via The Age
October 21, 2009
TEENAGE sailor Jessica Watson failed to detect a 64,000 tonne cargo ship on her yacht’s radar and then went to sleep less than five minutes before the two collided, transport safety investigators say.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday released its preliminary investigation into the September 9 incident in which the 16-year-old’s 10.4-metre sloop, Ella’s Pink Lady, collided with the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Silver Yang.
Ms Watson was on the first night of a trip from Mooloolaba, on the Sunshine Coast, to Sydney as a trial run for her bid to sail around the world, which started on Sunday.
Releasing the report, the safety investigators declined to comment on whether it was wise for her to proceed with the eight-month trip, saying it was up to Ms Watson and her support crew to decide.
But before Ms Watson left Sydney, the safety bureau took her to visit the bridge watch-keeper’s position on a tanker ship, to help her understand what could be seen from that vantage point.
They also suggested she visit fatigue management experts in an effort to better manage her sleep patterns on the solo journey, and urged her to fit radar reflectors to make her craft more easily seen.
The six-page safety report says Ms Watson checked her radar ahead of planned sleep, at 1.46am, but did not detect the Silver Yang on her radar despite it being only one mile from her position.
But a Silver Yang crew member had spotted the Pink Lady at 1.25am, and 23 minutes later altered the ship’s direction by 10 degrees in an effort to avoid it.
Silver Yang turned the ship’s rudder hard to the right to steer out of the path, but at 1.50am Pink Lady’s bow collided with Silver Yang’s port side.
Lead investigator Peter Foley said Ms Watson had used high-quality equipment, but improvements had been made ahead of her journey around the world.
‘‘She’s got a very well-equipped vessel, and the radar system, no, we’re not concerned about the adequacy,’’ he told reporters.
The bureau said it would take up to six months to complete the report.