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Personal flotation device used at Sydney-Hobart Coronial inquest

Date: 1973
Overall: 610 x 370 x 150 mm, 0.98 kg
Medium: Plastic, synthetic material, cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Peter Kurts
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Vest
Object No: 00033501
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    This 'Mae West' style personal floatation device (PFD) was used by Peter Kurts on board his yacht LOVE AND WAR which competed in the Sydney - Hobart yacht race during the 1970s and 1980s. It was used as an example of the types of safety equipment worn on yachts during the 1998 Sydney - Hobart Yacht race in which five yachts sank and six men died. The 2000 Coronial inquest into the race criticised this type of life jacket because it came off in rough seas and hindered rescuers, and recommended that 'Mae West' PFDs no longer be used.

    SignificanceThe demonstrated use of this type of personal flotation device during the 2000 Coronial inquest was vital in bringing about significant changes in personal flotation device design.
    HistoryOn 27 December 1998 a raging storm struck the Sydney to Hobart fleet, with 80 knot winds and mountainous seas. An emergency air/sea operation rescued 55 sailors, and 71 of 115 yachts failed to finish. 5 sank and 6 men died. A coronial inquest held in 2000 found that the survivors of WINSTON CHURCHILL which sank in the race had difficulty with the use of 'Mae West' style PFDs and rescuers had difficulty placing the helicopter rescue strap over the heads of those being rescued who were wearing these PFDs. The 'Mae West' PFDs also rubbed the wearer's chin when immersed in water and made it difficult to climb in and out of the life raft. The Coroner recommended a complete upgrading of safety and rescue equipment, emergency procedures and weather warnings, and set a new minimum age of 18 years for race entry. The tragedy still reverberates in sailing circles.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Personal floatation device

    Web title: Personal flotation device used at Sydney-Hobart Coronial inquest

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