Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s report investigating causes of dismastings

By | April 24, 2019

Sir Robin Know-Johnston’s Suhaili barrelling down the wave

On Monday 22nd April during the 2018 Golden Globe Race prize giving ceremony, Sir Robin Knox- Johnston, via a live link from Falmouth, delivered his long-awaited report on lessons learned from sailing small yachts in extreme conditions.

The independent report focused primarily on the causes of dismastings following the most recent edition of the Golden Globe yacht race where five vessels suffered the loss of their mast.

The dismastings all occurred in the Southern Ocean, which is the only expanse of ocean that goes all the way around the world with no land impeding its passage. This results in the creation of very large waves as the depressions that drive the winds and subsequent wave formation have nothing to arrest their development.

The main conclusions from the report are as follows:

  • The most common factor in these knockdowns seems to be that all the boats that were rolled and dismasted did not have any restraint such as warps or drogues deployed – the knockdown came as a result of coming beam onto breaking waves.
  • The boats that deployed drogues or warps appear to have been held quite comfortably stern to the waves – the drag of whatever restraint was used seems to have reduced the risk of boats running or being pushed down the front of the wave.
  • It may be better to keep some sail up in these extreme conditions so that there is always some pressure on the drogue hawser or warps to avoid them going slack and suffering snatch loading when the weight of the boat suddenly comes on them.
  • Research shows that knots, such as a bowline, reduce the strength of a hawser by as much as 70% and a splice reduces the strength by around 30%.
  • Ropes on their own are not as effective as ropes in a bight.
  • Drogues have proved unpopular, even though there is evidence that they are effective, as sailors have to haul them back in to recover them.

For the full report, including the experiences of the 2018 Golden Globe Race participants who were knocked down and dismasted, please CLICK HERE.