The U.S. Coast Guard’s investigation into the sinking of the Texas A&M University racing sailboat, Cynthia Woods, has come to a close. The Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit-Galveston, concluded that the cause of the boat’s sinking was due to improper repairs to the keel rather than any manufacturing defect on the part of the boat’s builder, Cape Fear Yacht Works, and that the design and building of the boat met or exceeded industry standards. The investigation said that the boat’s hull had been damaged by at least five corroborated groundings plus repeated groundings at the marina. One incident in 2007 was so severe that it required the keel to be removed and refitted.
According to Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim Elliott, following the last grounding Galveston Yacht Service reattached the keel, but was not asked to perform any further repairs. The Coast Guard concluded that the repairs were insufficient, but did not blame Galveston Yacht Service or any other party for the loss of the 38-foot vessel. Texas A&M’s small boat manager, Jim Atchley, performed the additional work with assistance from students and without contacting a marine surveyor or the manufacturer for advice. Elliott said that the Atchley’s work “…appeared that it was more of a cosmetic repair — a surface repair.” No structural repairs were made.
In July 2008, Roger Stone’s widow filed a lawsuit agaist Cape Fear Yacht Works and the suit also names the boat’s designer Bruce Marek and Galveston Yacht Service as defendents. Randy Sorrels, attorney for Stone’s widow has challenged the integrity of the Coast Guard’s conclusions.
Cynthia Woods sank on the night of June 6, 2008, while racing from Galveston, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico. Roger Stone, the boat’s onboard safety officer was trapped in the cabin and drowned. The other five crewmembers were rescued after spending 26 hours in the water. The Coast Guard investigation also concluded that the boat’s life raft and EPIRB were improperly stowed at the time of the accident, resulting in rescue delays.