WHAT HAPPENED? Accident, Near-miss, and Collision stories.

(1/2) > >>

Ken Smith:

Sailing a scratch race (informal start) I rounded the leeward mark and then came up to speed on a port tack, then tacked to starboard.  20 seconds later, I looked right, up wind and turned hard to avoid a boat coming in from my right, the windward side!  We touched, but no damage.

What happened?

Racing on the wind, on a starboard tack, the "threat" is a port tack boat aslo on the wind.  You look through or under your sail to see the threat.  The next likely threat is someone ahead who gybed and is coming head-on.  Looking ahead and to leeward is sensible and safe.  Usually.

In this case, someone NOT RACING was "reaching" down the course on a starboard tack.  LESSON:  keep looking, especially when cruisers are about.  Every direction.

Now, in the rules, there is no reaching:  you are either "on the wind" or "off the wind." Read the definitions in the NIA rules, which can be found linked through the Archives at the opening page of DNAmerica.org.  in this case both boats were "on the wind" as the true wind was forward of abeam. 

As the two boats approached each other, what should have happened?  If two boats are on the same tack on the wind, then the windward boat should stay clear of the leeward boat.   But the windward boat "swore" I was on port tack.  The sight picture for him would be a boat closing on his lee side (similar sight picture when the closing boat is on a port tack).    He saw me on a port tack and expected me to avoid him.  I never saw him, and I was leeward boat and on on a starboard tack.  CONFUSION!

Fortunately both boats implemented the fundamental save-yourself rule:  OSTA (also known as UOTA) 

OS is "Oh, S**t," UO us "Uhh Oh"   TA is "turn away!"   At the last instant, both boats turned away and the collision was a glancing blow only.

Share your near miss or worse closet encounters!  And keep looking for oncoming boats, regardless of your right-of-way status.

John Davenport:
In the 3rd race of the 2009 GC, I started left in 46th.  I was able to get up to speed quickly and was pacing out with the left side.  One by one the left side boats tacked over.  The skipper who stared in 42nd was sailing at my speed and abreast.  I looked around again, and all the left side was gone.  I wanted to tack too, so I started to wave the other skipper Ė no response.  Knowing I didnít want to be on the port layline in a 50-boat fleet, I eased sheet, bore off for separation and tacked below.  When I hardened up, I was exactly where I didnít want to be, on the port layline.  So I footed to get some distance below the weather mark.  Where the other skipper was I wasnít sure, but he went farther left.  Approaching the starboard layline, I eased sheet and sat-up looking for a lane.  I had one, but as I was rounding up, my front-runner was skidding a bit.  To make things worse the Starboard boats had a bit of glare from the sun to deal with.  I made the turn, but not sharp enough.  The furthest most weather boat didnít see me turning and clipped my front-runner with his leeward runner Ė MY FAULT, (I was on port).  I made sure he was OK and made arrangements, (to his liking) for any and all damages.  There was almost no damage to his boat and my only real damage was a bent steering rod.

The other skipper coming from the left had a different resultÖ

1.   Donít get hung-out by another boat.  If you have to loose one boat to go the right direction, so be it.
2.   Donít go to the Port Layline in a fast 50-boat fleet, especially on the first lap.
3.   Donít assume the Starboard boat can see you.
4.   Make sure your boat is tuned for steerage on clean ice.

These are very fast little boats that offer no protection.  Our only hope is to avoid collisions at all cost.


John Davenport US4961

Bob Gray:
This past weekend in a scrub race, I was approaching the lay line on a port tack, looked behind me as best I could and tacked for the lay line.
Just as my boat was established on a starboard tack, I saw the boat that was behind me and slightly inboard but not in enough time to avoid a collision. His starboard runner hit my steering runner and spun me around. His boat was okay, I bent my steering rod, steering chock and cracked my nose block. No one was hurt.

   Lessons to learn:
      1. Look as hard as you can before you tack and prior to that keep  situation awareness with boats behind you.
      2. If you are on some ones butt, especially near the lay line,don't be distracted by checking the lay line and watch the boat ahead of you   
         like a hawk. If possible ,especially in scrub racing, sit slightly outboard of the other boat if you feel that if he should tack suddenly
         you might hit him.
      3. Make an arm signal before you tack or jib, again especially in scrub racing.
      4. Don't reinforce your steering rod. If mine hadn't bent as much as it did, I pretty sure much more impact would have been placed on
         the front of the boat and it might have broken off.

Mark Isabell - DN5014:
Ok here is one for you:

(I am not proud of this... but here you go)

I was sailing upwind on the weather hip of another DN on PORT tack pacing along nicely during a race a few years back.  I was to to windward of him by about a planks width, maybe two and a little behind him.  Little did I know that the STARBOARD tacker was coming at full speed. Because of my position the STARBOARD boat only saw ONE PORT take boat.  As the crossing unfolded, the first PORT tack boat cracked off just in time to take his stern. Even though I had been looking for approaching starboard boats because I was on PORT, I never saw him coming. Before I knew what was happening, the STARBOARD boat passed my bow by INCHES!  After the race we both talked about the situation and neither of us was aware of the other until right at the crossing. He said the first crossing was already to close for comfort and he was SHOCKED to see that he had another boat to deal with (ME)! We did not collide but I can tell you I remember seeing the whites of his golf ball size eyes as we passed.  I WAS IN THE WRONG.... NEVER AGAIN!


Never position yourself on the weather hip of a PORT take boat because:
  1. You wonít be able to see other approaching boats because of the blind spot created by the other boat.
  2. You wonít have time to react if the other boat dips to take a stern

Bob Rast DN1313:
Similar to other posts coming into windward mark is dicey. In I believe the North Americans  in Menomonee I was approaching windward mark on port looking for a slot in the freight train of Starboard tackers . I was looking for other crossing boats had the boat sheeted in and all of a sudden a starboard boat crossed about 20 ft in front of Me, Never saw him even though I was looking.Could have ruined both our days. The major problem I see is the visibility and not necessarily over aggressive sailing.  The Starboard and port Boats have the same limited Visibility.After talking to Other sailors like Mark I now ease the sheet and look under the boom  to get better view. 
I have thought about this issue and the one solution although it would be unpopular would be smaller fleets split if you have to, and send everyone off at the start on port to eliminate the port starboard crossing at or near the windward mark. Or ad  the dolly mark downwind .
I doubt that there are any sailors who prefer  the starboard tack starting position I really feel it is a disadvantage to   all .
My 2 cents
sail Fast Sail safe


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page