Colin Golder, 74, went overboard June 19 around 325 miles from Bermuda. Golder, the captain of 42-foot sloop Morgan of Marietta, was an experienced offshore sailor, according to race officials.
U.S. Sailing put together a panel of six sailors to investigate the incident. The report concluded Golder’s lack of proper safety equipment caused the incident and his death.
According to the panel, the weather conditions warranted the use of a personal flotation device (PFD), a harness and tether, and for the sailors to be clipped in while on deck. All other watch members were wearing the equipment.
“Had Colin been wearing a PFD, harness, and tether, it is highly unlikely that he would have been washed overboard,” the report said.
The U.S. Sailing report chronicles how a wave washed over the crew, pulling Golder overboard just before 12:30 p.m. The crew quickly executed their “person overboard” response, according to the report. The crew said they were never more than 300 yards away from Golder as they tried to bring him back onboard.
Golder was able to grab a Lifesling, an overboard rescue system.
“Once Colin was connected to the boat via the Lifesling, Edmonds proceeded to slowly pull him back to the boat and verbally expressed concern for keeping his head up and out of the sea state,” the report said. “Some crew members report being able to make eye contact with him during this time.”
While the crew attempted to bring Golder back to the boat, the report said he appeared to lose consciousness and his face went into the water. Crewmembers later detailed that Golder’s skin was blue and he was unresponsive.
Golder then slid out of the Lifesling and was floating face down near the boat, according to the report.
The crew waited for the Coast Guard, which they thought would respond after they put out a call for help, but an hour later they were told the agency would not come to assist. They then attempted to bring Golder back on board, but their efforts were hampered by his unconsciousness. The report said it took them at least two hours to get Golder back on deck.
The crew set sail for the vessel’s home port in New Jersey. Golder’s cause of death was drowning, according to a medical report.
The Morgan of Marietta crew received a commendation from US Sailing, which said they properly executed procedure for a man overboard. Golder’s lack of a PFD and harness, his stature, and the weather conditions made the rescue more difficult, according to US Sailing.
“Their efforts in this regard are impressive, especially given the conditions,” the report noted.
US Sailing then issued a list of 12 recommendations for the sailing community to follow to prevent similar incidents in the future, including encouraging sailors to wear all safety equipment when on deck in inclement weather.
“If you fall overboard while sailing offshore, your chance of death increases dramatically,” the report said. “Staying attached to the boat is critical to minimizing this risk.”