Lessons to be learned from recent gybing accidents

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), has issued a safety bulletin following two separate but similar incidents in which crew suffered life-threatening injuries when their charter yachts – both Jeanneau Sunfast 37s – gybed in strong winds.

The injuries happened when the crew were struck on the head by fine tuning blocks, which form part of the main sheet set-up on some race yachts, as the boom passed through the cockpit on the gybe.

The MAIB has made three important safety points to help prevent similar accidents in the future:

1) Skippers should ensure that when giving a brief before sailing, they take into account the crew’s experience on similar boats and their familiarity with the rig, fittings and associated hazards on the boat.

2) The main hazard associated with a gybe is generally perceived to be the movement of the boom. This accident demonstrates the need to ensure that crew are also made aware of the dangers of being struck by the sheets and associated gear as the boom passes overhead during the gybe.

3) Charter companies should ensure that the briefing given to crews on the handover should stress any specific hazards on the boat which members of the crew may not have previously encountered.