Coroner: No formal recommendation to modify the navigation rules


Invercargill man Howard Robert Phillips, 68, died in November 2017 at Lake Te Anau, following an immersion in cold water. [File photo]


Invercargill man Howard Robert Phillips, 68, died in November 2017 at Lake Te Anau, following an immersion in cold water. [File photo]

A coroner did not make formal recommendations to change the rules of navigation after a man died on Lake Te Anau in 2017.

Experienced sailor and Invercargill man Howard Robert Phillips, 68, died of cold water immersion on November 4. He was aboard a well-equipped trailer yacht, the Elusive, with two friends.

Phillips was competing in a race, but he was not wearing a life jacket and the radio was not tuned to the correct channel, Coroner Heather McKenzie said in the report released in August.

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During the race, the yacht collided with a strong wind and water began to enter the cockpit.

Phillips was forced to take the plunge, the coroner said, and while his friends called the race organizers on the radio, he did not respond when he was picked up.

The race was organized by the Southland Trailer Yacht Squadron in collaboration with the Marakura Yacht Club.

When participants completed their registration forms, they were given navigation instructions that included specific requirements for the use of life jackets and a working radio tuned to specific channels.

Coroner McKenzie made draft recommendations during her inquest, which were sent to the two yacht clubs and Yachting New Zealand.

The draft recommendations included the installation of a fixed multi-channel VHF radio on towing sailboats, the requirement to wear thermal protection, a high-visibility outer layer and a mandatory “pursuit boat” or support boat in all vessels. Yachting New Zealand races.

Yachting New Zealand responded that a fixed VHF radio requires a maintained battery which is not easy to install on most towed yachts and that in the event of a flood on a small towed boat a fixed VHF radio could be made unnecessary compared to a waterproof portable radio.

When it comes to thermal layers, Yachting NZ says prescribing what clothes to wear was impractical, and people were already required to wear life jackets as an outer layer, which supported the [draft] recommendation for a high visibility outer layer.

Having a safety boat should be a decision of the organizers depending on location and conditions, according to Yachting NZ’s submission.

Coroner McKenzie said Yachting NZ had consulted extensively before responding and had withdrawn from any formal recommendations to change the navigation regulations.

However, the coroner recommended that the Southland Trailer Yacht Squadron and the Marakura Yacht Club review the policies regarding the radio channels to be used during races, to allow effective communication.

“I also strongly encourage all event planners and crew of semi-trailer yachts to actively consider the issues raised by this survey in their planning, conduct and participation in events.”


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