Slightly puzzled

billmacfarlane

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I've noticed over the past few months when opinions are sought for types of boat , one of the adjectives used to describe a boat is "safe". As far as I'm concerned all the diverse boats I've sailed over the years are "safe" in that I haven't sailed one that's put me in fear of my life. I haven't enjoyed sailing some of them , and some of them have definitely been hard work but none of them I would classify as "unsafe". So come on guys what do you mean when you say a boat is "safe" ?
 

Stemar

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For me, safe is a boat I’m comfortable with in any situation I might find myself in – apart from under the bows of a container ship! For that, I want predictable handling and the ability to look after me, not just long after I wish I’d never set out, but long after I’m wishing the damned thing would sink and put me out of my misery!

I would also add decent lifelines, good hand holds and a good non-slip finish anywhere I’m likely to put my feet. I don’t think I would consider a boat to be safe if the boom will try to take my head off in a gybe.

Am I being difficult? A wimp? I always say that a broad yellow streak does wonders for my life expectancy!
 

AndrewB

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Good question. Would an example help?

What about someone new to sailing considering taking his young family across the Irish Sea in a Leisure 17? (See "Starter Boat" posting).

Interesting - definitely, but safe - no!

There's no such thing as an unsafe boat. Safety is ALWAYS a combination of boat, crew and circumstances. And the crew is the most important factor.

(Sorry Davetiddy, I couldn't resist using your example. I'm sure you didn't really intend this).
 

billmacfarlane

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Re: Good question. Would an example help?

That was one of the examples that made me ask the question. There's been other ones as well where somebody will post a thread asking whether a particular design of boat is "safe". I really don't know what they mean. I agree that safety is complex measurement of factors resulting in a person thinking his/her boat is "safe".
 

Bergman

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I will repeat a point I made in an earlier thread.

There is no objective measure of seaworthiness, no scale upon which to position a boat.

In the absense of objective measurement what you get is a wide range of subjective opinion which without knowing the sourceis not really of any great value.
 

AndrewB

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Subjective opinions and safety.

Your view is difficult to accept.

If we say that in our opinion something is not safe; is that opinion valueless just because we have been unable to undertake a full risk assessment of the probability of catastrophy?

If I opine that crossing the Irish Sea in a 17 foot dayboat is risky (even though I've never done it myself), might that not be helpful to a beginner thinking about the type of boat that would be suitable for his purposes. Or do you think that opinion is of no value?

If the US Coastguard declares a voyage to be 'Manifestly Unsafe' and decides to rescue the crew against their wishes, (a decision that costs them the life of a Guard in the case of the yacht 'Satori'), are we to criticise that judgement on the grounds that no objective measurement of seaworthiness and safety had been made, it was a purely a subjective opinion by the Officer in Command?

Of course, if you ask, you get a wide variety of opinions. Some are better than others, but also different people will be prepared to accept different levels of risk. Another important life-skill is to decide, in the absence of experience yourself, whose judgement you can best trust.
 

pugwash

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Racing or cruising is safer?

I'm in the course of taking out a new life insurance and today I got a special supplementary questionnaire to complete on the subject of dangerous sports because earlier I admitted to the fact that I sailed. The focus was entirely on racing. Did I do long distance events? Did I do speed trials? How many crew did I have? Etc.

This raises an interesting point. Is a boatload of deck-gorillas sitting out a high-aspect racer in a Channel gale safer or less safe than a middle-aged codger (like me) plugging along the South Coast with a well-reefed main and his pipe in his mouth while his wife is making the tea?

For that matter is speed and pushing a boat inherently dangerous compared with cutting through the same water with fewer crew.
 

Bergman

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Re: Subjective opinions and safety.

Andrew

I think we are at cross purposes.

My point was in response to Bills original question about assessing the safety of a boat.

If we look at the complete package of boat crew location weather we have a very different (and much more complex) situation.

My point is that in response to the question "which of these 10 boats is the safest" there is no objective means of giving an answer.

Clearly the only response would be a series of questions about all the variables mentioned above (and lots of others).

Personally I would like to see some yardstick against which we could give an answer to the question even if it is a limited and incomplete answer.

I think the requirement to publish stability curves is a good start to this process, but as you well know GZ is not the full story by any means.

I once tried to find this information for a boat from the designer, a very well known one too.

The response I received was, "Well, its something of a black art, this isn't an exact science, its a very precarious profession."

I do not think this is good enough, and it is precisely this sort of thing that I would like to see change. This is where I become suspicious of subjectivity. Its fine if someone I know and respect says a boat is good, but where some unknown reviewer says its ok, probably, when I was in the Solent in F3.
It really does not help.

I don't know anything about this 17 footer across the Irish sea, I certainly wouldn't do it myself, but then what do I know?
 
G

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no need to be puzzled it\'s obvious

Who's in charge? I would rather cross the Irish sea in a coracle with a person I could trust but I would'nt sail to Bembridge with some of the plonkers I've seen tatting about in very expensive boats in the Solent.
 

Colinh

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Re: Racing or cruising is safer?

Cruising is safer than racing, because the winch grinding gorillas are all psyching each other up to make the boat go faster. They become progressively blind to the risks of what they are doing, even to the point of risking the destruction of a boat if they think that they have a chance of winning. If they don't break the boat, they will complain to the builder that it's kit is too heavy.

The cruising boat has no such death-wish on board, and the prudent skipper will divert to a safe haven at the first sign of trouble. He has no 'objective to focus on' other than to complete the cruise with the minimum of discomfort.

Colin H
 

AndrewB

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OK, so what about the RCD Classification?

There have been various ideas about measuring safety, but they generally have to focus on one specific aspect. As you say, stability curves are one example. Others might include the USYRC's 'Capsize Risk Factor' = beam/(disp/(.9*64))^.333 (Values less than 2 are good). And Tony Marchaj in "Seaworthiness the forgotten factor" describes many design measures, for example the 'Roll Acceleration', which he regards as key in determining how easily exhausted a crew will become in bad conditions.

Another approach is to provide long lists of all the design features and kit that contribute to safety, vide the RNLI's 'Sea Check' scheme. The trouble with such lists is that they offer little or no prioritisation, and give the impression of putting correctable (and often trivial) factors ahead of inherent (and often serious) ones.

The most significant example of an attempt to classify the safe operating conditions of any design, taking all these factors into consideration, must surely be the much-derided RCD Classification. The scorn which that receives, not the least from this board, illustrates the difficulty of deriving a single objective safety measure.
 

kdf

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It's not so much the boat being safe (or unsafe) as much as the skipper being safe (or unsafe). You can take any boat, place it in a situation which it's not designed for and end up in an usafe condition. I've seen boats that I would readily so to sea in all conditions being driven by people who didn't know what they were doing and they end up breaking the boat. I've also seen other boats that didn't appear to be very safe, driven by competant and skilled sailors and the boats perform really well. It's all about knowing the limits of both the machines and the humans.
 

bedouin

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Re: Racing is Safer than cruising..

There are many ways in which racing is safer than cruising. Typically you have a better equiped boat and a stronger, better drilled crew in a racing boat. Racing skippers are often also more aware of the capabilities and limitations of their boat.

'Safety' is all about the ability of a crew to handle a boat in adverse conditions. Lightly crewed cruising boats often have to take a passive approach to heavy-weather as they do not have the strength to maintain an active response. A 'safe' cruising boat is therefore one that will look after it's crew with minimum effort, and is forgiving of mistakes.

A fully crewed racing boat can take a more active strategy, so the definition of a safe boat is correspondingly different.
 

Colinh

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Re: Racing is Safer than cruising..

I am aware that when the egg hits the fan weather-wise, it is the boat that keeps on going that is the boat that increases it's survival probably. Heaven fore-fend that I will ever have to put my reading of 'Heavy Weather Sailing' into practice. Like the skippers of most cruising boats, I hope to be moored safely before the storm arrives.

Regardless of your opinion or mine, the fact remains that Insurance companies charge higher premiums for boats involved in racing. This reflects the greater risk of them having to pay out against a claim. Therefore, as claims follow an event where the index of safety reached a negative value, it is reasonable to say that cruising is safer than racing. It is also reasonable to say that crusing crews are, on average, more safety concious than racing crews.

Besides which, I have never been sworn at by the crew of a give-way vessel involved in cruising, because I did not move out of the way. The crews of racing boats seem to assume that a different set of rules apply to them, especialy those in second or third position. Such an attitude is hardly conducive to improving safety. And it does not need 'adverse conditions' for an accident to happen.

Colin H.
 

Bergman

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Re: OK, so what about the RCD Classification?

My problem with the RCD is that I have never read it in detail so it is difficult for me to comment on it's fitness.

I suspect a deal of the derision is because many people, including me, are automatically suspicious of anything coming out of the EU.

Setting aside the detail, I think there is probably at least the germ of a good thing there. Categorising boats into groups does at least give potential buyers a chance to know what their boat is capable of and what it may not be capable of.

This is fine if such groups or catagories are purely for the information of buyers, my impression of the RCD is that it's prime purpose is to be a trade barrier to non EU produced boats, but I may be overly cynical about that.

I think grouping boats in something like Inshore, Offshore, Ocean or perhaps like the code of practice for small commercial vessels based on distance from a safe haven.

The difficult bits I think are firstly stopping it becoming a regulation and, of course, deciding which category to put a boat in.

Which sounds like full circle.

All I really want is some objective, consistant and reliable information. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to do that for something as simple as a boat.
 

Adrian_Morgan

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Racing sailors are safer?

Racing crews are generally better and thus safer sailors, arguably by definition, than their average cruising counterparts. Though of course there are exceptions.

They race through and survive conditions that would keep the cruising man tucked away in a safe harbour. Many of the America's Cup crews and single handers are yachtmasters, and very good ones at that. In other words, the likes of Lawrie Smith, Craig Nutter, Neal and Lisa Macdonald, Grant Dalton and Ellen MacArthur are the ones to be with when the going gets tough. They routinely take calculated risks (surely the whole point of sailing for without an element of danger the game's not worth the candle) and never rely on engines, although their engines are generally in top condition. They also know the rules of the road by heart, which is more than can be said about most cruising people.

Over the years I have come to respect racing sailors for their self reliance and regard for safety. They are hardly ever involved in RNLI rescues, compared to cruising folk. They are generally fitter, sharper and because they monitor every speed producing factor sail their yachts significantly more efficiently. They are also better at reading the weather and plotting courses to take advantage of wind and tide.

I recall reading a description of a meeting in mid ocean recently between a cruising boat, under deep reefs, and a solo French sailor. The former was battened down, jogging along in conditions that bordered on extreme; the latter blast reaching under full sail at more than double the speed.

As the two converged the solo sailor was seen in the cockpit, he may have had a mug of coffee in one hand, and he was clearly confident, competent and in full control, and relishing every moment, alert to every nuance of weather and in total harmony with his boat. Ellen MacArthur spoke of this harmony.

The cruising sailor was sailing safely within his capability. But so was the solo sailor. Who was the safer? Who the more capable?
 

johnt

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Re: Racing is Safer than cruising..

if you want to use insurance premiums as evidence
dont forget that there are 1000's more cruising boats than racing and they carry lower premiums, ergo, there are fewer claims per 1000 boats, so CRUISING is intrinsically safer.
 

charles_reed

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Re: Racing sailors are safer?

Surely an oxymoron.

By definition racing sailors are trying harder and therefore getting closer to the limit than cruisers. After all the latter have the rest of their lives to get there!!

Perhaps the telling anecdote harks back to the Fastnet race - whilst all those Class III boats were having to be rescued, 5 cruisers were in exactly the same area with nary a Mayday or Pan-pan from any of them.

In the final analysis it comes down to the quality of the sailor whether he race or cruise - but I'd tend to the opposite view to Adrian - and I've done both.
 

Adrian_Morgan

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Re: Racing sailors are safer?

Point taken, but the Fastnet was pretty exceptional. Very few cruisers were out (sensible fellows) and the racing boats that got into trouble were crewed, by and large, by inexperienced people. The eligibility rules were toughened subsequently.

I remember watching Police Car, a fairly extreme Dubois One Tonner arrive in Plymouth after the race having ridden the tail end of the gale back from the rock under spinnaker. Also Ted Turner's Tenacious which set a record that year. Both revelled in the conditions.

So, you could say the majority of the Fastnet yachts that got into trouble were no more than glorified cruisers. The true professionals came through unscathed and those that did not could blame bad design, stability, rudder loss, etc.

The lesson of the Fastnet was that yacht design had taken a wrong turn and that only seasoned crews should be allowed to take part.

My contention remains: professional racers are generally far better sailors and far safer than the average cruising plonker. Far more cruising yachts get rescued by the RNLI than racers. Given the horrendous conditions the racing yachts often have to contend with, very few get into trouble. Of course when they do get into trouble the rescue is often spectacular (Bullimore, Drum, Dinelli, etc)

There is a kind of sniffiness against racing people from cruising counterparts (and vice versa). But who would I want in my boat if the sh*t hit the fan? A couple of AC or Whitbread sailors not some bloke from the Mudhaven YC with a yachtmaster's certificate.
 
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It might be a bit of a simplistic reply, but to my mind if the boat doesn't sink, or try to kill me when I'm sailing it, it must be safe.

I think back to an America's Cup when one of the Australian boats sunk in quite moderate conditions - definately not a safe boat. Conversely, boats that have come through adverse conditions (Fastnet, Sydney - Hobart) relatively unscaved, in my opinion are 'safe'.

Of course, then you have the argument about the ability of the skipper/crew etc, but a safe boat should be able to 'look after' crew and skipper.
 
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