From FFI via our class President Chris Field.
This news I felt was worthwhile reporting where boats have sunk whilst sailing from their club. A summary of the incidents follows:
The boat was a Shepherd’s hull built in 1980. It was recently refurbished and contained airbags installed as removable buoyancy which had been checked for inflation two weeks prior to the incident.
During racing the boat was hit by a gust of around 25 knots which knocked the boat down and the cockpit was flooded. The boat righted itself and the crew started bailing, but shortly after was then knocked down again by another gust, and sank within 30 seconds due to catastrophic failure of the air bags. Inspection shows that they had torn, or the seams had split under water pressure.
The crew were wearing PFDs and were rescued without injury. The boat was damaged beyond repair during recovery operations and has been written off. Photos are attached.
The boat was a Shandebank Mk III hull built in 1990. This hull was constructed with 4 watertight compartments and is capable of remaining afloat after swamping, even in the absence of removable buoyancy.
During racing on a windy day, the boat capsized to windward in a lull caused by a passing ferry and the cockpit was partially flooded. Following this it was hit by a strong gust and then capsized to leeward, completely flooding the cockpit. The boat then began sinking rapidly. Attempts to tow the boat were unsuccessful and it sank in 10 metres of water, where it remains.
The crew were wearing PFDs and were rescued without injury.
Subsequent investigations indicate the boat was sailing without any hatch covers fixed on the watertight compartments, and did not contain any removable buoyancy.
These are serious incidents and are unacceptable to FFI.
It should be noted that airbags used as removable buoyancy have a limited safe life. Deterioration occurs through a variety of causes which can include surface wear, filling plug failure, seam failure, and puncturing. Regular safety checks should be made after no more than 5 years of service and faulty bags replaced.