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Inappropriate sail boat design leads to fatal accident

As is the case in many fatal accidents, investigators took months to pour over information surrounding a sail boating accident that claimed the lives of two people.

Long after the accident occurred in July during the Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which takes racers up Lake Huron from Chicago to Mackinaw City, Michigan, U.S. Sailing officials determined the accident was caused by flawed design in the vessel.

The sail boat at the center of the accident was a Kiwi 35 sport boat dubbed WingNuts. It had a crew of eight experienced sailors. The boat was too light weight, especially considering the amount of sail area that it featured.

Safety officials at U.S. Sailing said that a boat of that type should not have been involved in what proves to be a long and unpredictable race in the Bayview Mackinac Race.

WingNuts capsized during the race after running into stiff gusts of winds that accompanied a severe storm. Even though the crew shortened the sails in anticipation, they were hit with heavy sustained winds. When a big gust of wind hit the boat, it sent it on its side and eventually capsized it.

Thirty-seven other boats were hit with a similar wind and did not capsize, highlighting the flaw in WingNuts' design.

Both a 51-year-old man and 41-year-old woman drown as a result, sustaining head injuries during the capsizing, which hindered them from saving themselves. They were the first fatalities in race held on the lake.

Following the deaths, race officials said that they will examine what went wrong and implement additional safety measures to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.

Source: Detroit Free Press "Report concludes WingNuts boat was unfit for race in which 2 people died," Oct. 30, 2011

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