Mailport: May 2012
US Sailing Reports
Practical Sailor has done a service to sailors by bringing the US Sailing reports to its readers’ attention and providing further analysis (PS, March 2012, April 2012, and May 2012 issues). While US Sailing’s investigation was certainly called for, it should come as no surprise to anyone that WingNuts was not fit for the Chicago-Mac race. Shortly after the tragedy last summer, I Googled “Kiwi 35” and learned then that these boats are as stable upside down as upright, that they displace all of 2,850 pounds, of which 1,100 is ballast, that these boats have been known to flip over at moorings, and that most of the righting moment for this boat comes from crew, which cannot be counted on to stay in place exactly when needed most. None of this information was unavailable to the people that raced WingNuts.
The factor not considered by US Sailing or Practical Sailor is the testosterone poisoning that infects some racing sailors, sufficient to blind them to the life-threatening nature of their boats and the conditions they race in. I have sailed Lake Michigan for 25 years in a wide, heavy cruising boat, and I pick the weather I leave port in very conservatively, yet, the lake has tried to kill me just the same.
My wife tells the story of visiting a new colleague in his office; upon seeing several boat pictures on the wall and a winch on his desk, she thought she would have a great bonding opportunity. “I see you sail,” she said, to which he replied, “I don’t sail, I race.”
Of the many unfortunate outcomes of the WingNuts accident, one is that, due to the extreme characteristics of the Kiwi 35, many other racers in boats of aggressive design and construction, and those who go out on the race course regardless of conditions, will believe there are no lessons for them.
Second Wind, Catalina 350
Winthrop Harbor, Ill.
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