Monday, March 28, 2005

The Excalibur tragedy revisited

Offshore voyagers will recognize this as a very specific nightmare - much like a frequent flyer reading about a plane going down...even though you know rationally the plane is not likely to crash that still doesn't stop wondering what it would feel like if it happened to you. On Monday, September 16, 2002, the racing yacht Excalibur capsized 40 nautical miles off Port Stephens, on the mid-North Coast of Australia. Excalibur was a 15-meter racing yacht with six crew aboard returning to Melbourne after taking part in the annual Hamilton Island Race. The wind was strong gusting up to 50 knots. Fifteen foot waves cresting, a three-quarter moon providing the only light. In other words it was a good blow, nothing a well found vessel with experienced crew should have trouble managing. Only two of the six survived the capsize (skipper, Brian McDermott and crew, John Rogers) and this past week both of them were called to testify in a court inquest concerning the death of their crewmates... evidence was given about how the boat's keel was cut while it was being built and welded it back again so badly that it was only a question of time before it snapped off. Read a recap of their ordeal here and here.

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