Keel detachment and capsize of sailing yacht Cheeki Rafiki with loss of 4 lives

Location: Approximately 720 miles east-south-east of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Accident Investigation Report 8/2015

Investigation report into marine accident including what happened, safety lessons and recommendations made:

MAIB report on the investigation of the loss of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki and its four crew in the Atlantic Ocean on 16 May

Annexes to the MAIB report on the loss of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki and its four crew in the Atlantic Ocean

Photograph of Cheeki Rafiki’s upturned hull taken by crew of USS Oscar Austin on 23 May 2014 Photograph courtesy of United States Coast Guard

Summary

This reports the MAIB’s investigation of the loss of the UK registered yacht Cheeki Rafiki and its crew on 16 May 2014. Despite an extensive search that found the upturned hull of the yacht, the four crew remain missing. The hull was not recovered and is assumed to have sunk. In the absence of survivors and material evidence, 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 key safety issues identified were:

  • Where bonding is used to secure a matrix of stiffeners into a hull, it is possible for that bond to break down leading to weakening of the overall structure. Importantly, break down of the bond can be difficult to detect.
  • A ‘light’ grounding can still cause significant undetected damage to the matrix bonding.
  • Regular inspection of the hull and internal structure should help to provide early warning of possible keel detachment.
  • Ocean passage contingency planning and careful routing can significantly reduce the risks of weather-related damage occurring.
  • When flooding is detected, all possible sources of water ingress should be checked, including the area the keel is attached to the hull.
  • An ability to send an alert and to abandon to a liferaft is essential in the event of capsize and inversion.

A safety accident flyer highlighting a number of the safety issues was produced for this report.

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