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Dangers of Lightning. News Story from A Class Nationals.


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Man survives lightning strike on boat.

A Man has been rushed to hospital after lightning struck his catamaran.

The sailor was injured in the lightning strike just after organisers of a sailing regatta on the NSW central coast cleared competitors off the water during a severe storm.

The 50-year-old man from Victoria had his hand on the mast of a moored racing catamaran when it was struck, giving him a severe shock at about 2.15pm (AEDT) on Monday at Belmont, south of Newcastle.

The man was competing in the Australian National Championships for A-class catamarans when the race was stopped due to the storm.

Regatta spokeswoman Vicky Endert said that when bad weather set in, steps were taken to protect competitors.

"We thought the storm was getting close so we finished the race immediately," she said.

"The fleet was off the water when the lightning struck the water in the boat park next to the club and in the heavy rain the sailor who had his hand on the carbon fibre mast of his boat received a very severe shock."

The man was taken to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital where he was in a stable condition.

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That's a worry - hope he's going to be ok. Anybody up there please pass on all our best wishes to him.

This happened at the Pittwater Bullets Regatta in April too - one of our young Hobie sailors got hit quite badly just as he was landing his boat on the beach, several others (myself included) got secondary shocks. The downside of carbon maybe?

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The downside of carbon? Carbon is non-conductive, but that is not to say that there are not other conductive materials present in the mix. Hobie make their power tip masts to protect people from inadvertant shock, now whilst they are black I can't say that they are carbon. Graphite on the other hand is an excellent conductor and is a type of carbon.

my 2cents inc GST

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Originally posted by Loose Change:

The downside of carbon? Carbon is non-conductive

That is quite funny considering the history of carbon fiber! Edison in 1879 patented the production of carbon fiber filaments for light globes!

the hobie "comp tip" masts are made from fiberglass.


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"Yesterday’s violent thunderstorm drove the A-Cat Nationals fleet from the water. Victorian sailor Dave Brewer suffered a severe electrical shock and was thrown to the ground when a lightning strike hit the water while he was holding onto the carbon fibre mast of his A-Cat, in the boat park.

Brewer spent the night in John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle. He recovered quickly last evening and was determined to be back on the race course today.

But he was still waiting for hospital medical clearance at 13:00, when racing was scheduled to start on the second day of the A-Cat Pre-Worlds event.

The weather gods were on Brewer's side, with two Postponements ashore, as the winds flicked from north west to south west and then to east.

The 36 year old Lazarus arrived at Belmont Sailing Club with his wife and three children soon after the postponement flag came down, and was greeted by a media scrum.

The family's effort enabled him to rig his boat and get it into the water. Brewer was the last boat to leave the boat park after promising 'he’d come in fast' if there was another thunderstorm.

When the race finally started in a five knot easterly, five times world champion Glenn Ashby was first to the top mark. In an amazing effort on the second rounding, Brewer by now fully charged, was second behind Ashby and ahead of 1984 Tornado Olympic bronze medallist Scott Anderson and another Australian gun, Queensland Brad Collett.

Ashby, who had won the first race in the series before the storm yesterday, again received the gun ahead of Germany’s Bob Baier. Anderson was third, then came Brewer, with Steve Brewin challenging but finishing fifth. Andrew Landerberger was sixth, James Spithill seventh and Tom Slingsby 14th."

Some more:

The crews were busy pegging down their lightweight catamarans in the grass covered boat park next to the Belmont 16 foot Sailing Club, when grey green skies opened. The storm hit, with driving rain and forked lightning and thunder.

At 1415, Brewer had his hand on the carbon mast of his catamaran when lightning stuck the water directly in front of the boat park. In the driving rain, there was electrical current spread across the area and the 36 year old sailor was thrown to the ground.

He was rushed to the major regional hospital, John Hunter in Newcastle, by ambulance. Event organisers were told he was stable shortly afterwards by the medics.

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My memory of high school physics tells me that carbon is a very good conductor, at least in graphite form. Apparently diamonds less so. Our masts may cost as much as a decent diamond, but that's another story!

I can't find anything that definitively states how conductive a carbon fibre mast is, except that they are considered to be partially conductive, but not sufficiently to be a lightning rod. They explode if directly hit. They are tall and stick up into the sky, which is where lightning comes from, so they have to be considered a risk.

Either way, I'd rather be off the water! If caught out, my intended strategy is to drop the boat on its side, and lash myself to the underside of the tramp with the righting line, and to think about big important things till the storm passes.

A couple of links to more technical discussions for larger boats...



Glad Dave Brewer bounced back!

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Carbon is one of the best conductors around ,anyway when your talking lightning with millions of volts floating round and rain anything can become conductive thats why trees get hit by lightning ,,and timbers not a good conductor.plenty of people get hit by lightning using carbon fishing rods or carbon windsurfing masts during a electrical storm...

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