Loss of Yacht “Tao”

Tao, a French Alliage 42, was abandoned in early May of 2014 some 1200 miles southeast of Cape Cod.

Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Simpson USCG

Before we go any further, please take two minutes to watch the video above, I promise it will be worth your time (link to original).

One or our French speaking readers did some research and came up with the following information from a French forum:

The boat was returned [capsized] by a very big wave. The man at the helm was thrown into the boat with his harness. The mast was torn and the boat remained upside down for 5 minutes. It was during this time that it filled with water. Then he returned to the place. There was too much water to be pumped and it continued to fill with water. They started their EPIRB , they were geolocated by Coastguards . They deployed the life raft , but it  filled with water and the rope broke, they saw the raft going away from the boat. The helicopter [was actually a Hercules aircraft] was able to launch another life raft and a VHF radio, a man from the sailboat dove to catch the radio in water. The crew is younger than the Coastguards say. The boat is a 44 Alloy with centreboard. During a storm it is better to be in an enclosed wheelhouse or a dog house with a watertight door .

Now first off, I should state that we have not verified any of this information and obviously there is a lot more to know. But for the purposes of this post I don't think that really matters for three reasons:

  • This forum account is both a plausible and sadly common reason for a yacht loss.
  • Colin, who is incredibly perceptive about these things, deduced the same from the video.
  • Even if some of the details turn out to be wrong, this is such a common yacht loss scenario that learning from it, as related here, is still useful.

One other thing. Nothing that follows should be taken as criticism of the skipper and crew of Tao. All I'm trying to do here is learn from what happened in order to make you, our readers (and Phyllis and I), safer when we go to sea.

With all that covering-my-ass out of the way, here are my thoughts.

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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