Final race cancelled

The boat that capsized last weekend.
The boat that capsized last weekend.

Ocean Reef Sea Sports Club Rear Commodore for sailing Geoff James said the sailing section decided on Tuesday night to cancel this weekend’s race for safety reasons.

Mr James said after a race on September 13, a yacht skippered by one of the club’s best sailors capsized at the harbour entrance where a sand bar had formed over winter.

‘With these storms, the bar has grown in size and the actual navigable width is getting less and less,’ he said.

‘The last series of storms caught us by surprise (as before that) the bank hadn’t developed as much as it has now. It’s much worse than we have had in previous years.’

Mr James said sailors had not expected the strength of the current flowing out of the harbour, with a whirlpool forming at the entrance.

‘The sand bar forces the deep keeled vessels to break the marine law by exiting the harbour by the port side,’ he said.

Mr James said doing so put the yachts at risk of collision with other boats entering the harbour correctly, and made them vulnerable to prosecution by the Water Police.

The Department of Transport’s navigational and marine safety manager Mark Briant issued a temporary notice about the shallowing harbour entrance on August 12.

‘Sand has built up at the entrance to the Ocean Reef Marina, just inside the harbour,’ he said.

‘Mariners are advised to navigate with caution when transiting the area.’

On August 21, Mr Briant issued another notice that the department would undertake sand excavation from November 16.

Mr James said they would ask the department to install a navigational beacon on the sand bar sooner as a warning to boat users.

Having cancelled the final winter race this Saturday, Mr James said the sailing group would review its decision on October 8 before the start of the summer racing season.

‘It’s really just an issue for deep-keeled yachts,’ he said.

‘For the power boats it’s not an issue ” they do not draw 1.5m, they only draw about half that depth and they have the power.’

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