Archive for July, 2007


Safety on High Performance Boats

July 25, 2007   

The below article is a shortened version of an article written by Stan Honey which I found to be very interesting

Anti quick-stop

This method cannot be used on any large high-performance boats running in heavy winds.When sailing downwind in 30 knots of wind with lots of sail, it is using its maximum stability to sail at a very fast speed. To attempt a “quick-stop” and immediately round up in that much wind with a spinnaker up would result in a knockdown. Getting the spinnaker down once the boat was knocked down would be very difficult because of the high apparent wind and the fact that the spinnaker would be blown through the rig. The fastest and most reliable way to slow down when running in heavy winds is to douse the kite the way the crew has trained to do it. Reduction of sail area is necessary to go upwind and complete dousing of all sails with the engine going may be faster. This also removes the danger of getting caught in irons with the main up. Litter the ocean with lights etc. so you can calculate drift etc. Start at the GPS MOB location and investigate each location of litter. Pursue a sensible search pattern incorporating that information with the location data supplied when the MOB button was pressed.


GPS MOB button on deck.

A MOB button at the helm location is the single tool that provides the most help in finding a guy in the water. This is because in windy running conditions there is no way to stop a boat quickly. The boat will have to return to the MOB from over a mile away after dousing the kite, it is an enormous advantage to provide the crew with a reliable position where the person was lost. On the Volvo boats (as on Pyewacket and Cheyenne), there is a button at each helm location that, when pressed, enters the boat’s current GPS position into the instrument system and then displays the range and bearing to that location on a deck display. Many GPS’s have a MOB button, but only a few (e.g. Leica and some Ray-Marine units) have the critically important ability to wire in an external button that can be installed at the helm locations.


Personal EPIRBS

The VOR boats were all required to carry personal EPIRBs for everyone on the crew and an ADF system to display the bearing to an EPIRB in the water. Each boat was required to test that system with a guy in the water. In the tests the system only worked at such a short range that few crew on our VOR boats bothered to actually carry their personal EPIRBs. The range of the EPIRBs (300 meters) would have been sufficient, however, for boats that were capable of performing a quick-stop.



Several of the crew on ABN AMRO ONE, on other VOR boats, and on Pyewacket have built theirown lightweight Spectra harnesses that have no metal parts. The guys who have these harnesses find that they are so comfortable that they wear them more often than the heavier integrated harnesses/PFD’s. Integrated harnesses, coupled with the second shackle on the person end of the tether, have made the gear so heavy and cumbersome that many crew delay wearing them until they feel it is necessary for safety. The guys who wear the light Spectra harnesses sometimes wear “fanny-pack” style PFD’s. Some folks criticize this approach stating that the fanny pack PFD’s will not save an unconscious person in the water. All VOR crew have gone through the VOR in-the-water training for PFD’s/survival-suits/liferafts. After that training many concluded that no PFD will keep them alive in the water if they are unconscious unless the sea is absolutely calm. As many have experienced, when you’re in the water in any reasonable wind and sea state, it is hard to keep water out of your nose and mouth. The spray hoods on PFD’s are a huge help, but you need to be conscious to deploy them. So some crew figure that they are better off with the light Spectra harness and a fanny pack PFD because they willwear it more often than they would an integrated harness/PFD. This approach is permitted by the ISAF Special Regs, but the trend of most boats to use the bulkier integrated PFD/harnesses might be counterproductive since the crew is likely to delay wearing this integrated harness.