With Cheeki Rafiki’s crew being well known to many Anarchists, the continuing tragedy of their loss and the resulting discussion has been a painful one, but with yesterday’s discovery by a USCG rescue swimmer that the life raft was still aboard the capsized Beneteau 40.7, the mourning can properly begin, and with it, the speculation. It sounds very much like another Beneteau 40.7 incident from 2007, when the Great Lakes based Barracuda capsized after losing her keel with less sad results – read more about that one here. With so many thousands of miles sailed by the 40.7 and so few incidents, it’s hard to say there is a real design flaw in the boat, though some would say that a keel bolted to nothing more than resin and glass is an accident waiting to happen. What’s more likely in this case is human error compounded by an unforgiving keel attachment design – either a grounding or improperly torqued keelboats may have compromised the end bolts, and when they let go in big seas, the keel began tearing itself out of the boa by the middle ones. This would explain Rafiki’s crew searching for a water leak that they never found, and may have still been searching for when the keel let go and the boat capsized, and the photos bear it out. Combine that with an oversize life raft located in a spot that may have been unreachable for the crew, and you have a recipe for the loss of four souls.
Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family of the lost, and we encourage you to look in on the Rafiki Capsized thread to start digging in to the important lessons we can all learn from this sad accident. It’s early days and there will be plenty more to come, but we can start here:
1) At least one EPIRB should be attached to the deck of the boat with a hydrostatic release.
2) Always carry the proper life raft for your crew size.
3) A life raft stowed in an inaccessible spot might be worse than no life raft at all.
4) Immersion suits should be required equipment for high latitudes.
Photo courtesy of the US Navy.