Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tether or Apart

There's always a lesson in an overboard recovery. Cliff Shaw looks back at pulling two live bodies out of the water in the recent Doublehanded Farallones Race and says, "You see people in the water and you think, This is not a drill; I have to get this right."

The breeze was 25, up to 30 at times on the Unpacific Ocean, outside the Golden Gate. Shaw figures the seas at, "Six to eight feet, with an occasional twelve. I did the wrong thing on my first approach. I tried to luff up to them and misjudged and fell short."

The Golden Gate entrance looked like this, as seen through the long lens of Erik Simonson . . .

Hmm. Maybe I'm not sorry I missed the 2008 Doublehanded Farallones, but get this. Shaw wasn't even racing his Crowther 36 cat. He was shadowing the fleet for the fun of it—he's a member of sponsor Bay Area Multihull Association—and doubledog get this: he also shadowed the whole 2006 Pacific Cup, San Francisco to Hawaii. "I signed up to race," he says, "then I discovered that my insurance wouldn't cover the rig if I was racing, so I 'withdrew' and went anyway."

I like this guy.

Shaw's Rainbow was about 75 yards behind the Olson 40, Pterodactyl ("We were aimed right at their transom; I was actually trying to pass them") when Luc de Faymoreau and Disun Den Daas were ejected from the Olson. As Luc put it, "We were SNAPPED off the boat in a violent motion, what I call a pitchpole/broach."

(see last Monday's post, Suddenly Swimming)

When Pterodactyl spun out and turned erratically upwind, Shaw grabbed the binoculars. "I saw right away there was no one on the boat, so I made a sweep and there they were. Bright orange and yellow inflatables standing out very bright against cobalt blue."

In making that first, missed pass, Shaw saw quickly that the two men in the water were unable to swim: "Then I remembered what they told us in the Pacific Cup safety seminar, that people in a PFD can't swim. After that everything came straight out of the textbook. The lesson: Don't try to do any precise maneuvering. Just get that Lifesling out there. It's a great product."

Rainbow has a swim platform mounted low, and with two people standing aft - Shaw and crewmate Gregory Yankelovich - it stayed submerged, not threatening the men in the water and greatly aiding the recovery. The water outside the Golden Gate is cold year-round and definitely cold in the springtime. De Faymoreau and Den Daas were able to climb and help themselves aboard, with assistance, Shaw recalls, "But Luc came aboard saying that he couldn't grip, couldn't grip. That happens fast. I gave up two or three minutes by missing them the first time. If I'd missed a second time, and they'd gone colder, we might have had to winch them out instead of haul them over the transom."

Other lessons? "Seeing two other boats stop and stand by really helped my morale. Knowing they were there helped me calm down and focus.



Cliff Shaw tells me that he always uses a tether offshore.

In the Comments section of our Suddenly Swimming post, we find the following:

Luc said...
although the obvious lesson from this incident is to wear tethers, it is not clear that we would have survived any better had we been tethered. The reason I say this is because I do suspect this was a sneaker wave. We were not dropped off the boat, nor slid off the deck. we were on a large wave of unusual steepness, I remember saying to my buddy Disun, "hey, look at this one". He, eating an apple did not have time for any response because we were SNAPPED off the boat in a violent motion, (what I call a pitchpole/broach)which may have resulted in broken bones, back, or some other related injury, had we been wearing tethers. Disun commented that we had become complacent, the hard part of the race was over, and we were enjoying what an O-40 does best, surfing and playing in the waves on the way home.

earlier, changing sails, and later reefing the main, we also did not have tethers, but we were focused on the task, planned our moves, and succeeded. The boat had a reefed main and a #3 jib. the wind was 25 to 30 knots true, and the waves were large, but not particularly scary huge.

any of you that race and have tried wearing a harness know that getting tangled in lines and hooked on winches and other hardware is so unworkable that we usually don't wear them. Maybe that's foolish, I don't know. I did hear that a guy was dragged until he drowned wearing a harness in a previous Double Handed Farallones Race. As far as the swim was concerned, I think a wet suit and backpack with fins would have been more useful than a PFD. around here, cold is the biggest survival problem. A custom wetsuit would be the way to go, one that could float you face up, a pair of small fins, and one of those James Bond launching grappling hooks and we could have been back aboard.

Luc de Faymoreau

Mike said...
Luc can only write this because he was extremely lucky in being quickly rescued. Otherwise... seeing the boat sailing away from him, he might have wished for a tether. Better to die trying to reboard then tread water with 0 hope.

alan said...
I'd rather be on board with some broken bones than separated from an unattended boat 20 miles outside the Gate. I've done this trip several times in a variety of conditions both racing and cruising. I have jacklines for working forward and cockpit padeyes for the cockpit. Yeah, it can be challenging learning to work while tethered, but you do learn what works if you do it. I'm glad you guys were not alone out there and that you are safely back here able to tell your story.

ditto on the wetsuit/survival suit.

Ralph said...
Luc's conclusions seem to show bravery or a bit of a flippant attitude, but they are very fortunate to not have died - no?

John Siegel said...
Thank goodness Luc and his crew survived this potentially fatal situation. I don't, however, share his view toward harnesses and tethers.

In the 1999 DHF, my crew and I ended up in the water behind the island, courtesy of a sneaker wave.

My crew ended up on the mainsail. I vividly remember executing a perfect swan dive over the pushpit and entering the frothy water. It was then that the choral music and harps started playing.

As my tether jerked me back to the boat (and back to reality), I somehow managed an adrenalin-induced leap back into the cockpit.

Harnesses and tethers may not be perfect and sometimes might create bigger problems. But, I'll take my chances being attached to the boat!

ISAF Reconsiders

In response to the outcry over the decision to drop catamarans from 2012 Olympic competition, the international sailing authority has announced the following as part of its agenda for the mid-year meeting in Qingdao, China, May 8-12:

Council will also be given the opportunity to address the selection of events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. By the close of the submission deadline for the 2008 ISAF Mid-Year Meeting, submissions had been lodged by 15 ISAF Member National Authorities and two ISAF Class Associations regarding the events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. In accordance with ISAF Regulation 1.6(b), the Executive Committee has considered all these submissions and maintains its position from February 2008 that any submissions on the events for 2012 should be considered at the 2008 Annual Conference in November.

However, recognizing the level of concerns over the decision as per the submissions received, the Executive Committee feels it would be prudent for the ISAF Council to have the opportunity in May 2008 to affirm or otherwise its decision taken in November 2007 on the events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. Therefore, the Executive Committee has decided to put forward Urgent Submission M06-08, which invites Council to reaffirm or otherwise their decision on the events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition made in November 2007. The Executive Committee intent in making this submission is to bring to a close the current speculation challenging the Council decision.