Crash Test Boat book cover
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In 2011 Yachting Monthly ran a unique project to test what happens to an ordinary yacht in extraordinary events. It was designed to enlighten and educate boat owners and yachtsmen though a series of real life disasters. The yacht model selected for the project was the Jeanneau Sun Fizz - the same model as Sérénité! I was fascinated as I watched the crew push the boat to it's limits, creatively respond to emergencies, and re-purpose bits and pieces to improvise everything from leak stoppage to the sailing rig when dismasted. The Sun Fizz is a tough and capable boat, but there is no substitute for preparation, cool headedness, knowledge, and good maintenance!


Sailing journalist Matt Sheahan when writing about the 1979 Fastnet Race for Yachting Monthly, described how he  survived the race but his father David, skipper of their Nicholson half-tonner Grimalkin, died with fellow crew member Gerry Winks. "Of the 303 yachts that started the ’79 Fastnet, 112 reported knockdowns, 77 of which were B2 knockdowns, ones in which the mast is substantially below horizontal, the yacht inverts or undergoes a full 360-degree roll. The inquiry into the disaster reported: ‘In several boats, cookers and batteries fell out of their mountings. Both items are potentially lethal missiles.’

On his Fastnet ’79 experience, sailing journalist Matt Sheahan added: ‘Dangers below are frequently ignored. One of the biggest problems aboard Grimalkin during the height of the storm was how objects broke loose. Each time the yacht suffered a knockdown, tins of food and other heavy objects were flying around the saloon. When Grimalkin was recovered, one of the lead acid batteries, which had been secured under the companionway steps, was found wedged in the yacht’s bow. This deadly missile had taken away part of the main bulkhead during one of our pitchpoles.’"  Read More at Yachting Monthly 

In this video: What really happens during a capsize? How can the saloon be made safer? Chris Beeson and the Crash Test Boat crew recreate a capsize with chilling results.



Dismasting and Improvised Sails

"The mast: elegant, upstanding, unwavering – the very definition of seamanship under sail since the Egyptians first pioneered wind-powered trading vessels over 5,000 years ago. Without a mast, we are merely motorboaters. If it’s free of structural defects, well maintained and you reef appropriately in strong winds, it will give years of sailing pleasure. But what happens if it does break? The best case scenario is an abrupt end to your day’s sailing. You clear all lines from over the side and motor home with a slightly shaken but otherwise uninjured crew, and an expensive story to tell. The worst outcome is that the mast injures the crew, then its wreckage punctures the hull and your boat sinks... " Read more at Yachting Monthly


If you’re ‘lucky’ enough to be dismasted within motoring range of a port, all you need to do is cut away the rig, buoying the wreckage and noting its position if the water is shallow enough to recover it, then clear lines from over the side and start the engine. However, if you’re outside motoring range, you’ll need to be a bit more self-sufficient. Read more at Yachting Monthly


Holes and Leaks




Fires and Explosions