As another sail training vessel goes down, is this a worrying trend?

It’s really sad about the sinking of Lord Rank, the Ocean Youth Trust Ireland’s training yacht which was lost off the north coast of Ireland earlier this week.

What is it about training ships that seem to attract disaster? In the last few years we’ve had the loss of Ireland’s other sail training vessel, Asgard II, Gipsy Moth’s disastrous stranding in the Pacific, the capsize of the US [Canadian] square rigger Concordia off Brazil and now the loss of the Lord Rank.

Lord Rank hit Carrickmannon Rocks, a notorious shoal and well-known dive site near Ballycastle, on the north Antrim coastline. They had left Ballycastle with its pretty little marina earlier that evening and aboard were several presenters from local station Downtown Radio (make that “Dinetine Reedio’).

The north coast along here is a geologist’s dream and a sailor’s nightmare, striated with fascinating, brutal basalt ledges and limestone outcrops.

The half-tide offliers that Lord Rank hit are hard to spot and easy to get set onto. Strong currents swarm round through the North Channel and, accelerated by Rathlin Island, are prone to nasty overfalls.

But they are well enough charted and you cut the corner at your peril. Of course it’s just speculation but one of the very few disadvantages of chart plotters is that they do encourage you to shave off ‘unnecessary’ miles – in other words a decent offing – with their lulling sense of accuracy.

As to the question of why so many disasters among sail training vessels, I guess the one thing they all have in common is raw and inexperienced crew that cannot necessarily be relied on to anticipate an impending problem, feel something is wrong, or even to steer a true and even course.

Of course, there’s no reason why they should – they’re beginners. It does make you wonder if there is enough supervision on training boats.

Time, and an MAIB report in due time, will tell.


** In view of the comments below, I should point out that the ‘raw and inexperienced crew’ is referring to the trainees not the professional crew **