Yacht club resumes sail classes after drowning

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club has decided to resume its sailing courses, a month after an 11-year-old boy drowned when a training dinghy capsized off Stanley.

In a letter to members and staff following an internal inquiry, the club has also explained the events that led to the death on August 18. It said what had happened arose from 'a unique set of circumstances'.

The letter said that Jonathan Chin Kin-chun, two nine-year-old Britons and their 17-year-old female assistant instructor were sailing from Middle Island to Stanley Bay on a Laser Stratos when it capsized. The victim's leg 'somehow became entrapped by the trapeze wire system' [a harness hanging from the mast that allows sailors to lean into the wind]. When the boat became fully inverted, the victim was dragged underwater and was thus unable to reach an air pocket within the boat. Repeated attempts to rescue the victim failed, it said.

The club said the trapezes were rigged in their normal positions and were not in use at the time of the incident.

Sailing classes at the club's Middle Island base on the south side of Hong Kong island have been suspended since the drowning as a mark of respect for Kin-chun and to help the investigation.

The club concluded in the letter that 'no constructive purpose is served by continuing the suspension of the sail training facility'. It pledged to continue to identify risks and refine procedures to avoid a repeat of the incident.

'No dinghy has ever been designed to be capsize-proof ... full inversions ... are impossible to rule out in any recognised sail training dinghy,' the letter said.

Marine police have said their initial investigation revealed suspicious circumstances surrounding Kin-chun's death. They are looking at whether there was negligence and whether ropes had been properly tied.

The Marine Department is conducting a separate inquiry.