Will any useful lessons be learned from the loss of ‘Cheeky Rafiki’? Only if the hull is recovered and inspected.

The loss ‘Cheeky Rafiki’s’ crew in mid-Atlantic is a sharp reminder that sailing small boats across wide oceans can still sometimes be risky.

Photos of the upturned hull from which the fin keel had clearly been torn http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/23/us-hull-missing-yacht-search-cheeki-rafiki have led many experts to wonder whether the boat was strongly enough built to withstand the stresses of a mid-Atlantic gale.

Radio reports from the crew about leaks suggest that the keel-bolts may have been working loose before the keel broke off.  Losing your keel in these circumstances would undoubtedly result in a terrifyingly rapid capsize and, with no chance to launch the liferaft, the crew would then have had very little hope of survival.

But before we rush to judgement we need facts.  If any useful lessons are to be learned from this disaster it is essential that experts be given the chance to examine the hull of ‘Cheeky Rafiki’.  And that will only be possible if the wreck is recovered and brought ashore for proper inspection.

I hope very much that this is in hand.  The easy option, of course, would be simply to sink the wreck, or worse still, abandon it.  That would be a great shame and terrible lost opportunity.

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4 thoughts on “Will any useful lessons be learned from the loss of ‘Cheeky Rafiki’? Only if the hull is recovered and inspected.

  1. Recovering the hull would be an extremely expensive proposition, and really what would it yield. Either she was under engineered for the conditions or she was pushed past her engineering limits, it doesn’t matter much.The picture the navy took of the sheared off keel is all the proof I need. Going to sea in small boats is a dangerous proposition, no amount of engineering can change that.

    1. Thanks. Yes it would be expensive – and it may now be impractical – but it would be really helpful to know whether the boat actually was under-engineered, since there are so many more just like her. People setting out across oceans should be able to take calculated risks not just hope that their vessel is strong enough. Some kind of certification scheme would really help but it’ll never happen unless cases like this one are properly investigated.

      1. Another option would be to examine a vessel of the same type in order to determine how strong the attachment of the keel is and what forces it can cope with. Maybe the manufacturers could help…

  2. With out a classing society, you can’t really say she was under engineered or over stressed. Does the manufacture make any claims as to her capabilities? Probably not, that would open them up to lawsuits from the failures of vessels pushed passed their limits or poorly maintained. However in my opinion, especially with recreational vessels, classing societies would most certainly not be the answer.
    The problem with any kind of certification scheme is that the class societies that do that classification are business. As such compete for customers, and that leads to the approval of falling standards in the interest of keeping manufacturers and sadly many vessel owners happy due to costs.
    A recreational boaters best defense against incidents like this is to due their own research on vessel design and constructions, maintain a vessel to a paranoid standard, and be willing to stay tied to the dock. You can only mitigate risk to a certain level and if you go to far the sport isn’t much fun.

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