Jun 12 2008

Roger Stone – Fair Winds and Following Seas

Published by under Sailboat Racing

My heart goes out for the loss of a fellow sailor, Roger Stone.  He was the Safety Officer aboard the Texas A&M team boat, the Cynthia Woods, and lost his life while saving the lives of two sleeping crew members.  This tale resonates with me because it reminds me of races and experiences that I have had sailing off-shore from San Francisco.

The crew of the Cynthia Woods, a 38 foot racer cruiser built by North Carolina-based Cape Fear Yachts, were doing everything right.  They were sailing on an appropriate sailboat for their regatta from Texas to Veracruz.  They had safety gear aboard (including the flashlight that rescuers would spot to rescue them), and their vessel was inspected as recently as April.  They were a good, cohesive team, and stuck together during a crisis—five members floating 26 hours in the Gulf of Mexico together with only four lifejackets.

This resonates with me because I have metaphorically sailed on that sailboat.  In San Francisco, I have been part of the crew on about a dozen racing sailboats.  They have all been recently inspected,  appropriately sized and provisioned for the conditions, and maintained the proper safety gear aboard.  For the most part, they have been filled with exceptional sailors.

In the weeks to come, there is going to be a major inquiry into what happened.  The boat builders are going to be held accountable, or the Captain, or the inspector from the boat yard who inspected the keel bolts last April.  We are a blood-thirsty culture, and have grown to possess our own insatiable desire for vengeance.  It will be another media spectacle–a modern-day legal witch-hunt.

The focus should, in my opinion, remain on Roger Stone.  He was the hero sailor who was there when the accident happened.  He woke the two sleeping crew members and pushed them through the hatch to safety—thinking about himself last.  He accepted the position of safety officer aboard his ship in both title and spirit, and when a problem arose, he fulfilled his duty.

Let the lawyers and the media feast upon their scraps and turn this into a series of articles on quality standards in boat builders or court cases where we prosecute ship yard employees for negligence.

Roger Stone’s selfless act of heroism IS the story.

Fair winds and following seas.

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