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Sloop Foundation responds to concerns

The Spirit of Bermuda remained seaworthy and safe throughout a squall that left a crewman with minor injuries, according to the Bermuda Sloop Foundation.

The group also defended sailing with students on board during bad weather as par for the course in the tradition of the training vessel.

The vessel had to call for help on Tuesday after an engine broke down and a sail was damaged during the expedition with 17 middle school boys from the Whitney Institute on board.

The incident prompted widespread public concern, but the foundation said the sloop had withstood winds of 70 knots (80mph) without incident during its history.

The foundation, which has trained local students for a decade, released a statement in response to public concerns over the incidents, maintaining that youngsters were in no danger.

On the issue of sailing in bad weather, the foundation said that the forecast winds for the Spirit's sail to St George's were for 20 to 30 knots (23 to 35mph), which was “absolutely great sailing wind for the Spirit”.

“She has sailed safely through up to 40 knots (46mph) in local waters and on overseas voyages with school students on board every year since 2006,” the statement continued.

On the issue of sailing in 20 to 30-knot winds, the foundation said: “Expeditionary learning through sail training is character building, taking students out of their comfort zones whilst keeping them safe, imparting skills to deal with unexpected situations in life. Taking students sailing during strong winds is normal at this time of year and not challenging for Spirit. The sail to St George's was a simple downwind run and not a major task; ie, it never ‘put to sea'. Great care is always taken regarding the students' safety during any such activity. Spirit follows a well-developed and approved ship management system.”

Two of the five sails frequently used on the Spirit were up. One became damaged, was taken down and another hoisted.

Spirit of Bermuda was at all times under sail and in control. Due to the combination of wind direction and the engine problem, Spirit was unable to make port during daylight under sail alone, and the decision to request a tow was made.”

On the matter of the injured crewman, the statement read: “A member of our full time crew was injured during a sailing manoeuvre and received some bruising and minor injuries to his fingertips. He was treated as well as we could on board, then taken to the hospital as soon as Spirit was berthed. The crew member was released the same night, to recuperate at home. He is now almost fully recovered and none of his injuries were serious.”

The vessel “made the call to get assistance into Dockyard in good time, allowing all involved the best conditions to secure the tow. During the tow, Spirit's professional crew were on deck, the students were safe and sound below, tucked up and warm, supervised by other crew members and teachers from the school. The tow to the south basin by the Faithful, and transfer to Dragon for push tow to the berth, were well-managed operations by all concerned, demonstrating the back up available to Bermuda mariners if the unexpected occurs.”

Saying that safety came first, the foundation said the crew had “everything under control, made the right choices and took the sensible approach to seek [Department of] Marine and Ports assistance due to unfavourable wind direction and an engine problem, which has been analysed and is currently being resolved”.

The group thanked the Department of Marine and Ports for its assistance.

For the full press release from the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”.

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Published January 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm (Updated January 25, 2016 at 2:50 am)

Sloop Foundation responds to concerns

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