Two crew die off West Australian coast during Bunbury yacht race


New member
Two crew members aged in their 60s and 70s have died off the coast of Mandurah after a yacht they were sailing in an open water race overturned 11 nautical miles off-shore about midnight on Saturday.

Six crew members were aboard the 15-metre yacht Finistere competing in the 70th Bunbury and Return Ocean Race when it overturned.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority detected a distress beacon from the vessel at 11.45pm on Friday night but attempts to contact the crew on board were unsuccessful and the yacht's tracker failed to update at midnight.

Two other yachts competing in the race - Huckleberry and Fourth Dimension - and the RAC Rescue helicopter arrived at the scene about 12.30am and rescued five of the six crew members from the water.

One of the five sailors had already died, while a sixth was missing, with an extensive search operation carried out on Saturday involving other race competitors, WA Police, DFES, State Emergency Service teams and Volunteer Marine Rescue crews.

The missing crew member was found deceased in the water and recovered by Fremantle Water Police about 12.30pm on Saturday.

An AMSA spokeswoman said the vessel was competing in the race when it overturned.

"Attempts to contact the yacht directly via radio were not successful," she said.

Huckleberry transferred surviving crew members to shore for medical treatment.

Weather conditions in the area were described as south easterly winds, 15 to 20 knots, with one to two metre seas.

The 170 nautical mile race, which started on Friday, goes from Fremantle to Bunbury.

Finistere owner Robert Thomas, who was listed as the skipper for the race, is heavily involved in the Fremantle Sailing Club and once held the position of Rear Commodore of Sail.
The yacht competes regularly in WA and had previously completed the prestigious Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

"AMSA would like to express its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Finistere's crew," the marine authority said in a statement.

"AMSA would also like to thank all parties involved in today's extensive search."

The incident has been referred to police who will prepare a report for the coroner.

Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club Commodore Dean McAullay said it was too early to speculate about the incident and the authorities would undertake the appropriate enquiries.
He said counselling will be available to the crew and race competitors and support will be offered to the family at the appropriate time.

As a mark of respect, racing scheduled at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club had been cancelled.



Damn..  That is sad.    I'm sorry for the crew and owners.   Nothing like this should happen to anyone....



Super Anarchist
SailBlueH2O said:
Does anyone know if it was a high aspect bulb keel?
The boat had a December 2012 vintage ORCi certificate issued and the name of the offset file used is is "FINISTnew"  - so I assume that ORCi rating was done post a keel change to allow the boat to compete in that year's S2H - it was an entrant and S2H requires validated stability.

So the keel was only a few years old.  



Super Anarchist
Cabrillo Beach YC
When a new modern bulb keel was added to my boat, it broke the boat.

Rebuilt the entire bottom of the boat adding a bunch of structure.

So I can imagine that an IOR boat of similar vintage as mine, with a new modern (perhaps high aspect, deeper, bulb) keel might have a structural failure. IOR keels had long and therefore thick roots, so more meat (lead and glass) to bite into. And the VCG of Trapazoidal keels is high. Switching to a low VCG keel means more leverage on old structure.

Like many of us, I've experienced how old fiberglass boats get flexible as the polyester resin gets micro cracks. Looks great, keeps the water out, but an awful lot of the strength is gone.

I have seen no pictures of the new or old keel, nor any structural design or information on this boat, so I'm making this up as I go, pure wild speculation...

I want to learn.



Super Anarchist
The boat has had a lift (L style) keel for most of its life. It had done tens of thousands of miles on the first one, and in 2009 hit an unidentified object returning from Hobart severely damaging the fin. The end result was that the keel was replaced that year and had again done tens of thousands of miles.

The boat is now on dry land and it seems, from an uneducated opinion that the issue wasn't with the structure of the boat. There are photos around but I am sure they will be shared somewhere official in due course.

Bear in mind that this boat, launched in the late 80's/early 90's wasn't cutting edge by todays terms. It was a racer/cruiser in its current life. Didn't have holes in things to make them lighter ect.


Rain Man

Super Anarchist
Wet coast.
Looks like the keel broke, not a failure of hull structure.  Sorry for linking to the site that shall not be named:


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Super Anarchist
Northern Hemisphere
The great bard couldn’t standardize the spelling of his own name. There are six original Shakespeare signatures extant, and no two the same! Surely the rest of us are allowed a little leeway and creativity.