to abandon the yacht and return the crew ashore."

Lessons learned:

  1. The industry has a systematic problem with rudders, from the cheap boats up to the custom ones – a good fraction of the serious ‘safety incidents’ are due to rudders. This is exactly the sort of fundamental safety/design/construction issue the special regs should address rather than requiring AIS where there is no compelling need. In the meantime, designer’s and builders, it’s not very hard nor very expensive and not even very heavy (and it is down low) to make a spade rudder that is EXTREMELY hard to break (if you need help ask DDW for instructions:). And as noted in the J120 thread, if/when it does break, the failure mode should be such that the boat should not need to be abandoned. This is a KNOWN problem, come on all you safety and design committees, let’s get it addressed – I know there are political and implementation challenges but this is where you can add REAL value to the sport.
  2. Basic lesson 101 about towing offshore (in waves) – there can be quite high snatch loads – don’t use light weight deck cleats and don’t use the base of a deck stepped mast. This boat must have some whacking big winches and a mile of strong line – they should have been able to build a strong towing bridle using the winches as a base. Lesson 102 in towing offshore – it is really helpful to have a LONG line (200m) with a weight (spare tire or chain or something) suspended half way to reduce the snatch loads.
  3. I will include my standard disclaimer – ‘I was not there – BUT they did not try very hard to sail the boat without the rudder. The rudder broke at 4am and they called for the tow at 6am and everyone had been choppered ashore by sunset. What’s up with that? So plan A (the ARC) did not work out, can’t they switch to another challenge – trying to sail the boat without the rudder. They were only 70 miles from shore so there was no real safety concern – can get a rescue anytime almost immediately – why not have some fun and give it at least a good two day attempt? Jump in the discussion.