Attack of the Killer Headlines

Published on August 11th, 2014

“Rescue operation underway for 97 people”

“Major incident declared as dinghies hit by stormy weather”

“Rescue effort underway to help 80 sailing dinghies caught in squall”

“97 In Water As Dinghy Race Vessels Capsize”

These were the mainstream press headlines that were terrorizing online news readers on Monday, a result of a storm that passed through the first day of the 2014 GP14 World Championship in Northern Ireland.

What actually happened on August 11 was much less dramatic. Here was the event report

Today was the first day of the event with race 1 starting at 12.00 in wind speeds of 17 knots. Eighty-eight boats were “Tallied Out” (This is a safety system that ensures the event organisers know which boats are on the water and who is in each boat).

Towards the finish of the first race the Race Officer decided that due to worsening weather conditions the second race of the day would be cancelled.

The signal for race cancellation was displayed and the safety boat crews were informed that racing for the day was finished. The fleet started to head ashore when a strong squall of 31 Knots passed over the race area.

The effect of this was that some of the GP14 Boats capsized, this is not an unusual situation and crews are trained on how to “Right” their boat. Unfortunately a further stronger squall registering 37 Knots followed the first, capsizing a further number of the fleet.

Apparent media reports of 80 boats being capsized would be incorrect as there would have been no more than 10-12 Boats capsized at any one time. The capsizes where being successfully handled by the competitors and the team of 13 safety boats that had been accompanying the racing fleet.

The Race officer then made the correct decision, as a precaution, to contact the Coast Guard should the weather conditions worsen and in fact the weather conditions improved after 15 minutes. As regards injuries apart from 2 competitors with suspected broken limbs no one in the event was seriously injured other than minor scratches, cut and bruises, consistent with the sport at this level.

Lesson: Beware of killer headlines

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