The incident

Platino is a 19.78 metre-long sailing yacht built in 1997-98 and extensively refitted in 2015. It was certified to Category 1 standard by Yachting NZ on 11 May 2016, and sailed from Auckland bound for Fiji on 11 June 2016 with five crew on board.

The accident occurred on the morning of 13 June 2016, 305 nautical miles (565 km) north-north-east of Cape Reinga in high wind to gale conditions and a confused sea. Platino turned unexpectedly and dramatically to starboard. The turn was most likely caused by a combination of weather and sea conditions, and a malfunction of the autopilot.

The sudden, unintentional turn set off a trail of damage that left the boom swinging uncontrollably backwards and forwards across the yacht, one crew member fatally injured and another lost overboard, and serious damage that eventually led to the total failure and loss of the mast, boom and rigging.

All three surviving crew saw the crewmember in the water but were unable to provide assistance or aid his rescue. The crew’s options were severely limited by the chaotic and dangerous situation on deck, and a lack of control over the yacht. The three crew were rescued by a container ship on 14 June 2016.

 

Findings

The investigation concluded that many factors came together to cause the accident and the severity of its outcomes. One factor was that the crew, all of whom were experienced sailors, had not trained together for emergencies on board this yacht, and was not sufficiently familiar with its particular equipment.

In response, Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said work is already underway with Yachting NZ to change Yachting NZ’s Safety Regulations of Sailing that are used for safety inspections of all recreational vessels - sailing or powered - bound for overseas.

Maritime NZ requires all such vessels to be certified by qualified Yachting NZ inspectors before than can leave New Zealand. The vessels must get what is known as a Category 1 safety certificate.

We will also be working with Yachting NZ and other boating organisations about a range of technical requirements for vessels’ equipment, and particularly about training for skippers and crew, and vessels operating manuals. While the changes relate to a range of equipment and procedures, at their heart is the preparedness and training of the skipper and crew. The skipper and crew must be familiar with the equipment on board, know how to use it correctly, and know how to respond in an emergency.

Recommendations

Maritime NZ has made 28 recommendations under seven headings:

  • certification of pleasure craft departing on international ocean voyages
  • autopilot failure
  • preventer failure (a preventer is a device used on a sailing vessel to help prevent uncontrolled swinging of a boom)
  • mainsheet traveler failure (a mainsheet traveler is used to help keep the boom in the right position)
  • person overboard
  • emergency communication
  • command and control.

Further details on the accident may be found herebelow: