A few points from personal experience. I cannot comment on 16' skiffs, but the reason why we don't wear buoyancy on an 18 is because of the wings and netting, not the rig. I have been caught under the main and it isn't a problem. The issue is being able to dive down deep enough to get out if the boat turns turtle.
As for the air, the issue is what alternatives there are. After a death occurred in an 18 being sailed in Hawaii, I investigated "spare air" for the Sydney 18' League. The pioneers in this area are the extreme big wave surfers and the spare air bottle we see on the 72's are the same as I looked at. the issue is simple - they hold about 10 breaths of air, which can last for as little as 30 seconds if in a panic or 2-3 minutes if you can stay reasonably calm. The thing to realise is that they are still fairly bulky and if it was practical to go bigger, I am sure they would have been made, but simply, it is not practical. The other problem with any spare air system is that it relies on the person being conscious and also being able to get to the air - even with the things they are using, it is possible to get into a position where you can't get your hands to it.
I don't actually know why I am posting - I have tried not to over the last few months because of the few idiots on here who have driven away so many and this thread is just as bad, if not worse. Some of you are a very insensitive bunch of people with no respect. However, having nearly drowned while sailing, I think I have something to say about the safety issues, which is why I got involved with looking at safety with the 18's.
And to all of those who say Bart would have wanted it to go on, I say that is an empty sentiment which misses the point because I would bet anything that, considering how many of his close friends are sailing these boats, his number one thought would be that everything must be done to ensure nobody else dies in this manner.
Have to agree about the 18s simon.
Had two close calls on the 18. A lifejacket would have killed me in the second one. I cant swim (can tread water but thats about it) but I would never wear a lifejacket on an 18 or a cat.