Viral Monaco Grand Prix Tender Incident Highlights Importance of Kill Cords

30 May 2024 By Holly Overton

Holly is the editor of Dockwalk. She grew up racing sailboats in England before switching to the world of superyachts and moving across the pond to Fort Lauderdale.

A video that went viral of a runaway tender at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend has highlighted the critical importance of maritime safety protocols, particularly the use of kill cords.

The footage, which has been shared widely on social media, depicts the moment a vessel, without a pilot, veered towards a concrete dock, narrowly avoiding what could have been a serious accident.

Though the exact cause of the incident is unclear, it is understood that it could have been avoided had the operator been wearing their kill cord correctly.

Malko Marchio, captain of M/Y Optimism who witnessed the incident, told Formula One photographer Kay Illman that the unmanned speedboat came full speed around the corner and careered onto the dock. The engines were still engaged and the kill cord was still attached to the vessel. 

“Kill cords, or engine cut off lanyards are an essential part of the safe operation of the vessel. An actual lanyard or an electronic version can be all that separates a minor accident from being a major incident,” explains Ted Morley, chief operations officer at Maritime Professional Training. “If the person at the helm becomes incapacitated or slips and loses control of the vessel, the kill cord will quickly shut the engine down and the boat will simply float.”

Journalist Kevin Koenig, who shared the video on his Instagram account @theyachtfella, says: "The fact that the boat landed so perfectly on the dock without hurting anyone (that I know of) or causing major damage is nearly miraculous. If you watch it closely, the guy in the orange was a foot away from having his head removed from his body.

"I think that video is a good reminder that when you're around boats—even on a beautiful day at a glamorous event—you've got to keep your head about you. These are huge, fast-moving machines with spinning knives attached to the back, and there are a million ways to die."

The US Coast Guard reports four per cent of all boating accidents and boating-related injuries every year are caused by runaway boats and propellor strikes. “Kill cord use is becoming mandatory in more and more countries and every yacht must insist their tenders be fitted with them, and tender operators must use them,” Ted says.

Guidance from the RYA on how to correctly wear your kill cord:

  • Kill cords contain a quick-release fitting at one end and a clip at the other. When in use, the quick-release fitting is attached to the console and the clip is attached to the driver. Your kill cord should always be clipped back onto itself. It should not be clipped back onto an item of clothing or attached to any other location.
  • Typically, it will be fastened around the driver’s knee and clip back onto itself. A kill cord must be worn by the driver whenever the engine is running. Should you for any reason not wish to attach the kill cord around your leg, attach it securely to your personal buoyancy. In either case, it should not foul the steering or gear controls.
  • A kill cord must be worn by the driver whenever the engine is running.
  • Kill cords intentionally prevent a driver from moving away from their normal operating position. Because of this, it can be tempting to use a kill cord that is longer than the item provided by the manufacturer of the engine. However, longer kill cords are not as taut as shorter ones, taking longer to react in emergency situations.
  • If you need to leave the command position, or change driver, always turn the engine off. The engine should only be restarted when the kill cord has been secured to a new driver.
  • Always test your kill cord at the start of each day or session. Do this by starting the engine and pulling the kill cord to make sure it cuts the engine.

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