The sad end of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki and the death of her four crew, in the cold Atlantic Ocean, touched a lot of hearts around the world. Nobody can fault the humanity and persistence of the US Coast Guard, which kept on looking for the yachtsmen, long after there really was any hope. There has been a commendable lack of people seeking to blame others for the tragedy, although there was some professional surprise that the containership which first found the upturned hull was released to continue her voyage.

Is there anything to be learned from this sad business?  Something perhaps about the vulnerability of the modern yacht and its racing keel, all built for speed but which can detach with disastrous consequences? Could there be a new look taken at the deployment of liferafts which could be made simpler and even automated, rather than having individuals in extremis having to wrench them out of their stowage lockers in the cockpit or cabin. Should emergency radio beacons be given a tweak, to increase the duration of their signals?

But it could also be argued that the fact that so many ships and aircraft could be deployed, albeit in vain, says something about the SAR technology that is available. Not many years ago a small craft would have just vanished in that huge expanse of ocean, and nobody would have known she was “missing” until she had failed to arrive. In that, surely, there has been substantial progress.

Author: Michael Grey                       Source: