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A Lethal Combination: Metal Masts and Electricity

by William Bentsen
(From Lightnimg: Tuning, Tactics, Technique, Sailing)
Manton Scott, one of the best small boat sailors in the U.S., was killed when his ‘470’ mast touched a power line at Duxbury Yacht Club (Mass.).  Scott had won the 470 Midwinter championship and was to have assisted 470 sailors at the first U.S. Youth Championship regatta. Scott’s tragic death is not the first to occur ported in such circumstances: others have been reported in the yachting press from various sailing centers around the world in recent years. Many accidents have occurred with less serious results; on the same day that Scott lost his life, another 470 sailor narrowly escaped injury when his mast contacted a power line at Pewaukee Yacht Club (Wis.). Officers of clubs, and one-design class association officers, can take immediate steps to reduce the power-line hazard. Action by clubs is most critical. The following suggestions are directed to the Commodore or President:
  1. Appoint a committee of one or two members to examine thoroughly your club grounds, and all areas beyond club property lines where boats could strike power lines while on their trailers.  Consider the tallest masts in club fleets, and also boats, which might be attending a regatta from other areas.

  2. As temporary and immediate measures:

    • Block off hazardous areas on the ground, if traffic considerations allow this.
    • Paint distinctive lines on parking lots or roadways, with appropriate signs nearby.
    • Call attention to the hazards and the seriousness of the problem to members by bulletin board notices, newsletter announcements, etc.
    • See that any information going to regatta visitors contains warning of the hazard.

  3. As permanent measures:

    • Arrange with the local power company to either raise or (preferably) bury any power lines on club property.
    • Encourage and urge owners of any neighboring property to do the same, if trailered boats move across such property.
    • Make the same arrangements for lines over or along roadways leading to the club.
One-design class officers can give wide publicity to the power-line hazard through newsletters and bulletins, and by making special announcements during Skipper’s Meetings, at any regatta held at a club with exposed power lines.

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