Tragic loss for GCBSR

AS many of you have already heard GCBSR suffered a tragic loss at the end of the race on Friday afternoon.

It is with the deepest regret that the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race community must announce that there was a fatality during the race. A crew member on the schooner Cuchulain fell overboard on Friday afternoon and was recovered. The U.S. Coast Guard transported him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Details will be available pending the conclusion of the investigation.

Many of us in the GCBSR community did not know Steve Case personally. This article (link at the end) from his hometown of Racine, WI, gives a little glimpse into his life & the positive impact he made on the lives of others. Besides being a seasoned sailor, he was a husband, father, teacher, coach, mentor & returned Peace Corps volunteer. It is clear that he was loved - & will be missed - by many.

Captain John Eginton, Mystic Whaler, eloquently summed up Steve's legacy for all of us who are sailors:

"The professional crews on the AA boats — and other sailors young enough to believe they cannot die — may well view Steve’s death as just a stroke of bad luck. The older sailors among us know that we have all been in almost exactly the same circumstance Steve was in, the only difference between his mortality and ours being one of either inches or seconds. Steve leaves a simple legacy even to those of us who never knew him: Yes, it can happen here, and to an experienced sailor to boot. Steve’s legacy is the number of lives saved by the lessons of his passing. We’ll never know that number, and it doesn’t matter. Each one is a gift."

Our deepest sympathies go out to Steve's wife, Nancy, his family & his friends.

learning the lessons

In chatting with John Eginton and others, I realized that there is a stark difference between the commercial schooners and most private yachts with irregular crews in the amount of time and effort spent on training and emergency preparedness. John (I think) said they try to get to a MOB in 4 minutes. Most of us on private yachts - I'm guilty of this myself - probably don't do the frequent drills and other training necessary to achieve such results consistently. When time is of the essence, this may make the difference.

Out of respect for Steve Case, and to bring home the lessons of his sad loss, I suggest that the formal program for the 2013 ASA meeting focus on training on best safety practices, MOB recovery techniques, etc. This is not something that we like to think about, but it could save a life some day.

I also suggest that the ASA board recommend to its member captains that they adopt and enforce written safety procedures for their individual vessels, covering PFD and safety harness usage among other things. ASA (and GCBSR) should consider whether to make the existence of these documents as a condition for participation in sanctioned events. I do not recommend that a top-down, one-size-fits-all list of safety procedures be handed down from above - different boats, different long splices. But insofar as an MOB incident endangers not only the MOB but also would-be rescuers, we owe it to ourselves and each other to give the utmost consideration to crew safety.

Greg DeCowsky

Steve Case obituary from his hometown paper

Thanks to Dee Curriden and Mike Meakes for passing this on. I didn't know him, but he sounds like the kind of person I would have liked to know.

Greg DeCowsky