When Speed and Safety Collide
Published on February 7th, 2017
Introduced to the World Match Racing Tour in 2016, the M32 catamaran delivers high speed competition but also significant safety concerns. Due to the risks they present, every competitor needs to complete a licensing program to gain a minimum level of skill and knowledge of safety and boat handling.
For Cameron Seagreen, who recently competed in the Swan River Match Cup with Matt Chew’s Sydney based team, the program may have saved his life.
While practicing prior to the event, the boat capsized and trapped Seagreen underwater with his leg entangled in the rigging. “We were manoeuvring against Mans Holmberg, and we went into a gybe with everyone on the wrong side of the boat,” explained Seagreen. “The boat started to capsize, and I thought OK, the boat is going over but no problems.”
But on this occasion the boat continued to fully invert. Seagreen managed to get a few deep breaths of air in before the trampoline between the hulls came down on top of him, holding him under the water. Initially he thought he could swim out with the other crew members, but found he was tangled and couldn’t get out.
“The next thought I had was go for my knife which was in my lifejacket and cut the trampoline to get out,” Seagreen explained. “I started trying to cut the tramp, and nothing was really happening, so I was starting to stress.
“I remember seeing all the other guys starting to climb up onto the tramp, then Sean O’Rourke started cutting a hole for me. I felt for the hole and found it, but it wasn’t quite big enough for me to get through. At this stage I was fully panicking, then Matt Chew pulled me out by the helmet through another hole that he’d cut.”
Seagreen says he isn’t sure how long he was under the trampoline, but the adrenalin was definitely pumping.
In the safety training they had specifically been taught about doing a head count after a capsize and if there is someone missing, finding where they are as quickly as possible. Everyone on the boats carries a knife, and although the trampoline is made of Dynema, a good knife will get through it.
“You definitely have to have a good knife, that was highlighted for me, not being able to cut through it myself,” said Seagreen.
Wearing a lifejacket, a crash helmet and carrying a knife are all compulsory elements on the M32, but as Seagreen found out, the lifejacket prevented him from swimming down to untangle himself from the ropes around this legs. Once there was a hole, he could get his head through to get some air and then untangle himself and climb out fully.
Background: In 2013, Swedish company Aston Harald AB acquired the design and production rights to the one-design M32 catamarans. In July 2015, Aston Harald AB acquired the World Match Racing Tour, which then began the use of the M32 during the 2016 Tour. Launched in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour is the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by World Sailing. For further information: www.wmrt.com