Surviving crewman describes the moment his skipper was swept overboard without a lifejacket
According to further reports from Australia, the captain of the maxi-yacht Reichel Pugh 80 Shockwave (which ran aground off the Australian coast – read previous story here ) was not wearing a lifejacket when he was swept overboard. The accident was possibly caused by human error or faulty navigation equipment, during the 92-mile Flinders Island Race.
Survivor Matt Pearce spoke yesterday of the rough conditions that pummeled the 24m yacht, describing a wall of water sweeping skipper Andrew Short and navigator Sally Gordon overboard.
“Then we copped a set of about four waves in a row that were solid green water, sort of two metres over the top of the boat,” he told the ABC. “When we turned around, he was gone. That was the last we saw of Andrew. And then, when we turned back for Sal, she was also gone.” Mr Pearce said Mr Short was not wearing a lifejacket during the race. “Andrew, unfortunately, didn’t have a lifejacket on that night. I think a lot of skippers tend not to a lot of the time.”
He also claimed the yacht had not yet rounded Flinders Islet, off Port Kembla, south of Sydney, crashing into its northeastern tip. NSW police have started taking the statements of the 16 surviving crew of Shockwave V after Mr Short, 48, and Ms Gordon, 47, died in Saturday’s accident. They have not ruled out any lines of inquiry with the Marine Area Commander, Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, yesterday vowing, “no stone will be left unturned”.
Mr Pearce would not speculate on the cause of the accident, although some theories have emerged, including possible human error or a glitch with a GPS-style “chart plotter” device. Sailing writer Robert Mundle – a close friend of Mr Short – has been slowly piecing together what happened. “I’m pretty sure it was an error of judgment and they thought they were safe,” he said. “Andrew thought that they were in a position where they could change course but they hadn’t gone far enough. But that’s purely speculation. “With it being such a low-profile island, in that condition, it would have been difficult to see.”