US SAILING to Conduct Independent Study on 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Tragedy
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (August 2, 2011) – The Chicago Yacht Club has requested US SAILING, the National Governing Body of the sport, to conduct an independent study on the capsizing of a competing sailboat on Lake Michigan during a storm at the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac that resulted in the deaths of two sailors on July 18.
US SAILING has appointed an Independent Review Panel for the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, who are responsible for researching the factors involved in the accident, determining what lessons can be learned and making recommendations for future consideration.
On Tuesday, August 2, the Independent Review Panel created and distributed an online questionnaire asking participating skippers to report their experiences from the race. The Independent Review Panel will present its report during US SAILING’s Annual Meeting at the Loews Annapolis Hotel in Annapolis, Md. on October 27-29, 2011.
"It is essential that we understand what happened during this tragic event,” said US SAILING President Gary Jobson. “Once we have an accurate account, we can improve safety standards for all sailors. I would like to thank the Panel for volunteering for this important project."
For relevant inquiries regarding this independent study or pertinent information and helpful commentary on the incident or race, please contact US SAILING at email@example.com.
The members of the Independent Review Panel are Chuck Hawley (Chairman / Santa Cruz, Calif.), Sheila McCurdy (Middletown, R.I.), Ralph Naranjo (Annapolis, Md.) and John Rousmaniere (New York, N.Y.). The four panelists are experienced offshore sailors. Each have been longtime members of US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee and served as moderators for US SAILING certified Safety-at-Sea Seminars. The Chicago Yacht Club appointed one if its members, Leif Sigmond, Jr., to serve as the club’s liaison to the panel.
Independent Review Panelist Profiles
Chuck Hawley - Hawley has sailed approximately 40,000 miles on vessels ranging from ultralight “sleds” to singlehanded sailboats to the maxi-catamaran PlayStation. His voyages include two singlehanded passages to Hawaii, three crewed Transpac races and a world record attempt on the west to east transatlantic record. As a member of US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee, Hawley has moderated many US SAILING Safety-at-Sea Seminars. He is also a powerboat instructor for US SAILING. Hawley has done extensive research into crew overboard recovery, life raft design, anchor design and storm tactics. He is a member of the American Boat and Yacht Council Technical Board of Directors and a former board member of the Transpacific Yacht Club. Hawley is a former Commodore of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club. Currently, he is the Vice President of Product Information at West Marine.
Sheila McCurdy - McCurdy has logged over 90,000 offshore miles, including 15 Newport Bermuda Races, two Marion Bermuda Races and many other races on either side of the Atlantic. As skipper and navigator in the 1994 and 2008 Newport Bermuda Races, she and her crew finished second overall in divisions of over 120 boats in her family boat, Selkie, a 38-foot cutter designed by her late father, Jim McCurdy. She runs US SAILING’s National Faculty for Training and is a moderator for Safety-at-Sea Seminars. McCurdy holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master’s license and a Masters degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. She serves as Commodore of the Cruising Club of America for 2010-11. For the past 15 years McCurdy has been an advisor to the U.S. Naval Academy sailing program, as a member of the Fales Committee. She serves on US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee and the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee.
Ralph Naranjo - Ralph Naranjo’s sailing experience includes a family voyage around the world aboard his sloop Wind Shadow. For 15 years he served as a judge for Cruising World magazine's “Boat of the Year” Contest. He has managed a full service boatyard and provides consultation on boat projects. For 10 years he served as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, overseeing the sail training program and acting as the Academy’s lead agent on the development of the new Navy 44 sail training sloops. He moderates US SAILING Safety-at-Sea Seminars and is a past Chairman of the Safety-at-Sea Committee. Naranjo has provided documented research on a wide range of marine topics. He is Technical Editor of Practical Sailor and Electronics Editor for Sail.
John Rousmaniere – Rousmaniere’s 40,000-plus miles of offshore sailing includes a Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, a Bayview to Mackinac and multiple Newport Bermuda Races (twice in the second place boat) and Fastnet Races. In small boats he was on a Soling pre-Olympic team and helped win a Thistle National Championship. He has moderated or spoken at more than 100 seamanship safety seminars and he wrote the final report of the most recent crew overboard rescue trials. He has authored books including, Fastnet, Force 10 and After the Storm, A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship. Rousmaniere is a member of the New York Yacht Club, the Cruising Club of America, the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, and US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee, where he coordinates the Hanson Rescue Medal program.
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (November 10, 2011) – US Sailing has awarded an Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to the crew of Sociable for their rescue of six sailors from WingNuts, a capsized yacht on Lake Michigan during a storm in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac on the night of July 17-18, 2011. This Hanson Medal was awarded on Saturday, November 5 to Sociable’s skipper, Robert Arzbaecher (Brookfield Wis.), and his crew at the race’s awards dinner at the Chicago Yacht Club. The presentation was made by Janet Baxter, former President of US Sailing. Sociable’s crew included Brian Nagle, Matt Younkle, Greg Adams, David Patrick, Pete Duecker, Adam Flanders, Chris Miotke and Max Riesing.
Sociable received three nominations for the Hanson Rescue Medal, including the surviving crew of WingNuts, Commodore Joseph S. Haas of the Chicago Yacht Club, and from a Florida sailor who was part of Sociable’s crew during the rescue.
Late on the night of July 17, Sociable, a Beneteau 40.7 out of Milwaukee Yacht Club, was sailing in a large group of Chicago-Mackinac Race boats off Charlevoix, Mich. when they were buffeted by severe squalls with wind speeds over 40 knots, steep seas, blinding rain and frequent sheet lightning. At approximately 11:15 p.m. CDT, navigator Brian Adams heard the faint sound of a whistle. Alerted that something might be wrong, the crew soon spotted lights about half a mile away. Dropping out of the race, Arzbaecher sailed toward the lights and found a competitor, the Kiwi 35 sloop WingNuts, capsized and upside down. Five sailors were on her upturned bottom holding on to the keel and waving lights, and a sixth person was in the water, hanging on to the rudder, most were wearing inflatable life jackets.
Arzbaecher would marvel at how effective this basic, mandatory equipment was at saving the sailors’ lives. “A life jacket, a whistle and a light. My God, how simple it can be? But that’s what it was,” Arzbaecher said. “This experience really re-energized our focus on safety. You can never stop learning about safety and never stop thinking about what could go wrong in these situations.”
The Sociable crew deployed the boat’s Lifesling rescue device and dragged it around WingNuts. A race requirement for all entries, the Lifesling allowed the rescuers to get a buoyant connection to the distressed sailors without entangling Sociable in the web of lines and gear floating around the capsized hull. The six sailors were pulled to safety one or two at a time to the Sociable’s transom, where they were helped on board.
“The Lifesling worked very well and the boat’s scoop transom worked similar to a swim platform on the back,” recalled one victim, Stanton Dent. Sociable’s crew worked as a team under skipper Bob Arzbaecher’s supervision to get the WingNuts crew safely out of the water without endangering Sociable in extremely challenging conditions.
Two of WingNuts’ crew were submerged under the boat and had died from severe head trauma suffered during the accident. Their bodies were removed by divers after dawn on Monday.
All the WingNuts' people were chilled after almost an hour of exposure to 70-degree water and were given blankets and dry clothes. One was hypothermic and was treated by crewmembers Amy Marshall and Cathy Patrick.
While the rescues were being made, navigator Adams was below making VHF-FM radio contact with other boats and the Coast Guard, which had also been alerted by signals from two SPOT Messaging Devices that had been triggered by WingNuts crew members. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter and a 41-foot boat to the scene, and later sent an icebreaker, a small boat, and two other helicopters. At least 23 racing boats stopped racing and stood by WingNuts. A U.S. Coast Guard official familiar with the rescue has said of the Sociable crew, “They’re one of the heroes.”
Read the official report and watch the presentation <http://about.ussailing.org/US_SAILIN...SS_Reports.htm> on the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac conducted by US Sailing.
The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is awarded by US Sailing’s Safety-at-Sea Committee to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils at sea within the territorial waters of the U.S., or as part of a sailboat race or voyage that originated or stopped in the U.S.
Since it was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, an ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay, the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal has been presented to more than 165 boat s. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal. For more information, including nomination forms, please visit the Hanson Rescue Medal site <http://offshore.ussailing.org/SAS/Ha...scue_Award.htm> .
For the most authoritative daylong seminar on safe seamanship, heavy weather tactics, weather forecasting, communications and boat preparation, register for an upcoming US SAILING Safety-at-Sea Seminar. Please visit the US Sailing Safety-at-Sea Seminar site <http://offshore.ussailing.org/SAS/Seminars.htm> for details on these certification opportunities.