Keel & Rudder Inspections
Unfortunately, in recent years there have been a significant number of serious keel failures in offshore racing, some of which have resulted in fatalities. World Sailing has reviewed these incidents and as a result introduced a requirement for boat owners to regularly undertake an inspection of their boats to ensure the ongoing structural integrity of the keel and rudder. Australian Sailing has adopted the same requirement as part of the Special Regulations for Category 1,2 and 3 races, effective the 1st of January 2022.
While this is a new requirement, the provisions of this new regulation are what most responsible ocean racer boat owners have been routinely doing as part of the annual boat maintenance program.
The required inspection
The objective of the inspection is, with the boat out of the water, to identify any significant signs of stress externally around the keel or rudder structures. Then internally to make sure that the keel attachment and fastenings are in good health (hull supporting structure sound, bolts and backing plates intact, no corrosion or obvious signs of water ingress). Likewise check the rudder for excessive deflection and that the bearings and their supporting structures are sound and free of any clear signs of stress, improper movement or corrosion.
See: https://www.sailingresources.org.au/safety/specialregs/ regulation 3.02.4 for more specific details.
The inspection has to be done within two years of starting a Category 1,2 or 3 race or after an unintentional grounding and it is then the responsibility of the owner to carry our any required remedial repairs.
The inspection has to be carried out by a suitably qualified person and for most boat owners, that would most likely be the experienced shipwright who maintains and repairs the boat. The choice of the “suitably qualified person” is left up to the boat owner who needs to be able to defend his/her choice in the event of an incident.
The new regulation mandates a process which should be part of the normal annual maintenance process. The Club is therefore amending the Skipper’s annual compliance declaration to include a statement that the required inspection has been undertaken and, with race entries, that the boat has not experienced an unintentional grounding since the keel and rudder were last inspected.
Both the choice of a suitably qualified person and responsibility for undertaking and identified work which may be required are matters for the boat owner.
Owners will not be asked to submit an inspection report as part of their annual safety compliance or race entry procedures. The main thing is to ensure that boat owners include the inspection as part of their annual maintenance program.