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Old 06-08-2008, 08:11 AM   #1
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June 7, 2008, 11:24PM

A&M students missing at sea after sailboat capsizes

Houston Chronicle Reports :-

The Coast Guard spent Saturday searching for six crew members — including four students from the Houston area — of a Texas A&M University at Galveston sailboat that capsized during a race from Galveston to Veracruz.

The 38-foot Cynthia Woods sailboat was found 11 miles south of Matagorda. There was no sign of the two staff members and four students.

Wreckage showed the sailboat was missing its keel, the part that provides the structural strength to the hull, officials said.

"Something fairly serious may have happened to the boat," said R. Bowen Loftin, vice president and CEO of Texas A&M University at Galveston.

University staff members on the voyage are Steven Conway and Roger Stone, both of Galveston; and students Travis Wright, Ross James Busby, Joseph Savana, and Steven Guy.

Conway, listed as the assistant coach, is the director of Computing and Information Services at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Wright, of League City, graduated May 10 with a degree in Maritime Administration and is the student captain of the 2007-2008 Offshore Sail Team.

Busby, the president of the Texas A&M Sailing Team in College Station, and Guy are from The Woodlands.

Savana is from Sugar Land, officials said.

"We are praying for the best outcome — that these Aggies be found safe and sound," Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano said. "We are very hopeful, of course."

The crew left Galveston on Friday at 2 p.m. hoping to better its 2006 fifth-place finish in the Regata de Amigos. Twenty-five boats participated in the 630 nautical mile race.

The Coast Guard received a phone call at 8:15 a.m. Saturday from the emergency contact for the sailboat, saying they'd lost communication with the vessel about midnight.

The sailboat also missed an 8 a.m. radio check.

"At approximately 5:15 p.m., the Coast Guard reported that there was an overturned vessel in the water near the location of the last report from the Cynthia Woods transponder," university spokeswoman Karen Bigley said.

Concerned parents, friends, and fellow sailors began posting on an Internet boat tracking site at 4:17 a.m. Saturday.

"Any word from Cynthia Woods? She seems to be suddenly parked and drifting slowly toward the coast," asked one man in the initial post.

Mothers, fathers and cousins anxiously shared information.

Several initially speculated that the iBoattrack positioning device had fallen overboard and the Cynthia Woods remained on course.

"The trackers will float, are water tight, and, if facing the sky, will continue to transmit (with skipped signals every now and then due to waves, etc). I am very much hoping that this is the case ... which is extremely likely. I just wish they would let someone know that the tracker is in fact floating around in the drink," posted one experienced sailor.

Friends and family members remained optimistic Saturday night, even amid news the sailboat had been found overturned.

"The boat was found overturned by the Coast Guard, but they did not see the life raft or life preservers near the boat. Which is a good sign since it means they are probably in use. A raft would drift farther than the boat, so they are doing a wide search pattern," offered the daughter of a crew member at 7:38 p.m.

Officials aren't sure whether the boat's six-person, top-of-the-line life raft was deployed. If it was, crew members should have enough provisions to survive seven to 10 days, said Capt. Jim Atchley, head coach of Texas A&M University at Galveston's offshore sail team.

If they just had life jackets, they should be able to make it three to four days, Atchley said.

University rules require crew members wear life jackets and safety harnesses that tether them to the vessel. There's an emergency disconnect that crew members can use to clear the vessel in an emergency, officials said.

"The crew that was up on deck wears a life jacket, a safety harness and a tether, which is snapped on to what's called a jack line," Atchley said. "It's a special line that runs to the stern of the boat all the way to the bow of the boat. Our crews are required to wear these things, particularly at night."

Sustained wind speeds were 20 to 25 knots early Friday morning and wave heights in the area where the Cynthia Woods was found were 3 to 5 feet, said National Weather Service spokeswoman Wendy Wong.

The water temperature in the area was approximately 83 degrees.

As it drew closer to 24 hours that the men had been missing, prayer and reflection seemed to temper optimism in online postings. Family members and friends of the missing crew gathered Saturday night at the Sea Aggie Center, many in tears.

"Hopefully, all will be found. I really feel bad about this. We all should have reacted sooner," wrote one man.

University officials, who were grim, but hopeful at a news conference Saturday, have been assured that "the Coast Guard is going to place every asset available to them in the search," Loftin said.

The Coast Guard sent a 41-foot vessel out searching Saturday. During the night, rescuers were hoping to spot the life raft, which includes a strobe light. They'll add a C-130 airplane to the search this morning.
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:30 PM   #2
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UPDATE :--

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter located five members of a six-person crew of a Texas A&M University sailboat on Sunday that went missing in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said.

art.saliors.khou.jpg

Members of the Texas A&M Offshore Sailing Team are shown in this photo from the team's Web site.

The five people were hoisted from the Gulf waters into the helicopter and immediately flown to shore for medical treatment, according to Petty Officer Renae Aiello. Their conditions were not immediately known, she said.

An active search is still going on for the sixth crew member, she said.

A sailboat matching the description of the crew's 38-foot boat was found overturned about 5:15 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

Communication with the boat was lost about midnight Friday, and the boat missed its 8 a.m. radio check, the Coast Guard reported.

According to the university, all the mariners were experienced sailors, and two of them were safety instructors.

The Coast Guard spokeswoman could not say where the rescue occurred, but the search was focused on an area about 10 miles south of Matagorda, Texas.

The sailboat, named Cynthia Woods, was part of the Veracruz Regatta race and was scheduled to sail from Galveston, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico. About two dozen boats entered this year's race.
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Old 06-09-2008, 04:14 AM   #3
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UPDATE.

Sadly, the 6th member of the crew did not survive :--

Houston Chronicle :--Report
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:11 AM   #4
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Texas A&M says the keel fell off its racing boat Cynthia Woods because of design and construction flaws

Investigators concluded that stress at the keel-to-hull connection was exacerbated by backing plates that were too narrow according to the Texas A&M report.

A Texas A&M University report concludes that the keel failure of its 38-foot racing sailboat Cynthia Woods, which led to the death of a safety officer, was due to design and construction flaws with the boat. "We concluded … the accident was the result of an inadequate design and construction of the vessel's hull and the keel-to-hull connection," stateås the 34-page report, released July 17. "The thickness of the hull's fiberglass laminate was one-third of the minimum thickness specified in the ABS [American Bureau of Shipping] Guide."

The findings of the university's 12-month probe differ from the conclusions of a Coast Guard report issued last December, which places the blame for the Cape Fear 38's June 2008 sinking on previous groundings and student repairs to the keel area. "Despite the vessel's numerous groundings, all evidence examined in this case indicated that no major repairs or examinations were performed on the Cynthia Woods by any qualified third parties," says the Coast Guard in its report.

Narrow backing plates

The boat, a 2005 model built by Cape Fear Yacht Works of Wilmington, N.C., sank during the Regatta de Amigos race from Galveston, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico, after its 5,000-pound keel fell off, causing the boat to flood and capsize within a minute. Safety officer Roger Stone, 53, perished after he managed to push two students out of the cabin to safety. The four students and another safety officer drifted in the Gulf of Mexico for 26 hours before being rescued.The university report, which relied heavily on findings of naval architect Brendan Dobroth of Dobroth Design Inc., states that the sailboat "failed five design requirements set forth in the American Bureau of Shipping Guide for Building and Classing Offshore Racing Yachts." The report states that the keel failed because the "hull's fiberglass laminate was too thin to support the weight of and forces upon the keel, thereby resulting in insufficient shear load capacity."

Reacting to the university report, Cape Fear issued its own statement: "We are disappointed to hear Texas A&M University refuses to accept any responsibility for the events related to the June 2008 capsizing of the Cynthia Woods."

Cynthia Woods heads out of Galveston Bay on her way to the fateful Regatta de Amigos in June 2008.

The Coast Guard stands by its findings, says Lionel Bryant, chief warrant officer of Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston. "Our experts are going to go through the report," says Bryant. "We fully expected that the university would undergo its own investigation. I'm sure our folks are willing to sit and talk and see why there are differing opinions." The university would like to meet with the Coast Guard and discuss the differences in the two reports, says Andrew Strong, the general counsel for the Texas A&M system of universities. "My goal is that after [meeting] we can jointly issue a statement reconciling the two reports," says Strong.

The Coast Guard hired Ancon Marine Consultants of St. James City, Fla., to conduct the Cynthia Woods investigation. The report also points out that the sailors had no access to either the EPIRB or the yacht's life raft because both were stowed below.

A third investigation is being conducted by Randall Sorrels and Muhammad Aziz of Houston, attorneys for Linda Stone, Roger Stone's widow. Linda Stone filed a wrongful death suit last July against Cape Fear Yacht Works and Bruce Marek, who designed the sailboat. Also named as a defendant was Payco Marine, a Galveston company that had done repair work on the boat. The university was not named.

Stone honored

On July 27, the Coast Guard posthumously awarded Roger Stone the Gold Lifesaving Medal, an honor given to members of the U.S. military or U.S. civilians who "endanger their own lives while saving or attempting to save another from drowning, a shipwreck or other perils of the water."

After shoving the two students out of the sailboat's companionway, Stone became trapped in the cabin and never escaped. An autopsy revealed he drowned.

"We have known all along Roger was a hero, and this prestigious recognition further validates his bravery and sacrifice," his widow, Linda Stone, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.

http://www.oceannavigator.com/ME2/dirmod.a...DF44DCCFD73E2D6

Issue Date: March/April 2009,

Improper repairs caused Cynthia Woods keel failure

With the keel bolts of Cynthia Woods seemingly intact, Coast Guard investigators have concluded that keel failure was due to improper repairs following repeated groundings rather than manufacturing defects. The U.S. Coast Guard's investigation into the sinking of the Texas A&M University racing sailboat, Cynthia Woods, has come to a close. The Coast Guard's Marine Safety Unit-Galveston, concluded that the cause of the boat's sinking was due to improper repairs to the keel rather than any manufacturing defect on the part of the boat's builder, Cape Fear Yacht Works, and that the design and building of the boat met or exceeded industry standards. The investigation said that the boat's hull had been damaged by at least five corroborated groundings plus repeated groundings at the marina. One incident in 2007 was so severe that it required the keel to be removed and refitted.

According to Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim Elliott, following the last grounding Galveston Yacht Service reattached the keel, but was not asked to perform any further repairs. The Coast Guard concluded that the repairs were insufficient, but did not blame Galveston Yacht Service or any other party for the loss of the 38-foot vessel. Texas A&M's small boat manager, Jim Atchley, performed the additional work with assistance from students and without contacting a marine surveyor or the manufacturer for advice. Elliott said that the Atchley's work "…appeared that it was more of a cosmetic repair — a surface repair." No structural repairs were made.

In July 2008, Roger Stone's widow filed a lawsuit agaist Cape Fear Yacht Works and the suit also names the boat's designer Bruce Marek and Galveston Yacht Service as defendents. Randy Sorrels, attorney for Stone's widow has challenged the integrity of the Coast Guard's conclusions.

Cynthia Woods sank on the night of June 6, 2008, while racing from Galveston, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico. Roger Stone, the boat's onboard safety officer was trapped in the cabin and drowned. The other five crewmembers were rescued after spending 26 hours in the water. The Coast Guard investigation also concluded that the boat's life raft and EPIRB were improperly stowed at the time of the accident, resulting in rescue delays. Then, he told reporters later, he detailed the protocol for Coast Guard rescues, giving the four Texas A&M students floating alongside him in the gulf a timeline for the help they were certain would come.

Those stories, a steadfast belief they would be rescued and the jokes the five sailors tossed around as they bobbed more than 20 miles offshore kept their spirits and hopes up during 26 hours at sea.

The chatter sustained the five when they floated away from their 38-foot sailboat, which capsized after losing its keel just before midnight June 6. It gave them strength as they held on to one another by locking arms and lashing belts.

It fed their hope that Roger Stone, 53, the boat's other safety officer, had somehow survived after pushing two of the students to safety.

No one panicked. No one gave up. Instead, they kept watch for search crews and kicked their feet, trying to steer toward an oil rig about five miles away.

"The key to survival is to stay together, don't panic, and a fierce will to live," Conway said. "All of the guys are here together because they did a great job."

The Cynthia Woods was competing in the Regata de Amigos, a race from Galveston to Veracruz, Mexico, that began around 2 p.m. that Friday.

But around 11:45 p.m., Stone began shouting that the boat was taking on water. Steve Guy, 20, sleeping below deck, grabbed for a life vest but missed when the boat began to roll over. The life jacket inflated in the rapidly inundated craft, making it impossible to put on, so Guy escaped without it.

Stone shoved Guy, then Travis Wright through the opening and into safety. They both popped up near Conway, who had been on watch duty and was already in the water wearing a vest.

In less than a minute, the Cynthia Woods had flipped over and begun to sink.

Conway, Guy, Wright and the two other students, Joe Savana and Ross James Busby, clustered together in the water. They tied themselves together with a belt, keeping Guy -- the one without a life vest -- in the middle.

At that point, they still hoped that Stone would somehow make it out.

Within 15 minutes, the five sailors had drifted far from the sailboat and into dark waters. As they floated, they dreamed of the first thing they would do back on shore.

Conway envisioned seeing his wife of 33 years, Mary, their four daughters and his unborn grandchild. Guy thought about his parents and brother.

Savana dreamed about eating at the Golden Corral restaurant. And Wright savored thoughts of a thick Whataburger -- a Texas fast-food staple.

The five men rotated the four life vests, always keeping the sailor without the vest firmly tied to the others. They kicked toward the oil rig.

"We knew we would get picked up," Guy said. "We knew we'd get somewhere."

Conway acknowledges that their optimism sagged when reef fish such as bass and snapper began to nibble slightly on their clothes and exposed skin.

By the second night, some of the students began to experience the first stages of hypothermia despite the 84-degree water. Others drifted in and out of sleep, at times unsure of what was dream and what was reality, Guy recalled.

The group kept trying to signal for help, once using whistles to try to catch the attention of a passing boat. Other times, they waved a pair of Wright's shorts.

Conway also periodically flashed a small safety light attached to his vest.

Finally, around 2 a.m. June 8, a helicopter crew from Air Station Houston spotted the tiny glimmer of light.

The five men were 23 miles south of Freeport -- about 60 miles southwest of Galveston -- after drifting about five miles northwest of their boat.

Only after Chief Petty Officer Albert Shannon, the rescue swimmer, dived in did the rescue crew learn only five people were in the group.

Divers pulled Stone's body from the sunken vessel that afternoon.

"He's my hero. He saved me," Guy said. "I wouldn't be here without him."

Coast Guard officials said the keel of the overturned vessel had been ripped off, indicating the sailboat might have hit something in the water. What tore it was under investigation, they said.

The boat was towed back to shore Wednesday. Officials had hoped its logbook could provide answers about maintenance and repairs, but it was not found.

After the rescue, Conway savored time with the family he thought of while fighting for survival.

"You can't face things like this and not appreciate what you have," said Conway, his wife at his side.

His first thought after being hoisted to safety aboard the helicopter? "Now I will see my grandchild."

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:43 AM   #5
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Thank you for posting the update.
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:35 PM   #6
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scary...
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Old 12-27-2009, 09:04 PM   #7
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unfortunately with these things...there is ALWAYS a lawsuit. If there hadn't been one against the builder, there would have been one against the university. Sad, sad, sad how someone always has to "pay" for these unfortunate and terrible events.
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Old 12-27-2009, 11:25 PM   #8
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I guess that the lawyers figure that the designer and builder have deeper pockets than the university. I've done a little searching, and downloaded a copy of the USCG report on the cause of the keel falling off. Sounds a lot like Mike Plant's problems; his keel fell off in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on his way to the 1993/94 Globe Challenge, he was never found. Plant's boat had suffered a hard grounding which was never checked to be sure no structural damage had occurred.

I don't trust the links to remain, so I've uploaded the USCG report, which is in two parts, almost 5 Mb each. It's titled "Ancon USCG Tiger Team Report Part 1" and "Ancon USCG Tiger Team Report Part 2." It finds the University responsible for unprofessional repairs and failure to survey the integrity of the hull and structure.

I feel badly for Mr. Stone's wife, but not for the lawyer suing everybody who might have enough money to pay out a jackpot. The first word out of an American lawyer's mouth seems to be "sue".

Whether the report is strong enough to defeat the suit is anybody's guess. My guess is on the jury finding for the wife just because they feel sorry for her, and her husband is a "hero". Somebody has to pay!
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File Type: pdf Ancon_USCG_Tiger_Team_Report_part_1.pdf (4.23 MB, 69 views)
File Type: pdf Ancon_USCG_Tiger_Team_Report_part_2.pdf (4.85 MB, 87 views)
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Old 12-28-2009, 02:35 AM   #9
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JeanneP--thanks for the report.

Regarding lawyers and lawsuits--don't blame it all on the lawyers. That's like blaming all prostitution on the prostitutes! If there wasn't a "market" of lawsuit plaintiffs and Johns out there... there wouldn't be lawyers or prostitutes. And, btw, I do think more highly of the latter.

Bottom line is that people are greedy. If someone is suing someone--it's not just the lawyer who's going for gold. It's the plaintiff too.
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Old 12-28-2009, 12:06 PM   #10
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I know that both often profit from these kinds of lawsuits, but too often it's a lawyer who contacts the plaintiff with promises of lots of money and no cost to them.

Litigation in the US is an expensive proposition, and those who file spurious or frivolous lawsuits go unpunished. In France, for example, the plaintiff can be forced to pay the legal fees of both sides if they lose their case. That might give lawyers pause here.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:20 PM   #11
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Personally I wouldn't call this kind of lawsuite frivilous... a man died and others were put at risk due to someones negligence... whether or not the lawsuite is pointed in the right direction is the question in my mind...

and while suing may be a mostly American practice it is to my mind only a form of seeking reparations... back to the code of hamarabi... if a house builder built a home that collapsed and killed someone he was put to death... now instead of being put to death he gets sued... in other ages it would have led to a blood price or a feud... people don't change, a lawsuite is just the modern interpretation of an old system... I balk against all forms of regulation and restrictuion but with the size of companies these days, and the global market place, it's not possible to have accountability at a local level anymore (where if you make a bad/dangerous product people will stop buying it and you'll go out of business)...

If I was the son of the man who died I would want satisfaction... if I owned a Cape Fear I'd want to know who was at fault here.. I read the reports... so once again I think the problem here is that the lawsuite may be pointed in the wrong direction... Personally I would blame the skipper/owner/school if this was caused by ill made repairs.
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:21 PM   #12
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I've only been sailing since 2001 so maybe this is just the newbie in me asking. I had never heard of a keel falling off. This year I seem to be hearing about this frequently, including it happening to someone we know and were racing against this past summer in our little interior lake. Luckly, in that case everyone was safe and the insurance paid full expenses including replacment cost of the boat. This is the Canadian way. We pay high insurance premiums so that we can avoid going to court.

Now for my question...

How often does this really happen? What are the most important things to do to prevent your keel falling off?

We've had a few soft groundings. Hubby checks the keel bolts and area for damage when we haul out annually. Is this enough.
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:31 PM   #13
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In my opinion an encapsulated keel is the only 100% solution to keel loss...

If that's not an option, or simply not what you have, then I think you have the right idea.. watch your keel bolts for corrosion, and movement, if you are taking water through the keel bolts the keel needs to be rebedded at aminimum and the movement may have allowed for osmosis or unanticipated stresses, weekening the glass in that area. If the backing plates and all are manufacturer installed, stable, the bolts are good and non corroded, and you don't do any hard groundings you shouldn't have to worry about your keel falling off.

... as for the owners paying high premiums to avoid lawsuites... that seems a bit backwards to me... you pay more so that if the manufacturer or boat yard messes up they aren't held accountable, if something does go wrong that is not your fault at all.
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Old 12-28-2009, 07:38 PM   #14
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Thanks for the quick reply.

Not to get this off topic and on to insurance but...

The insurance piece was stated a bit tongue in cheek. Our insurance rates are high for everything (house, car x2, boat, life) and we have no choice.

Now I have to pack. I'll be in the BVIs on a Cat by Tuesday late afternoon!
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