Shockwave yacht crash inquest: drownings a tragic accident

By Stephen Johnson
Updated November 5 2012 - 3:20pm, first published June 29 2011 - 1:08am
Wreckage of the maxi yacht Shockwave is strewn around Flinders Islet following the accident, which took place during a preparatory event for the Sydney to Hobart race.
Navigator Sally Gordon, who died when the yacht hit Flinders Islet.
Kylie Short, the wife of the killed skipper, was at yesterday's inquest.

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Shockwave skipper Andrew Short, who spent seven hours as sole helmsman.

Nothing could have been done to prevent the deaths of two experienced sailors in a yacht racing accident at Flinders Islet, off Port Kembla, an inquest heard.Veteran skipper Andrew Short, a 48-year-old father of five, and his 47-year-old navigator Sally Gordon drowned on October 10, 2009, when the 25m maxi Shockwave crashed into rocks.The tragedy happened at 2.45am as they took part in a lead-up to the Sydney to Hobart race, with a seasoned crew aboard.Deputy state coroner Carmel Forbes said human error was to blame and that nothing could be done to ensure there wasn't a similar tragedy in the future."Unfortunately, due to miscalculation and prevailing conditions of the ocean and winds, it resulted in this tragic outcome," she said while summing up her findings at Parramatta Local Court yesterday."After these circumstances, I accept the submission there are no recommendations I could make."Ms Gordon's sister Anne said afterwards she accepted it was a tragic accident."There are a lot of things that can't be policed."You can't make some changes about a human being's decisions."In his opening address to the inquest, counsel assisting the coroner, Adam Casselden, said that Mr Short may have been tired after spending seven hours as the sole helmsman, from the time the yacht left Sydney the previous night.Detective Senior Constable Matthew Brown from the NSW Police Marine Area Command said there were no mechanical faults.But police investigators were concerned that devices like a GPS might not have been used properly before the accident."In relation to cause, I believe that Andrew Short may have not used all resources available to him at the time," he said."There could have been something that obscured communication."The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's own inquiry found there was no single cause, but recommended yacht clubs in future notify police of upcoming races.Mr Short and Ms Gordon drowned after their maxi, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, ran aground and smashed to pieces.Police found the pair were knocked unconscious and fell into the water, amid waves of up to 3m.Ms Gordon was not wearing a life jacket when her body was recovered.Mr Short's 19-year-old son Nicholas was hauled from the water alive, along with other crew members.