Via Australian Sailing:
Keel and rudder fin failure happens but may be avoidable with some simple checks. The importance of this should not be under appreciated.
Rudder fin failure will simply mean the retirement from a race. Inconvenience to crew and in the worst cases a call out to rescue services.
Unfortunately keel failure is not so simple and often has catastrophic results resulting in fatalities at sea and or complete loss of the boat. Analysis of incident reports shows that some of the factors contributing to keel failure are inadequate maintenance, or damage after a grounding or other underwater impact.
In response to these incidents, Australian Sailing has recently amended the Special Regulations for Category 1, 2 and 3 racing by introducing a requirement for keel and rudder inspections to be conducted periodically. The requirement is consistent with what is happening internationally.
SAFETY INFORMATION NOTICE
Keel and rudder fins are failing for reasons that include damage from groundings and
collisions, or inadequate maintenance.
World Sailing has produced a collection of frequently asked questions in relation to the
inspection of keel and rudders.
Frequently Asked Questions produced by World Sailing:
What are the checks designed to do?
Keels have been breaking off yachts for many years. The yacht types losing keels and
rudders range from cruising to high performance racing yachts and from newly built to
old. This regulation is designed to require a visual inspection each 2 years. It is designed
to capture visual signs (cracks, movement, corrosion, loose keel bolts, loose or irregular
rudder bearings) that may indicate a potentially serious problem. It is expected that once
noted, the Owner would undertake a more detailed investigation or just get it repaired.
Who is a ‘qualified’ Inspector to conduct this visual inspection?
The range of Inspectors has been kept broad since the inspections are visual and no
specialized equipment or techniques are required. Inspectors could be marine surveyors,
naval architects or engineers, or shipyard mechanics with a minimum of 5 years’
experience working on yacht mechanical systems or composite materials. The Owner or
persons directly employed by the Owner is not considered suitable. Some countries may
require additional certification in order to undertake yacht inspections. Each MNA will
have to determine if they will require additional qualifications.