An investigation by Maritime New Zealand has concluded that window storm covers could have prevented the fatal sinking of the Bavaria 47 Ocean, Essence off North Island
Maritime New Zealand now requires all boats undertaking international voyages to fit storm covers on windows of more than 1853cm², and have updated the Regulations and the Yacht Inspectors’ Manual.
Although the four-strong experienced crew prepared for the storm, window storm covers were not fitted, despite being onboard.
Essence suffered multiple knockdowns in heavy seas before foundering in 60 knot winds off the east coast of Northland, North Island on 14 October 2019; the final knockdown resulted in the starboard windows breaking, and water flooding the saloon.
The liferaft was washed off the aft deck and the crew had to abandon ship into the sea before eventually being rescued by helicopter; skipper Stuart Pedersen died.
The Maritime New Zealand report into the sinking concludes that whilst there were a number of issues in relation to the sinking, ‘the key finding for the loss of Essence was the failure to have storm coverings secured in heavy seas.’
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It also highlights the high standard of the boat and equipment and that Pedersen ‘was a highly experienced blue water yachtsman who, in the face of testing conditions, adopted a commonly-used strategy of running before heavy seas. It is clear from the evidence of the survivors that he was instrumental in contributing to the survival of his crew throughout the ordeal.’
Essence sank in the south east quadrant of the low pressure system.
‘In the southern hemisphere, mariners should avoid the south east quadrant of intense low pressure systems as more severe conditions are usually generated in this sector,’ noted Maritime New Zealand, which highlighted that the shelving coastline of a lee shore will result in more dangerous seas in heavy weather.
‘If there is a possibility of encountering dangerous seas whilst closing on a lee shore, consideration should always be given to standing out to sea and heaving-to with adequate sea room to allow a low pressure system to pass before heading towards a shore,’ it added.
It also stated that liferafts should be securely fastened on deck or in the cockpit with ‘substantial through-bolted fittings’. The painter must also be secure.
Skippers are also now required to practice and demonstrate knowledge of how their boat performs with a drogue.
Read the full Maritime New Zealand report here