More on the controversy of abandoning a boat that was later safely salvaged

Plenty more comment on the Barbary Duck story. This, from Paul Kelly (a former skipper on the Global Challenge, BTW), reflects the majority view.

I should just point out that Barbary Duck was not doing the ARC, having set off just ahead of the fleet, though the Wellers had crossed the Atlantic with the ARC a few years previously in the same yacht.

Paul writes: ‘I have read Sam Brooke’s commentary on this subject and whilst some of it makes sense I have to question some of the points.

‘I agree that we do set off on voyages, often fired up by the romance of crossing an ocean without a care in the world, etc, and sometimes it does not go according to plan. What I do struggle to come to terms with is abandoning a yacht that is floating and with an upright mast.

‘The phrase “step up into a life raft” is not meant to be taken literally but it is meant to hammer home the point that a floating boat is your best liferaft. Amongst other things, from Fastnet in ’79 we learnt that abandoning a floating boat may be a fatal option.

‘My question is: what would have happened if they (Barbary Duck) were mid atlantic in January without 235 other boats within rescue distance? Would it have still made sense to abandon ship and float around in a liferaft waiting rescue?

‘My major concern is the decision-making process that led to the boat not being scuttled. This action surely put the rest of the ARC fleet in danger. I remember barelling along at 14 knots, in pitch darkness with the kite up on the ARC and no way would we have been able to avoid an unlit abandoned boat.

‘I think that it is wrong to use Donald Crowhurst as an analogy. I am assuming, rightly or wrongly, that the crew of Barbary Duck set off with what they thought was a well prepared boat, a working VHF and the knowledge that there are 235 yachts to talk to on the radio should they have a problem. Crowhurst set off with a poorly prepared boat and a troubled mind.

‘I think in a situation like this it is very easy to point fingers and apportion blame but none of us are privy to what the thought process was that day. They may have been scared witless and just wanted to run or they really may have thought that their lives were in grave or imminent danger. Either way, the boat should, in my opinion, have been jury rigged in case a chainplate failed or else abandoned and scuttled.’