Sunday, May 12, 2013

Random musings about safety and the Artemis tragedy

The Aegean and Low-Speed Chase losses and deaths were the result of tragic errors of prudent navigation and judgment, with no implications for yacht design and with little at all in common with this week's Artemis crash and Bart Simpson's death. This week's boat failure and violent capsize tragedy has perhaps more in common with last year's loss of Wingnuts and two of her crew in the Chicago Mackinac race or the entangled drowning death of Olivia Constants in the Severn River off Annapolis.

Some speculation can reasonably be made as to whether it might be possible to tame the AC's giant cats a bit to bring them back from the very edge of what the fittest and most skilled humans can possibly sail. Could the bows be altered or rudder and foil designs changed so that bows are less likely to dig into the water and trip the boat during a gybe or bear-away? Should the hulls be instrumented so that designers better understand the actual forces acting upon the boats? Should the rigs be reduced or re-designed so as to be able to shed some power?

Or, perhaps there might be better ways to protect and rescue the crew. For example, is it possible that an automatically activated personal locator device would have helped rescuers find Bart Simpson more quickly? Can the crew positions be "hardened" for when the crew aren't moving across the boat?

Perhaps none of these or other ideas would have saved Bart Simpson, but it would seem certain that the America's Cup authority and investigators will want to show that they have looked at all of the possibilities for making the event safer and avoiding an unnecessary race to destruction.


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