Keel and rudder fin failure happens but may be avoidable with some simple checks. The importance of this should not be under appreciated, says Australian Sailing.
Rudder fin failure will simply mean the retirement from a race. Inconvenience to crew and in the worst cases a call out to rescue services. Unfortunately keel failure is not so simple and often has catastrophic results resulting in fatalities at sea and or complete loss of the boat. Analysis of incident reports shows that some of the factors contributing to keel failure are inadequate maintenance, or damage after a grounding or other underwater impact.
In response to these incidents, Australian Sailing has recently amended the Special Regulations for Category 1, 2 and 3 racing by introducing a requirement for keel and rudder inspections to be conducted periodically. The requirement is consistent with what is happening internationally.
While now being regulated, checking keels and rudder fins is best practice that many boat owners already factor into annual maintenance plans. Last year, the team running the 70ft Maserati had its keel out being inspected by the engineer and naval architect in advance of the expected Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. John Hildebrand said that they want to know the boat inside out and be absolutely confident in its structural integrity.
Past WMYC Commodore Jim Fern shared an anecdote about the Farr half tonner Springloaded he previously owned. When once checking her keel six of the nine stainless steel keel bolts broke or disintegrated when tightened using a torque wrench. Fern discovered that the nuts had ‘work-hardened’ and became brittle. Fortunately, the discovery was made during routine maintenance and not offshore.
Australian Sailing issued a Safety Information Notice Surveys and Keel Inspections 2015-3 in response to the Cheeki Rafiki incident. Another, SIN 2020-03 Keel and Rudder Inspections is issued in conjunction with this Amendment and answers frequently asked questions about the new Special Regulation.
Both Safety Information Notices can be read at https://www.sailingresources.org.au/safety/safety-notices/.
The keel and rudder inspection form can be found here hhttps://www.sailingresources.org.au/safety/equipment-auditing/
The Special Regulations and Amendments can be read at https://www.sailingresources.org.au/safety/specialregs/