Report finds sailor ‘contributed to his death’ through lack of safety equipment

Newport Bermuda Race

US Sailing has finished its investigation into the death of a yacht captain during the 52nd Annual Newport to Bermuda Race, on 19 June, 2022.

Colin Galder, owner and skipper of 42-foot sloop Morgan of Marietta, went overboard about halfway through the race, and drowned before his crew could get him back onto the boat.

The investigation by US Sailing concludes that “the key contributing cause” to Galder’s death was his failure to wear a personal flotation device, harness and tether.

“His crew acted admirably in returning and reconnecting him to the boat, but it appears that he drowned before they could get him back on the boat,” the report says.

“The conditions existing at the time of the incident clearly warranted use of a personal flotation device combined with a harness and tether, and to be clipped in while on deck. Indeed, Colin’s fellow watch members were equipped in this manner. Some were even ‘double tethered’ to keep themselves as close as possible to the boat.”

74-year-old Galder was an experienced offshore racing sailor, having competed the Newport to Bermuda Race 10 times previously. On the day of the accident, Galder was joined by seven other crew members, amid rough conditions and high seas.

Shortly after midday on 19 June, a wave struck the vessel and washed Galder overboard into the ocean, roughly 325 miles from Bermuda. The report concludes that the crew executed proper man overboard procedures and praises their dedication to recovering his body after he lost consciousness.

“We find that the crew of MOM acted properly with respect to the recovery of Colin’s body, given the difficult circumstances that existed. We commend them for the skill and bravery that they demonstrated,” US sailing says.

US Sailing makes a series of safety recommendations based on the findings. These include: sailors should wear PFDs, harnesses, and tethers when on deck in inclement weather and when conditions otherwise warrant. The report adds that all crew members should be trained to actively promote safety requirements and standards, ensure that all crew members comply with them, and be prepared to challenge each other with respect to safety issues.

“It is often said that wearing such equipment is a ‘personal decision,'” the report says. “We disagree. Any time a person goes overboard, the entire crew is at risk.”

The full report is now available online.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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