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Monterey Death Investigation Report Released

US Sailing has released a report detailing the results of their investigation into the death of Rick Srigley. You may recall that Srigley, 77, fell off his Moore 24 Morpheus during Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club’s first Wednesday night race of the season on March 13. Four men actually went overboard that evening. Winds were in the 20- to 25-knot range, with waves up to six feet — uncomfortable but not excessive conditions for the boats involved. Other boats declined to race — including the Shields fleet — or retired before starting.

When Srigley fell overboard, Morpheus was beating to the windward mark. No one saw him enter the water, but one of the crew took the helm, another spotted their skipper, and another called a Mayday. In compliance with the race’s rules, Srigley was wearing a PFD. It was an inflatable model sold around 2003, and it did not inflate. The crew attempted a ‘Figure 8’ recovery, but missed on the first pass.

Figure 8 diagram
A diagram of an ideal Figure 8 maneuver.
© 2019 US Sailing

On the second try, the crew on the tiller, Jeff, took Rick’s hand and heard him say, “Hurry.” Another crew, Dale, was coiling a throw line when he fell into the water. His PFD inflated, and he fastened the line around himself. The crew pulled him back to the boat and helped him get aboard. (Note that to protect the crewmembers’ privacy, the report uses only their first names.)

Meanwhile, the crew of the Express 37 LocaMotion had spotted Morpheus’s crew in the water. They dropped their jib and motored over to assist. They noted that Srigley was now floating facedown. The boom on LocaMotion was flailing, and the mainsheet tackle struck one of the Express 37 crew, David, stunning him and sending him overboard. Using a horseshoe buoy on a tether, the LocaMotion crew retrieved David, who had a gash on his forehead.

Another LocaMotion crew, Alfredo, offered to swim to Rick’s aid. He is an ocean swimmer in local waters, so his skipper allowed him to go in. He stripped off his PFD, jumped in, and swam Rick to the transom of Morpheus, but the crew were not able to get him aboard. When the Coast Guard arrived, they took Rick onto their vessel. He was then transported to the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, where he was pronounced dead. After rescuing Srigley, the Coasties disposed of his PFD, so it’s not known if was in automatic or manual inflation mode.

LocaMotion's GPS track
LocaMotion’s GPS track, overview and close-up.
© 2019 LocaMotion

The post-mortem report showed no sign of alcohol or drugs, but there was a fracture of the C1 cervical vertebra and several broken ribs. The neck fracture could have been caused by impact with the boat as Srigley fell overboard. Efforts to revive him using CPR could have broken some ribs.

Chuck Hawley, on behalf of US Sailing Safety Committee chair Sally Honey (who was offshore at the time), assembled a working party to investigate. Hawley recruited Michael Moradzadeh (chair), commodore of Pacific Cup YC; Jean DuPreez, rear commodore of MPYC; Craig French, a staff commodore of Santa Cruz YC; Bill Lee, the famous yacht designer from Santa Cruz; Jerry Stratton, a Shields sailor, PRO and US Sailing judge; and Kent Benedict, MD (medical consultant). MPYC, US Sailing and the USCG cooperated in the investigation.

Morpheus in the yard
The US Sailing report stated that Rick Srigley had removed Morpheus’s lifelines in 2011, but this photo, taken 12 days after the drowning, shows rails, stanchions and lifelines fashioned from the sort of braided lines usually used for sheets. The lifelines were added the week after the race in preparation for a memorial sail.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The report makes several recommendations regarding:

  • Lifejacket maintenance, procedure and practice
  • MOB practice and reboarding gear
  • Wearing bright clothing
  • Staying on the boat (lifelines, tethers)
  • VHF communications

You can read the complete report here:

MPYC lost a second member, John Ruck, to drowning on July 7. “They believe John fell off the dock while getting on his boat at night,” said Jeff Canepa.


  1. Mark Caplin 5 years ago

    I think there are 3 really important lessons her:
    1) Check your equipment. Don’t be cheap and not service your inflatable PFD. Blow it up manually and leave it overnight to see if it leaks.
    2) Practice your MOB procedure.
    3) Don’t panic! Try to stay clam (yeah, right) Rule #1 of rescue is not to become a victim yourself. Just slow down, hurrying just leads to mistakes. Train like you sail; sail like you train…

  2. Mike 5 years ago

    Condolences to Rick’s family.

    It’s important to share these incidents so we can all learn and become safer.

    Agree, those would be my top three. Having four people in the water is unbelievable. Anyone on the other boat could have sheeted in main but I’m betting they were all concerned about saving Rick. Important to have someone retain situational awareness.

    Glad there were no more fatalities.

  3. Ken Brinkley 5 years ago

    Practice MOB , don’t live a lifetime of regret and incriminations. My 18 year old son died because of my in actions . Your life can change in a moment .

  4. Jim “Goose” Gossman 5 years ago

    Inflatable pfd’s are terrible things, and should only be legal as a secondary means for flotation and/or to serve as harness for a tether. I’ve witnessed them not inflating when they should, and deploying when they shouldn’t….and I’m just one guy, so I presume failures are common, which is unthinkable. Thanks to always wearing a regular PFD I’ve avoided being dead three times times in over five decades of high level sailing…two times due to severe impacts breaking multiple ribs (even through the padding), and once at a windsurfer speed trials when the impact from another competitor’s uncontrolled mast left me stunned in the water with the wind knocked out of my lungs, and cramped legs. This is not a maintenance problem, but one of mainstream sailing buying into the marketing of a bad idea which has proven dangerous.

  5. Tim Keating 5 years ago

    Not to take anything away from anyone else but serious props to Alfredo for the heroic attempt at a rescue.

  6. Armand Seguin 5 years ago

    It is hard to believe that his PFD was “discarded” by of all organizations, the US Coast Guard. Nobody thought this just might be important to any subsequent investigation?
    Further, in the otherwise excellent report by US Sailing, neither the report nor the recommendations make note of the fact that any life saving gear used in an in the water accident should be kept and examined for effectiveness.

  7. Michael D Moradzadeh 5 years ago

    Michael here. The crew of Morpheus added those lifelines the week following the event, prior to participating in a memorial sail.

  8. Christine Weaver 5 years ago

    Thanks for that information Michael!

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