Keel design scrutinised in UK Marine Accident report on Cheeki Rafiki

The Cheeki Rafiki, pictured during Antigua Sailing Week, before it ran into difficulties returning to the UK. PIC MailOnline

The Cheeki Rafiki, pictured during Antigua Sailing Week, before it ran into difficulties returning to the UK.
PIC MailOnline

Almost a year ago the Beneteau First 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki was found capsized 720nm off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Her four crew, delivering the cruiser/racer back to UK, were never found. The upturned hull of the boat sunk before it was able to be recovered.

The yacht’s liferaft was found strapped into its well in the aft end of the cockpit by divers from the US Coastguard.

The relevant UK Government agency, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has completed its investigation into the incident and released a 76 page report.

The report says its purpose is not to apportion blame, but rather to provide a factual record of the incident and make recommendations for the appropriate regulatory bodies.

In the absence of survivors and material evidence, the report says the causes of the accident remain a matter of some speculation. However, it is concluded that the yacht capsized and inverted following a detachment of its keel.

The focus of the investigation centred on the keel which had broken away from the upturned yacht. From photos it was apparent that the after keel bolt of the four was rusty, and could have been fractured.

Emails to and from the crew on the ingress of water into the yacht are featured in the report, along with messages from the yacht’s owner – some of which were not received.

The keel design and specifications were referred to Southampton University’s Wolfson Unit, who compared the specifications with current required design standards. They found the keel and specifications generally complied with the current standard, except that the keel washers were 3mm too narrow in diameter and thickness. They believed that with the after (rusty) keelbolt fractured, that the keel would not have stayed attached in the event of a 90 degree knockdown.

Cheeki Rafiki - keel missing. PIC US Navy

Cheeki Rafiki – keel missing.
PIC US Navy

The key safety issues identified were:

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