Online Book: Lessons from Losses at Sea, Chapter 4 of 5

The Loss of “Team Vestas Wind”

A huge amount of internet ink has been spilled about the shipwreck of the Volvo 65 Team Vestas Wind. But the significant news amongst all of that blather and second guessing is that the navigator Wouter Verbraak has taken complete responsibility for a terrible mistake.

There is also this useful piece that postulates that Verbraak made the classic error of not examining his route at a large enough magnification, and thereby missed the shallow water in their path. In my opinion, that’s probably exactly what happened, particularly since Verbraak himself linked to it.

To me there are three things we can all learn from this accident:

  • There but for the grace of a higher power, or luck (depending on how you look at the world), go any of us.
  • The magnification error is a constant source of danger that can trap even the best navigators and we must all guard against it.
  • Electronic data representation has an intrinsic danger: all of us tend to ascribe a higher level of accuracy to the underlying data than is justified.

Let’s look at each of these lessons in more detail:


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Meet the Author

John

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 twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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