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Are we facing a keel and rudder failure ‘time-bomb’?

Are we facing a keel and rudder failure ‘time-bomb’?

Standfirst: Such is the concern about keel and rudder failure among marine industry regulators that Kraken News will be keeping its readers informed.

In this month’s issue we report on the latest near fatal keel loss.

Also the warnings made by the Government’s Marine Accident and Investigation Branch (MAIB) 

Bolt-on keels must be checked: official

We reported last year how the chief inspector of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said all owners of boats with bolt-on keels should have them surveyed regularly for flaws or damage.

This followed the MAIB’s probe into the capsize of Tyger, a Comet 45s, which lost her bolt-on keel while on passage from La Gomera to Tenerife in 2017.

The chief inspector of marine accidents said: ‘The keel is a critical safety item and all yacht owners should have them surveyed or inspected regularly.’

Five sailors were rescued from the British-registered charter yacht, including one female crew who was temporarily trapped under the inverted hull as it turned over in seconds.

The inspector added: ‘If (owners) have any doubts about the design or condition of the keel or its securing arrangements they should seek specialist advice without delay.’

Two further yachts suffered catastrophic hull damage at the end of 2019  because of their multi-lateral construction. The first was Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, which hit an unseen object leaving the keel hanging on by the threads of its hydraulic system. The second was a Beneteau Match First 40, which sank after its rudder was torn off after colliding with a navigation buoy.

Hugo Boss dropped out of the Transat Jacques Vabre race after renting her hull asunder on an object 380 miles off the Canary Islands. Meanwhile three crew from the Beneteau First 40, were taken off by the lifeboat, after she sank off Gurnard Point, Isle of Wight. She was a charter yacht on passage from Portsmouth to Cowes.

For many years yacht builders have been competing to make performance hulls because they have a lighter, cheaper lay-up. Could this mean we are facing more keel and rudder failures in the future?

Certainly respected marine expert, Matthew Sheahan, formerly a technical writer with Yachting World, said: ‘Keel problems aboard some of the best-known models in the world are more common than you might think’.

Matthew added: ‘Some look to the racing side of sailing and ask whether the move towards high performance keels is building a potential time-bomb of failures’.

Another cause of keel failure is grounding. ‘There are several recent cases of well-known and popular production boats being driven aground in rough weather and the repeated pounding or attempts at dragging them off have resulted in the keel being torn off the boat.’

Seven sailors lucky to survive keel loss

Seven sailors delivering a 40 ft sloop following the Sydney-Hobart Race are ‘lucky’ to be alive after their bolt-on keel snapped off and the boat capsized instantaneously on January 5.

The Ker 40, Showtime, inverted before the crew had time to deploy the liferaft, one crew member had to strip off his lifejacket and dive beneath the upturned hull to release it. Because of emergency services evacuating residents from bush fires torching the south-east coast of Australia, the shipwrecked crew were spotted 17 miles off the New South Wales coast by a helicopter.

Skipper Rob Buchanan woke hearing a metallic ‘ping’ just before he was thrown across the boat from his windward bunk as they capsized. He said: ‘The boat was trying to kill everybody as it was banging around and we were holding onto it.’ One crew member was knocked unconscious by the boat. 

Buchanan added: ‘I understand from the police that a helicopter spotted us. We were lucky as there were loads of emergency rescue people around because of the fires.’ Jason Ker of Ker Yacht Design said the keel was not one of his, but a retro-fit keel, designed elsewhere. 

‘Showtime’s keel was configured as a vertical hollow strut welded to a horizontal mounting plate, which in turn was sitting in a shallow recess in the boat’s hull and bolted to the boat’s structure. This is not a design approach we would ever endorse as the high stress point at the junction is coincident with the horizontal welded joint,’ Ker reportedly said.

That Keel Failure Summary IN FULL

World Sailing’s keel failure summary

Last updated 29 August 2018 

No less than NINETY boats are named and shamed on this list of disaster and yet it is not the full picture of keel loss. With the death of 28 sailors from yacht sinkings in the last three decades, it is feared many more incidents have happened around the world without them being reported. As Simon Forbes, offshore technical manager for World Sailing told me when he sent me the list: ‘I need to say that the attached is in no way comprehensive and is mainly just high profile racing incidents.’

But even though most of the keel failures listed here are of racing boats, the roll of dishonour also includes the names of many well-known cruising yachts including Jeanneau, Bavaria, Beneteau, Oyster, Sigma, Maxi and Trident.

The most tragic case on the list is that of Cheeki Rafiki, the Beneteau First 40.7 which, in May 2014, lost her bolt-on keel in the Atlantic Ocean before her four crew, Andrew Bridge, 22, Steve Warren, 52, fifty-six-year-old Paul Goslin and James Male, 23, could deploy the liferaft. All four were never seen again. Later a jury at Winchester Crown Court heard how: ‘A number of keel bolts had broken causing it to detach from the hull,’ and although the Beneteau’s operator, Douglas Innes, was aquitted of manslaughter he was found guilty of running an unsafe boat and fined £50,000.

The adjacent list is categorised by: boat name, year of incident, type of boat, year of launch, type of keel, reason for failure. In some cases full information was not available. It is worth noting that this list does not include rudder failures of which there are many more.

Ted Osborn, veteran technical expert for the Cruising Association, said: ‘I have long thought that hanging a huge lump of iron from a yacht hull, holding it on only with a few steel nuts and bolts and letting it swing around in a rough sea was just asking for trouble. Bring back long keels and inside ballast.’

Many people coming into sailing today do not realise the difference between an integral keel and an encapsulated keel. The former is actually part of the hull’s ‘skeleton’ its scantlings, whereas the latter is merely a bulb bolted onto a keel and then ‘iced over’ with GRP. Whilst a lot safer than a straight forward bolt-on keel ie with keel joined at the bottom of the hull, the encapsulated keel is nowhere near as fail-safe as an integral keel.

A Kraken Yacht, has an integral Zero Keel which can never come off because it’s never been ‘on’ in the first place: it’s part of the boat!

Combined with the fully skeg-protected Alpha Rudder system the Kraken Yacht hull is the only blue water cruising boat in production today, which will not invite investigation from the MAIB.

Dick Durham

1) Lightworks, 2018, keel broke off, Andrej Justin – Code 8, 2016, fixed fin, steel or weld failure.

2) Finistere, 2018, keel broke off, Laurie Davidson,1989, lifting carbon fibre and wood, under investigation.

3) Bernardini-Gonnagitcha II, 2018, keel broke off, Phillipe Briand IMOCA, 1989,  canting.

4) Tyger of London, 2017, keel broke off, Valicelli Comet 45, 2007, fixed, failure of screwed and welded joint of rods and plate.

5) Prodigy 2, 2017, keel broke off,  Piotr Adamowicz & Krzysztof Smaga Quale 60,  2017, fixed, possibly hull structure failure.

6) Capella, 2017, keel broke off, Frans Maas, 1995, fixed, threaded rods sheared off below top plate welds. Keel damaged from previous grounding.

7) Bastide Otio, 2016, keel bearing broke, Verdier/VPLP IMOCA, 2010, canting, whale collision. 

8) PRB, 2016, keel bearing broke, Verdier/VPLP IMOCA, 2010, canting, plastic bearing broke leading to metal/metal contact.

9)  Minnic, 2016, bulb broke off, Brenta B60, fixed fin, grounding.

10)  Bella Mente, 2016, keel resonance, Judel/Vrolik Maxi 72, fixed, keel replaced.

11) Polina Star, 2015, keel broke off, Humphries/Oyster Design Team Oyster 825, 2014, fixed, hull structure failure – “very dry laminate not wetted out” / “insufficient laminate.”

12)  Eco 40, 2015, keel loose, Balance Arquitectura Naval Este Eco 40, 2011, fixed.

13) Sensation Class 40, 2014, keel broke off, Sabrosa Rain Class 40 MkII, 2014, fixed, suspected structural failure.

14) Team Sabrosa SR40 MkII, 2014, keel broke off, Sabrosa Rain Class 40 MkII, 2014, fixed, suspected structural failure.

15) Cheeki Rafiki, 2014, keel broke off, Bruce Farr Beneteau 40.7, 2006, fixed. 

16) Solid Air, 2013, keel loose, Tim Kernan Columbia 32 C, 2012.

17) Acciona, 2013, keel broke off, Owen Clarke IMOCA, 2011, canting, probably fatigue.

18) Virbrac-Paprec 3, 2013, keel broke off, Verdier/VPLP IMOCA, 2010,canting.

19) Safran, 2012, keel broke off, Verdier/PLP IMOCA, 2007, canting, metal fatigue.

20) Nissan, 2012, keel broke off, Lombard Mini-Transat 417, 2003, canting.

21) Petra, 2012, keel broke off, Axel Mohnhaupt Bavaria 390 Lagoon, 1990, fixed, keel loosened fell off, boat capsized and sank.

22) Rio, 2012, bulb broke off, TP52, fixed, grounding caused threads to fail on bulb nuts.

23) Rambler, 2011, keel broke off, Juan K Maxi, 2008, canting, fatigue crack adjacent to weld.

24) Initiatives-Alex Olivier, 2011, keel broke off, Simon Rogers Class 40, 2007,fixed.

25) Wasabi, 2011, keel broke off, Sayer, 2006, fixed.

26) Surlej, 2011, keel broke off  Maxi 1100  fixed, pounding on sandbank.

27) Napadelis, 2011, keel broke off, Bernard Mivelt Mini Transat 569 – Mistral, 2004, fixed.

28) Marinariello, 2010, keel broke off, Farr Cookson,1993, fixed, keel changed.

29)  Warrior’s Wish, 2010, keel broke off, Jutson Mount Gay 30, fixed.

30) Polebream, 2010, keel broke off, Jacques Fauroux Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, fixed, hit rock. 

31) Touch of Gloss, 2009, keel broke off, Farr MRX, fixed, fractured – ‘chiller’ in casing created weakness.

32) Heat Wave, 2009, keel broke off, Johnstone J/80 45,1994, fixed. 

33) Safran, 2009, bulb broke off,Verdier/VPLP IMOCA, 2007, canting.

34) Veolia Environement, 2009, keel broke off, Lombard IMOCA, 2004, canting, carbon fibre keel head detached.

35) VM Materieux, 2009, bulb broke off, Lombard IMOCA, 2004, canting.

36) Temenos, 2009, loose keel, Owen Clarke IMOCA, 2006, canting, damaged keel box.

37)  Hayai, 2008, bulb broke off, Stephen Baker Open 40, canting. 

38) Time to Burn, 2008, keel broke off, Brett Bakewell-White,1994, fixed, single 6mm fillet weld inadequate.

39) Parole, 2008, keel broke off, Andrew Cape Mini Transat 276, 1999, canting.  

40) Cynthia Woods, 2008, keel broke off, Bruce Marek Cape Fear 38, fixed, keel-hull connection too thin.

41) Skilagalee, 2008, keel broke off, Johnstone J/80 21, fixed, keel and sump broke off – leaving eight x inch by four ft long hole in bottom.

42) PRB, 2008, keel damage,  Farr IMOCA,  canting, collision with shark.

43) Strewth, 2008, keel broke off, Jim Donovan TP52, 2004, fixed, keel bolt sheared off.

44) Grand Prix II, 2008, keel broke off, Edgardo Martinolli GP 26, fixed.

45) Maximus, 2007,  keel cracked, Greg Elliott Maxi, 2005, canting.  

46) GI GO 2,  2007, keel broke off, Vismara, fixed.   

47) Bounder, 2007, keel broke off,  Juan K IRC, 2007, fixed, suspected failure of internal structure.

48)  Hooligan V, 2007, keel broke off, Simonis Voogd Max Fun, 2002, fixed, poor standard of welding.  

49) Hugo Boss, 2006, loose keel, Lombard IMOCA, canting.

50) TMI Technologies, 2006, loose keel, Finot-conq Class 40 – Pogo, 2006, fixed. 

51) Movistar, 2006, loose keel, Farr Volvo 70, 2005, canting.

52) Shockazulu, 2006, keel broke off, Schock 40, canting, four cracks in welds.

53) Auto Atlantic Thunderchild, 2006, keel loose, Angelo Lavranos, fixed, port side of the keel root became disconnected from the structural aluminium.

54) Moquini, 2005, keel broke off, Simonis Fast 42, fixed, solid keel floors failed and keel separated from hull due to‘poor workmanship’.

55) Bavaria Match, 2005, keel broke off  J & J Bavaria Match 42, 2004, fixed, hull laminate failure.

56) Ecover  2005, keel broke off, Owen Clarke IMOCA, canting, metal fatigue.

57) Skandia (ex -Kingfisher), 2005, keel broke off, Owen Clark IMOCA, canting, metal fatigue.

58) Sill Veolia, 2005, keel problems, Lombard IMOCA, 2004, canting.

59) Skandia Wild Thing, 2004, keel broke off, Maxi, canting, keel broke free from mountings.

60) Cheminees Poujoulat, 2004, keel broke off, Pierre Roland IMOCA, 2000, canting.  

61) Ciment Saint Laurent Ocean, 2003, keel broke off, Hunter Marine IMOCA, 1989, fixed, collision with object.

62) Artech – Caen La Mer, keel loose,  J. Baptiste Pequet-DeJeanty Mini Transat, 2000, canting, collision with unknown object.

63) Everest Hoeerizontal, 2003,bulb broke off, Jim Antrim Open 50, 2003, canting.   

64) Jelik, 2002, keel broke off, Tom Wylie, 1998, fixed, keel failed at the top hull flange attachment.  Not the original Wylie design.

65) Excalibur, 2002, keel broke off, Lyons, lifting, home built with inadequate welds. Designer exonerated.

66) Up the Blue, 2002, keel broke off, Bakewell-White Mini Transat 403, 2002, canting.  

67) One Dream – One Mission, 2001, keel loose, Adrian Thompson Open 50, canting, keel ram failure.

68) Rising Farrster, 2001, keel broke off, Farr 38, 1993, fixed, primary cause of failure was inadequate hull shell thickness.

69) Oracle, 2000, keel broke off, IACC, fixed.  

70) Leclerc Saint Nicolas, keel broke off, Raison-Lucas Mini Transat 232, 1999, canting.

71) Crealine, 1999, keel broke off, Pierre Roland Mini Transat 264, 1999, canting, the fixation of the canting keel broke following a shock with an object.

72) Vulcangas, 1999, keel broke off, Romanelli Mini Transat 182,1997. 

73) Navifax, 1999, keel broke off, Finot-Conq Mini Transat 197, 1998.

74) Exide Challenger, 1997, keel broke off, Smith/Noble IMOCA,1993, fixed.

75) Votre Nom Autour Du Monde, 1997, keel broke off, Briand IMOCA, 1989, fixed, keel bolts broke.

76) France 2, 1995, keel broke off, IACC, fixed.

77) Ville De Cherbourg, 1994, keel broke off, Joubert-Nivelt IMOCA, 1992, fixed, deficiency of weld connecting part between keel and studs.

78) Sensor, 1993, keel broke off, Rob Humphreys Sigma 400, 1990, fixed, grounding.

79) Magic Machine, 1993, keel broke off, Trident 44.      

80) Coyote, 1992, bulb broke off, Rodger Martin IMOCA, 1992, fixed, failure of the carbon fibre materials used to secure the 8,400 pound bulb.

81) Miso Computer, 1992, keel broke off, Berret, 1989. 

82) Marine Marine, 1991, keel broke off, IOR, fixed, fatigue and shear stress in the fibreglass hull.

83) 36.17 ORI, 1991, keel broke off, Berret Mini-Transat,1991, fixed.

84) Espana 92, 1991, keel broke off, IACC,1991, fixed.

85) Martella, 1990, keel broke off, German Frers Maxi,1989, fixed, loose bolts. 

86) Pandemonium, 1989, keel broke off, Nelson/Marek,1985, fixed. 

87) Castaway Fiji, 1987, keel broke off, Laurie Davidson, fixed, collision with unidentified floating object.

88) Drum, 1985, keel broke off, Ron Holland Maxi, 1985, fixed, weld failure in the alloy stub.

89) Fiat Regatta, 1984, keel broke off, Tony Castro Jeanneau Sunfast, 1984, fixed, sank in six minutes.

90) Charley, 1983, keel broke off, Ron Holland, fixed, lead slipped off nine keel bolts.

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