Safe by Design

Safe by Design

Yachting, as long as done competently and responsibly, is quite a safe activity1 Good statistics are hard to come b. Kruse pg 50 estimates casualties to be in line of that of driving. The comparison is on the basis of the Clipper Ventures numbers.. Nevertheless, on most yachts, there is considerable room for improvement. Safety has been a design priority and safety facets have been optimized throughout the development.

Crew Competence

This is by far the most important facet of safety and every sailor is well advised to get as much training, education and practical experience as feasible.

A yacht can’t make a crew more or less competent. A well-designed yacht, however, makes it easier for a competent crew to give their best and doesn’t get in their way.

  • The old rule “if you think about reefing, do it” may not be acted on right away if reefing is a lengthy and cumbersome process. On Lynx, reefing and shaking out reefs can be done quickly, effortlessly and easily from the cockpit. Hence it is much more likely done as soon as it occurs to the skipper and not when it is too late. The same applies to trimming, setting a preventer, etc.
  • Maintaining a good lookout, while navigating and taking care of other urgent things is a challenge if there is good visibility only from the cockpit and the navigation station is hidden away somewhere in the dark. On Lynx, there is good visibility from everywhere – cockpit, pilot house incl. navigation station and below, which makes it much easier and much more likely to keep an eye at the surroundings at all times.

The Human Factor

Human error is the most frequent cause of accidents. While it is easy to second—guess the errant skipper and attribute the error to incompetence or carelessness, the reality is much more subtle. Even for a highly competent crew a sequence of seemingly correct decisions can result in a serious mistake. Understanding these patterns and learning avoid falling into them under pressure is prudent.

Decisions get worse and more erratic as tiredness, cold and seasickness set in. Lynx counteracts these by being see-kindly, easy to sail and maintain, warm, comfortable and by protecting the crew from the elements. A watch is much less tiring for the crew and the rest during the off-watch is much better. Crew stays warm in the first place, have a much easier time preventing getting sick and recover faster. A rested, healthy and warm crew is a safer crew.

Accident Types

Accident reports make for sobering reading, whether in their official, unabridged form, or in press articles or in books about the subject2 An excellent summary (in German) is Jan-Erik Kruse, Yachtunfälle. Gefahren erkennen. Risiken minimieren 2023 (978-3-667-12762-4). A few types of incidents result in almost all accidents, injuries and deaths. Eliminating these issues as far as possible increases safety by a large margin, especially if the human factors are dealt with effectively.

Incident falls …

Drowning due to going overboardwithout belt/harnessharness/belt failing or inappropriately wornbeing dragged through the water on a safety beltBy far the most frequent cause of death. Caused by wave: 40%trip/slip: 15%unknown: 15%crash jibe 12%alcohol: 7%   Being dragged results from a poor setup of jacklines, inappropriate harness & safety belt.   Successful retrieval from the water is more likely with a large, well-trained crew, good weather, a proper life-jacket and harness and personal locator beaconAvoid going overboard in the first place: good holdsjacklines at centermany strong-points conveniently placedshort safety beltsneed for exposure avoidedcockpit need not be left for routine operationswork on foredeck or at mast minimized when underway 
Hit by boomIn case of a crash jibe, the swinging boom can cause serious (and lethal) neck and head injuries.boom above head-height 
Hit by mainsheet[i]In case of a crash jibe, the mainsheet snaps to the other side, taking out everyone in its waysheet outside of cockpit and outside areas with traffic 
Boat sinks seacockshatcheswindowsother openingsbilge system insufficientEvery through-hull, hatch and porthole is a potential problem, therefore they should be avoided where feasiblethey should be hardened or otherwise securedtheir impact should be minimized   Care needs to be taken to deal with specialty risk heavy waves grabbing a hatch and tearing it offtoo many or insuffiently secured items on deck causing damage   Mitigation strategies need to be sufficient and effective.Avoided no seawater needed for engine cooling and exhaustminimum number of breaches below waterline Impact minimized no seacocks through hull; a welded-in sea-chest keeps cocks above the water-linesealed sensor-chest for log and forward scan Hardened hatches and portholesintegral to hullwelded and flush with surfaceglazinglaminated safety glassextra thick and strongpermanently fixed Mitigation zones & bulkheads7 separate zones separated by water-tight bulkheads; if a zone or two flood, the yacht still won’t sinksteering system in separate external zoneredundant & oversized bilge system 
Fire risk propanecable firegrease, dirthighly flammable interior materialsPropane in the wrong circumstances will create a potentially lethal explosion.Petrol (for outboard engine) is highly explosive.Cable fires are difficult to see until it is too late and very difficult to extinguish unless the right breaker is found immediately. Smoke may kill long before a bright fire is underway.Avoid and reduce risk as much as feasible need for propane eliminatedpetrol in protected and vented spacemeticulous electric installation – all cablessized properlyprotected by properly sized dual-pole breakersrouted through conduits to prevent chafe and heat build-upengine room easy to keep clean to avoid grease firesall interior materials fire retardant or fire inhibiting far beyond requirements 
 Engine fails at crucial momentsMost frequent reasons are damaged impellerplugged water intakedebris in cooling circuit Contaminated diesel due to debris and diesel bugno impeller, bilge cooling, dry exhaustmulti-stage diesel filtration to prevent contamination and diesel bugfully redundant propulsion system Also see equipment failure
 Lee shores, collisions, groundings  Usually, it’s not the sea that hurts but “hitting the hard bits around the edge”    proper navigation facilitated to avoid groundings or running into reefs or shipseasy lookout from pilot house and below, thanks to large windowslee shores easier to avoid in case of failed engines with a yacht that points wellextremely sturdy – ice strengthenedaluminium hull – bends rather than holesice-frames extended to potential impact zones (tree-trunks)
Keel falls offGenerally, only a problem for GRP boats with bolted on keelvery strong keel caseredundant means to secure keel 
Storm damage heavy weatherbreaking wavesThere is no substitute for stability; yachts that fulfil MGN 280 Category 0 standards have much fewer problems  very stable (high righting moment)MGN 280 Category 0 standardsexcellent protection from the elementshighly efficient rudders allow steering in heavy seas with minimum effortflush deck, nothing for waves to grabsea kindly hull formaccommodation low in hull; pilot house only three steps up and cockpit another threegood freeboard 
Anchor does not hold, dragsAnchor needs to hold when set in original direction and needs to reset quickly when the direction changes, e.g., due to performing anchor (Vulcan)oversized anchor (50% above recommendation)oversized windlassample reserve in rode strength and long rode (Titan G75 8mm anchor rode used in conjunction with Titan Shackles) 
Electronic failure – “electronics are brittle”  As long as they work, electronics are great. When they fail, there is a risk of a catastrophic knock-on effect. It is not a case of avoiding electronics – they are too useful to consider that – but for effective risk management.mechanical basis or backup for all essential systemsmechanically governed enginesredundant install of all essential electronics, including transducers and networks 
Essential equipment failureThere is no one-size-fits-all solution; several strategies needs to be combined avoiding failure in the first placeredundancyeasy repairhardened install – eliminate known failure pointsfault points avoided, e.g., impellers (“if it ain’t there, it can’t break”)critical set of spare parts; ability to self-servicedesign to make repairs underway convenient and feasibleextensive redundancydual engines and generatorsredundant pumps, electronics, heatingdual wind generators (Superwind)multiple LiFePo2 batteries; total: 10kWh dual inverters/chargerselectronicsdual self-steeringdual sets of sensors (wind, depth, speed)dual networks (NMEA and Ethernet)multiple MFDsdual radiosdual domestic water systemsdual water-makers pumps and controlshighly redundant bilge system 
Burns and scaldsOpen flames; and juggling a kettle in a heeled and rolling yacht and poring boiling water for tea, coffee or soup is not a safe open flamesboiling-water supply 
Falling and trippingslipping on lovely teak-and-holly floorfalls in wide open spacesinsufficient hand-holdshigh-grip floor surfacesno wide, open spaceshand-holds throughoutstiff boat with moderate heel