The hallmark of an overboard fall protection system is a system of jacklines running along the deck, with tethers attached so that the sailor can move throughout the boat with relative freedom. But this is not the real backbone of the system. A review of overboard accidents reveals that very few fall when transiting from cockpit to bow-they get washed overboard when they stop to perform a task. While moving, sailors are focused, holding on with two hands, and mindful of the approach of waves and the motion of the boat. But while taming a headsail or straightening up a tangle of line in the cockpit, the mind wanders, the hands are occupied, and risk increases. A wave strikes, we tangle our feet or step on a sail, and whoosh . . . were overboard.
Rules of thumb are rather useless when it comes to equipment that is stored in a locker and then used roughly. Weve broken lots of new and old equipment during testing and learned a lot about what to look for, but even so we are often surprised when good looking equipment fails and scratched up stuff works fine. Inspect closely and often, regardless of age.
On November 18, 2017, Simon Speirs, an experienced sailor, went overboard while at the bow assisting with a headsail change on a Clipper Round the World Boat CV30. It was blustery, with sustained winds of 20 knots, gusting to 40 knots. Shortly after he went overboard, his safety tether detached and he was separated from his boat. His body was recovered 34 minutes later. The cause of death has not been determined but drowning is the suspected cause. While such accidents are tragic, they offer a chance to re-evaluate equipment standards within a real-world context.
Like a car seatbelt, the snap hook on a sailors safety tether has only one essential job to do. It must support the dynamic loads of a human body should a sailor fall overboard or get thrown across the deck to the end of his tether (about six feet). But late last year, when British sailor Simon Speirs was swept overboard during the Clipper Ventures Round the World Race, the resulting load bent and opened the stainless-steel snap hook that connected him to the 70-foot racing yacht CV-30.
Safety at sea has become more than a noteworthy slogan. Many feel it defines the right game plan and gear choice to ensure a favorable outcome in challenging conditions. But at Practical Sailor, we also recognize its role in incident prevention, and we understand why ones boat handling ability, navigation competency, weather awareness, and sound decision-making are just as important as the gear in the grab bag-perhaps even more so.
Just as we were wrapping up the report in our December issue describing how to make your own safety tether, 60-year-old British sailor Simon Speirs went overboard and died during the Clipper Around the World Race in an accident linked to tether failure. The race, which charges non-professional sailors to race with pro skippers, was already under scrutiny after two deaths in the previous running.
I have read several articles about life-raft inspections, but no article has stated how long a raft should be inflated to check for leaks during inspection. Do you have any idea?
Material selection is just one of many details regarding jacklines that deserve careful thought. If you are re-installing your jacklines, be sure to read our 2007 report and review some of the following tips that emerged from this test.
Most offshore sailors are familiar with jacklines, those long lines-typically made of high-strength, low-stretch webbing-that run along the deck, offering a convenient way for sailors to clip in with their safety tethers and still move about. They provide peace of mind when going forward, and security in the event of a misstep. In previous articles, we reviewed the use of tethers and jacklines . In this report, we take a closer look at the ideal jackline material, with particular focus on elasticity and how the best material is not the same for big boats as it is for smaller boats.
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the world governing body for the sport of sailing, has established clear guidelines for ISAF-sanctioned events, and these are generally applied to offshore racing-ISAF-sanctioned, or not-around the world. Among the recommendations are the following: