Coast Guard releases Cynthia Woods sinking investigation results

HOUSTON – The Marine Safety Unit Galveston has completed its investigation into the sinking of the sailing vessel Cynthia Woods, which occurred June 6, 2008.

MSU Galveston received advice and professional expertise from the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. They dispatched its contract marine engineer from Ancon Marine Consultants, Inc. to provide assistance during this investigation. The design parameters and actual construction process for the Cynthia Woods was examined by Ancon Marine and compared to the American Bureau of Shipping’s “Guide for Offshore Racing Yachts.” The investigation also included the professional analysis of 16 core samples taken from the hull of the Cynthia Woods to provide data on the vessel’s construction.

The Coast Guard found that the loss of the Cynthia Woods’ keel was likely attributed to a number of groundings and subsequent improper repairs to the vessel prior to the incident of June 6, 2008. According to the technical report submitted by Ancon Marine Consultants, the falling off of the keel did not occur because of bad weather or normal racing loads.

The Coast Guard investigation into the cause of the incident revealed that despite the numerous groundings of the Cynthia Woods, all evidence examined in this case indicated that no major repairs, examinations or marine surveys were performed on the sailing vessel by a qualified third party. The Cynthia Woods is owned by Texas A&M University – Galveston, and the oversight of the repairs performed on the vessel was the responsibility of the university’s Small Boat Manager.

The investigation found no evidence that the vessel’s manufacturer or designer were ever contacted or consulted following the numerous groundings.

The Coast Guard also determined that the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (commonly known as an EPIRB) and life raft were both improperly stored at the time of the incident.

“The Coast Guard hopes that this investigation reminds institutions and individuals of the importance of properly maintaining their vessels and the proper placement of survival equipment,” said Cmdr. Jim Elliott, commanding officer of MSU Galveston.

During the course of the investigation, MSU Galveston:

  • Interviewed approximately 20 people during 25 separate interviews over 25 hours.
  • Reviewed approximately 760 separate documents totaling more than 2730 pages.
  • Examined more than 1150 photos.
  • Examined approximately 25 pieces of physical evidence.

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