The grounding of Greenings CV24

On October 31st 2017 CV 24 Greenings grounded with 18 crew on board in what was a life-threatening situation off Cape Town on a leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, in a leg between Cape Town, South Africa and Fremantle, Australia.

The race allows sailors of different backgrounds and competencies to gain experience in ocean racing. Participants choose to complete either a circumnavigation of the world, or a selection of one or more individual legs. No prior sailing experience is required.

The 70-foot fibreglass CV 24 Greenings was designed to be sailed around the world

Les Rout. National Product Manager, Marine at QBE, and Hilton Adams, Head of Marine & Aviation for Munich Re, Africa, both Members of the IUMI Inland Hull, Fishing Vessels and Yachts Committee, wrote in the latest IUMI Eye that, on the information available, it was not possible to determine on who was at the helm at the time of the grounding.

Most of the crew went below deck at 17:00 and were sleeping at the time of the incident at approximately 21:00. It was confirmed that at least half of the crew were on watch on a clear night. It was reported that the sound of the keel scratching the reef and the movement – or lack of movement – of the yacht aroused the crew’s suspicions that they were already aground. The first instruction of the skipper was to turn on the engine and use the sails to reverse the yacht into deeper water, but this manoeuvre proved unsuccessful. The next step was to make a radio call to advise the race committee marine rescue authorities in Cape Town of the grounding.

The crew were rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) based in Cape Town and arrived safely at Hout Bay early on November 1st 2017.

The following day, salvage and cleaning operations were performed to minimize potential pollution from the fuel and debris on the beach and maritime life.

It took more than a month to remove the yacht. Investigations from both the South African and English government were completed in June 2018. At no point in time were instructions given to try to salvage the yacht, equipment and personal effects of the crew.

The writers viewed that the grounding of CV24 was the result of human error – a lack of communication between the helm and the deck crew on watch. Much of this, they believed, was the result of insufficient training, plus a lack of control and monitoring protocols from management.

When the crew were on deck, they could see land and the reef. The crew should have been able to see the yacht approaching land and prepared to stop or change course. It was also normal procedure to complete the vessel log every hour. That information would have included the position of the vessel, barometric pressure, distance travelled, voltage of batteries, time and risk of collision with other yachts and proximity of land. Rout and Brown wrote that it was believed that the logs were not being completed in this case.

The skipper should have been aware that the yacht was running out of water depth and should have instructed the crew to be ready to change course before running aground.

Rout and Brown observed that the four weeks’ training on the yacht was aimed at familiarizing the crew with the vessel and day-to-day situations rather than with what to do in the case of an emergency. Reference was made as to what equipment to use when evacuating the yacht in an emergency, and what and where the key items were to take. The training would have made the crew familiar with the vessel and the manning thereof. However, there was no mention of a grounding situation, fire, de-mast or other critical situations.

Rout and Brown’s view was that a course similar to the Australian Sailing Safety and Sea Survival Course (SSSC), which provides a comprehensive safety course on survival at sea, together with a navigation syllabus, would have increased the safety at sea for the crew and the yacht.

Further, with respect to general operations, the management of the vessel was entirely up to the crew, with almost no intervention from the skipper or the Clipper Race Committee. In this regard, the number of crew at watch, number of hours at watch, quality/quantity of food per person and number of hours of rest per person were left entirely to the crew to decide. “This is, in our view, a great mistake and not a matter to be determined by an inexperienced crew”, the writers said.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch in the UK report on the CV24 Greenings grounding highlighted several safety lessons:

CV24 was not safely manned or operated as the skipper was the only qualified, professional seafarer on board, and there was no dedicated navigator with responsibility for passage planning and execution

There was not an effective plan for CV24’s coastal passage along the Cape Peninsula and, when unexpectedly close inshore, the skipper became distracted from navigation by the requirement to supervise the crew on deck. It was also difficult for the crew to monitor the yacht’s position when on deck.

Company risk assessments, operational procedures and taking opportunities to learn from previous groundings could all have provided a higher level of safety management on board Clipper Ventures’ yacht fleet, particularly when operating in remote and often harsh environments.

Safety recommendations were made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (2018/116) and Clipper Ventures plc (2018/117 and 2017/118) intended to improve the standards of safety management and conduct of navigation in the Clipper yacht fleet.

The writers said that the insurance of yachts participating in blue water racing events had traditionally been restricted to specialist marine insurers who had the knowledge and experience to assess the additional risk factors, such as:

  • weather and sea conditions (rogue waves);
  • collision with underwater objects (whales and submerged containers);
  • the availability of rescue and salvage services in remote locations.