Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Yes of course, accidents are inevitable and racing involves always some sort of risk. But there were two cases of man overboard on this race, both on the same boat. It can be a coincidence but I remember the first sailor was wearing a black tee shirt that made difficult his localization, even on good sea conditions (according to statements of a crew member). Why is it not mandatory bright colors on the crew equipment?

Now another one in very demanding conditions and this time a man lost. As I said accidents are unavoidable and a man overboard can happen, what should not happen is not finding him. And it is unacceptable because there are ways that would have allowed to find him. That is absolutely unacceptable on a top race like the VOR where state of the art technology is everywhere.

Why is not mandatory a MOB AIS device on all sailors, on demanding conditions?  No, it is nothing new, neither expensive or big. It can fit in almost any pocket of the sea suit they are wearing in bad weather. Sure, they could have taken too much time to find him on a 9ยบ water...or maybe not but that is not the point. The point is that they should be able to find him and give him a chance.

Many will say that I should not be saying this at this moment over a dead man out of respect. I disagree, I believe that it is now, and on his memory, that this should be said, not to happen again. Risks are inherent to any racing activity but there is no excuse for avoidable risks and the risk of not finding a man overboard is an avoidable one....it is only necessary a piece of personal equipment that costs 250 €.

Edited with new information: It seems that all the crews have the new Spinlock life-jacket that includes a MOB AIS, the one that is picture above with the stroboscopic light. the question remains, they searched for 10 hours and could not find him. Why?!!! if he had a MOB AIS active and a very visible lifejacket with a yellow head cover?

Did the AIS MOB malfunctioned? Was the boat AIS receptor out of service? Was he wearing a life-jacket? Somebody said that his disappearance was only noticed two hours after and that may explain why they have not found him, since the MOB AIS range is 5nm, but that MOB AIS sets on not only the AIS alarm but the DSC VHF alarm. How is it possible that, with a big crew, nobody was with him on the deck on bad weather? How it was possible that nobody has heard the alarms?

Regarding the MOB AIS, it is not only necessary to have it aboard but having it all the times outside and if the lifejacket is not used extensively, it should be carried on any pocket on the vest one is using. The MOB AIS is small and much more comfortable then the life jacket.

Note that I am not advocating the non use of the lifejacket, quite the contrary, but fact is that the race rules don't make the use of the lifejacket mandatory in any circumstances and we can see many photos with difficult conditions where the sailors are not using a lifejacket.


  1. Most owner should make them available and crew should wear them. Perhaps now more will.

  2. I don't own any sailing gear that isn't brightly colored, and think it's imprudent not to consider such things when buying gear. Mandatory? Maybe. The MOB AIS devices, on the other hand...do you know they weren't used? I can't speak to the red one. but the yellow one in your post is currently part of my kit. It's set up to call the boat in case I go overboard. But... It triggers off the inflation of my PFD. It has to deploy cleanly, the VHF has to be on, the programming has to have taken (no real way to confirm that when you set it up)and the battery can't have gone dead. Lots that could have gone wrong, and even if it works, in the conditions described, the boat could sail by the MOB within the accuracy of the equipment and never make visual contact, even in daylight. Maybe especially in daylight, as visual aids like strobes are less helpful in daylight. I too am interested in hearing whether such gear was used or not, but I'll reserve judgement until then.

    1. There was cases were they worked. I don't know of any case where they did not work. From the MAIB investigation report on a MOB on the clipper race on worse conditions (40 to 60kt wind):

      "Accident to Sarah Young At 2324 on 1 April 2016 (UTC+12), Sarah Young, a crew member on board CV21, was washed overboard mid-Pacific while the yacht was on passage from Qingdao, China to Seattle, USA. At 0044 on 2 April, she was recovered unconscious back on board CV21, having been located by her personal AIS beacon…..

      An MOB recovery operation began immediately, but in atrocious wind and sea conditions the crew took about 32 minutes to drop the headsails to enable them to head towards Sarah’s AIS beacon.

      At 2356, with the headsails almost down and the mainsheet centred, the skipper was able to steer towards Sarah. The crew at the navigation station used the GPS waypoint ‘Goto’ function, updating the position as the target moved, to provide a course and distance to the AIS target on the navigation display at the wheel. When the skipper first started heading towards the AIS target it was 2 nautical miles (nm) away and appeared to be moving at 2kts.

      … Lights were spotted in the water and the skipper headed towards the one he thought was nearest. The light was attached to the horseshoe life ring, so the skipper headed towards another light, which was attached to Sarah’s lifejacket."

      Unfortunately the hood cover did not worked properly. When they found her she was still alive but the time they took and difficulties in recovering her contributed to her death. But when she was recovered she was still alive. Very bad luck, it was for very little that she did not survive.

  3. If it is known he had no MOB AIS device or even a PLB then I agree. I was of the same opinion when the guy went overboard all in black. It is tragic and I suppose crew also have to take action and responsibility themselves. I hope that does not sound harsh at such a time,as I truly feel for the family and crew on the boat. As a sailor who has faced offshore a fair bit I remember when I raced without life jackets as they were too bulky and only clipped on. No AIS or PLBs back then.

  4. I found out that the VOR are equipped with a Spinlook life vest that has an integrated MOB AIS system so this is not about having a MOB AIS system but regarding what went wrong.

    If he was using his life vest he had an integrated MOB AIS system provided with a strobe light. The system accuracy is of only a few meters and the signal appears on the plotter.

    The device has a range of about 5nm and a life battery of 24 hours. It is activated automatically when a user falls on the water and activates also the DSC alarm on the VHF.

    It is very hard to understand how they could not find the MOB in an extensive search that took many hours and was made in daylight with a signal that give a location with only a few meters error.

    And regarding the weather it is completely different to race that boat over 20kt on those conditions or to perform a search sailing slowly. That is a very seaworthy boat and the conditions were bad but nothing near survival conditions.

    So, yes, something wrong here, it can even be a AIS or the MOB AIS not working, but this situation is not normal and certainly deserve a thorough investigation.

    It is not normal not to be able to find a MOB provided with an AIS transmitter and stroboscopic light, a transmitter with a 5nm rage, on a search that took many hours.


    1. "A few meters" is wildly optimistic. A single component, like the WAAS capable GPS on the boat, could certainly place itself within that space. In favorable conditions. But the whole system? In that geographical area? Under those conditions? Not likely.

    2. That's an AIS signal. It has the same accuracy of any other AIS signal. Eventually with the waves the signal can be intermittent but not change location.

  5. someone said, So he was on deck by himself. So the crash gybe happened and no one looked out the hatch for 2 hours_

  6. Someone said that on internet. Not necessarily true even if it explained why they had no AIS signal. The timeline they posted with information about the accident contradicts that.

    They say that they saw the accident and if it was the boom main control line that hit him (or the boom) surely the man on the wheel saw that.