Seeking to learn from keel failures

Published on June 10th, 2014

When the U.S. Navy warship helicopter crew located the overturned hull of the Beneteau First 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki on May 23, one thousand miles offshore Massachusetts, it confirmed the suspected cause of the accident: Keel Failure.

The crew was delivering the boat to the UK after it had competed in 2014 Antigua Sailing Week on April 26-May 2. The crew reported a leak on Thursday (May 15), and were diverting to the Azores, but contact was lost on Friday. A container ship reported on Saturday an upturned sail boat that fit the description, but was missing its keel.

Following the warship’s discovery, they deployed a surface swimmer to assess the boat. Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel’s keel was broken off, and the emergency raft was in its storage space. The four person delivery crew were not recovered.

To address keel failures, the ISAF Keel Structure Working Party was formed in November 2013. “Among other items, we are trying to find a way to encourage a culture within offshore sailing and racing in which information on structural failures can be published and so be of use to other sailors and designers in avoiding future problems,” explained Party chairman Stan Honey. “Aviation does a terrific job of publishing accident reports and sets a standard that offshore sailing can strive for.”

Here’s some information of interest on this subject…

* A 2013 presentation by Jason Smithwick, a Naval Architect and ISAF staff member, titled ‘Keel Design & Technology, Do we need a safer approach?’ can be viewed by clicking here.

* Keel failures were discussed at the 2013 ISAF Annual Conference by the Special Regulations Sub-committee. The documents from that meeting can be viewed by clicking here.

* Documentation of known keel failures (1984-2013): SummaryDetails

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