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Swamping Database

About Our Database

Please help us get a better idea of how often boats become swamped, and what happens when they do. We need information on any swamping and/or sinking incident, however minor, even if no person or equipment was damaged. It could be something that happened way in the past, or just yesterday.

There is no existing international, publicly accessible database of rowing accidents or fatalities. We want to establish some idea of the prevalence of boat swamping incidents, and to look for common factors.

We have made an anonymised database of those incidents which have actually been informally reported to us, or that we have come across on RSR, or in media reports within the last 18 months. We have not made any organised searches, so it may be that these incidents are only the tip of the iceberg, we just don’t know.

Some of the information we already have is sketchy, but some is fully detailed. Please give as much detail as you can, following the headings in the table. It is useful to know if safety boats were in attendance, and whether they were effective or not.

When you look at the database, it is striking that even this informal collection shows some depressingly common themes. For example “a sudden unexpected change in weather” crops up time and again.

NB To avoid confusion, by “swamping” we mean the filling of a boat with water, and by “sinking” we mean the boat going below the surface of the water (even if only just).

Jane and Stephen Blockley

The database

108 records, 91 unnecessary deaths.

Date Location Boat Construction Outcome Details
c1993 Bewl Bridge Reservoir 1x Wooden Colley All safe  more details
May 1998 Albert Dock (London Docklands Regatta) 1x Wooden Colley All safe  more details
23 Mar 2008 River Rhine 4 Unknown All four self-rescued through wearing PFDs  more details
24 May 2008 Holme-Pierrepont, Nottingham, England Multiple 8s, crewed by children Under-buoyant Empacher, Vespoli, Resolutes Only the last minute intervention of safety launches saved other immersed children from possibly being mowed down. All were rescued, but not all escaped injury, and some were hypothermic. The rest of the two day programme was cancelled.  more details
06 Mar 2008 River Maine, Angers, France 8+ Under-buoyant he crew were all rescued by an accompanying safety boat. A safety boat brought back 6 of the crew + 2 rescuers. A second boat retrieved the eight, and brought back the three remaining crew. All were wet, but not too cold and all fine  more details
31 Mar 2007 Tideway, London Many 8+ Various Multiple boats swamped or sank at the Head of the River Race, causing the race to be abandoned, and safety launches to rescue crews from the water.  more details
3rd Apr 2007 Branched Oak Lake, Nebraska 8+ Vespoli Boat swamped by large waves whipped up by wind, submerged. End compartments snapped off the main body of the shell, and launch capsized.

Coach handed life jackets to the crew. 9 crew members and the coach swam to shore after 1 hours in water. One crew member rescued from middle of lake.

All 10 hospitalised and treated for hypothermia. 
more details
02 Oct 2004 Alleghany River, Pittsburgh, PA 4+ Unk Boat fully swamped by high waves, everyone rescued  more details
07 Feb 2006 St. John's River, Jacksonville Florida 8+ Vespoli Boat fully swamped by high waves, everyone rescued  more details
22 Jan 2004 Tampa, Florida 8+ Vespoli Crew rescued in the dark by coastguard and police launch  more details
April 2002 Charles River, Boston various various Race cancelled but some swamped on way back - all rescued safely  more details
2 May 2004 Swan River, Western Australia 8+ timber framed single skin fibreglass construction, open bulkheads into canvases Crew forced to leave the boat and swam it to shore. All OK  more details
6 Aug 2003 Schinias Olympic Rowing Lake, Greece. Junior World Championships multiple 8+ various GB and US JM8+ sank in high winds. Rescue boats on hand.  more details
Feb 2004 Tideway 8+ Empacher Boat swamped by wake, crew made it to shore.  more details
22 Feb 2004 Nottingham - Head of the Trent various various several shells swamped, at least 7 sank. All rescued  more details
21 Mar 2004 Tideway, London (Vets HORR) 8+ various various eights, about 145 in all Outcome - chaos, but all rescued by RNLI. 2 taken to hospital.  more details
18 May 2004 Potomac River 8+ unknown 9 rescued by police boats, having been summoned by the chase boat. No injuries  more details
27 Apr 2004 Potomac River Two 8+ unknown Two eights swamped. 18 crew pulled from the river by police and fire boats.  more details
Sept 2004 Gothenburg harbour 8+ oldish wooden eight, open construction A women's eight swamped and sank - everybody rescued  more details
25 Sept 2004 Roodeplaat Dam, Pretoria, SA various various 3 boats swamped. 1 sank, 1 broke up and sank. Everybody OK  more details
May 3, 2004 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ca 1x unknown One dead  more details
1897 near Dassow, Germany 4+ pre 1900 boat, open wooden construction Two dead  more details
February 2004 Orlando, Florida USA 4+ Vespolo Millennium No-one hurt  more details
Good Friday 1984 Wolziger See (Lake Wolzig near Berlin) Unknown Unknown One dead after swamping  more details
July 1970 Danube between Slovakia and Hungary, International Tour of the Danube 4+ Open wooden recreational shell 4+ swamped by wake, crew had to swim to bank.  more details
Christmas 1999 Ely, UK 4+ Janousek Four capsized in winds while spinning. All OK in the end  more details
January 9, 2001 Lake Fuchu, Japan 1x   One dead  more details
1978 Thames 8+   They got to the bank, where there was no help available and had to run some 5km to the home of one of them. They were very hypothermic despite their exertions. They were in desperate straits when they reached the house ('working only on autopilot'). Getting indoors they went straight to the airing cupboard & covered themselves in warm laundry.  more details
September 2000 South coast Champs. UK 4+ Janousek Janousek swamped, rowed slowly to safety. Race abandoned.  more details
31 December 1995 Non-tidal Thames 8+ Janousek Managed to row back to club  more details
June 1st 2003 English Channel - south of Isle of Wight Coastal 4+ Burgashell - open under seats Crew was able to row boat into calmer water, transfer to accompanying RIB, bailed out and back underway shortly. Note that boat remained upright and stable without crew whilst one person stayed aboard to bail the boat. Sealed watertight compartments below seats would almost certainly have allowed the crew to row through the choppy water without incident. The boat has 3 self-bailers fitted but these were not effective in preventing the boat from flooding.  more details
Late 1990's Tideway, London 4+ (bowloader) Janousek-style Managed to 'row' the boat to shore whereby approximately 12 people were required to take it from the water. All people involved were uninjured.  more details
March 1998 Snake River, Pullman WA USA 8+ Late 80's Pocock Even though one team member could not swim, all were safely rescued by launch  more details
June 22, 2003 tempe, az 4+ open/kaschper Rowers able to bail out the hull enough to row to shore. all safe  more details
Late 2002 Canal, Brussels 4x MPS, sealed underseat compartments Crew were able to row back to the pontoon within 2-3 minutes of the incident, hampered only by the continuing heavy swell.  more details
August 1974 Hammersmith 8+ Open All rescued but cox (poor swimmer) stranded with one section of the boat and rowers with the other - one of the rowers had to swim to him and assist him back to the main group - very hazardous.  more details
June 2001 Lowerrhine (Nederrijn), The Netherlands, Km 903 Two C4+ touring boats Wood and open, no extra buoyancy measures taken or obligated for this race Rescue boat present at the race location. Both crews rescued at once.  more details
1993/1994 Medway, Rochester, UK 4+, crew under weight for boat, countless others Janousek, Many non-coastal boats swamped, one pair sank and found down the river. Incredibly lucky to have nobody drown or suffer hypothermia. I do not know what happened to any other clubs present.  more details
10 June 2003 Tiverton, RI 1x buoyant no harm done except ego. I flipped boat back and swam to shore with boat, oars and equipment in tact. was wearing life jacket. no assistance necessary.  more details
Fall 1992 Boston Charles River, basin 2x4 2 buoyant Vespoli fiberglass 4s All safe. Coach's launches emptied out crews and took to shore. Freshmen team came down and carried fours home to boathouse over land.  more details
late August, 1996 Syracuse, New York, USA 1x sealed deck She was in the water only about 3 minutes before being rescued by safety launches. All small-boat racing was cancelled for the rest of the day. Ernestine said she felt warm and comfortable within 15 to 20 minutes after being rescued.  more details
October, 2001 Rockford, Illinois, USA several 2x's and a few quads open under seats, but sealed deck compartments We had such a big lead with a mile to go that we still won the race, and the rowing kept us nicely warm. All others were able to either row to the finish or were rescued safely. If the air or the water had been colder that day, it would have been very dangerous.  more details
Winter 1979 (?) Charleston WVa 8+ Wood, Sectional Schoenbrod, Late 70's model, Open all rescued, no injuries, boat damaged but repaired  more details
April, 2003 Charles River, Boston, MA Novice 4+ 1985 Schoenbrod All came to the surface. One couldn't get feet out of lace style shoes until boat was swum over to shore. All had seen USRA safety video and said this helped them know to stay with the boat. Cold water was shocking and it took 10 minutes to get oriented and swim the boat 15 feet to shore. Everyone went to the hospital because of fear of hypothermia. Everyone ok and returned to practice the next day. Safety launch would have allowed kids to get out of water much sooner and probably prevented the hospital trip as this happened 100 meters from the boathouse. New velcro shoes for the boat were waiting to be installed.  more details
February 2003 Seattle, WA 1x Sealed decks & under seat racing single Rescued by Jan Harville, UW coach  more details
Fall, 2001 Toledo, Ohio (Maumee River) 8+ (Vespoli) Sealed bow and stern All rescued safely.  more details
Summer 1996 Seattle, WA 4+ 70's era Pocock All rowers picked up within 5 minutes by coaches launch, boat towed (without damage!) back to house.  more details
December 2002 / Jan 2003 Swan River, Perth W.A 8+ Sykes, wing rigger (very low cut gunwhales and no V-deck) Crew swam boat to shore. No injuries. No damage to equipment.  more details
June 22, 2003 Aiken, South Carolina 4x Hudson Sport, open under seats Rowers and equipment were fine. All returned to the launching dock safely by attending regatta launches. Did not even effect result of race (other than the time) - delayed regatta less than 15 minutes to clear them from the course.  more details
June 2, 2003 Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN, USA two 2x's New Hudson, buoyant One double rescued by coach, the others climbed back in and rowed home. All safe.  more details
May 12,2003 Mississippi River , Minneapolis, MN, USA 2- Aylings(?) buoyant All safe  more details
Early 80s Greece unknown unknown One member of the crew dies  more details
  Rideau Canal, Ottawa 8+ open construction Crew abandoned boat, scrambled up canal wall, emptied boat it, climbed back in and then continued to race.  more details
Autumn, 1995 (approx) Ottawa River, Ottawa 8+ Open construction Crew rescued by accompanying coach boats  more details
1990, plus/minus a couple of years Ottawa River, Ottawa 4+, open construction Crew rescued by safety boats  more details
Nov 1975 Columbia University, NY, USA 8+   One oarsman drowned. "He clung to the boat until the numbness in his fingers forced him to let go. It would be spring before his body rose to the surface and was found floating near the Brooklyn Bridge."  more details
early 1990s (1993?) Hamburg, Germany Gig 4x+ Open Construction Took a while to rescue the crew. No way to escape the scene due to the high walls at the shore.  more details
mid 1990s Ratzeburg, Germany 8+ Open construction All safe  more details
? Tideway, London, UK   Janousek   more details
? Notts City, UK   Janousek   more details
? Dartmouth Regatta, UK   Janousek   more details
? Jacksonville, Florida USA     Rescued  more details
? Orlando, Florida USA     Rescued  more details
? Atlanta, Georgia, USA     Rescued  more details
? Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida USA     Rescued  more details
? Sanford, Florida USA     Rescued  more details
? Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Bow coxed 4   Rescued  more details
? Melbourne, Florida, USA Multiple 8+   Rescued  more details
A few yrs ago ?Oct 1999 Tideway, London, UK 8+ Wooden open Crew of 9 schoolgirls had to swim ashore.  more details
18 May 2003 Notts city, UK Two 4+ One was buoyant Janousek Janousek crew made it to the side with assistance  more details
16 May 2003 Brussels canal 4+ Open old style wooden Stampfli Extremities feeling chilled by the time they reached safety.  more details
11 May 2003 St Catherines, Canada 4+   Rescued by launches  more details
9-10 May 2003 Swan River, Perth, WA Four 8+ One was a KIRS 8 Rescued by passing powerboat. Crew very cold  more details
4 May 2003 Holme Pierrepoint, Notts, UK (BUSA) 4+ Janousek   more details
3 May 2003 Lake Ontario, Toronto, Canada Four 8+   Rescued by safety boat and passing police boat. 2 treated in hosp for hypothermia. Others treated on site  more details
29 Mar 2003 Housatonic River, Connecticut, USA Two 8+   Rescued by safety boats within 5 minutes. All 18 treated in hospital.  more details
26 Mar 2003 Chickahominy River, Virginia, USA 8+ and 4+   Coach boat rescued a few and threw PFDs to the rest before its engine swamped. Rest of crew in the water 90 mins and had to swim for the shore. Found safety hut, lit fire and awaited rescue  more details
Oct 2002 Rhine, Dusseldorf Germany 4 Open Rescued by DLRG – German equiv of RNLI  more details
Oct 2002 Brown Uni, during race, Connecticut, USA 8+ Open 9 crew rescued by the coastguard.  more details
Sept 2002 Aiguebelette, France 4+ Aylings 2 rowers and cox taken off by launch.   more details
Summer 2002 Strathclyde, UK 8+ Sims 9 crew had to swim ashore  more details
March 2002 Tideway (Women’s Head of the River Race) London, UK 8+s   Rescued  more details
2002 Tideway, London, UK 8+ Janousek Rescued within minutes by safety launch.  more details
2002 Brussels canal, Belgium 4 MPS fully buoyant   more details
2002 Holme Pierrepoint, Nottingham UK 8+   Rescued by launches  more details
2002? Venice, Italy 8+ Stampfli – Decked ends, wooden, open construction Rescued  more details
4 Feb-2002 Hammersmith, Tideway, UK 8+ Decked ends, wooden, open construction Self-rescued  more details
Summer 2001 Castle Semple Regatta, UK 4+ Janousek   more details
29-Dec-2000 Amposta, Spain two 8+ Sims -open const 1 dead. 9 hosp treatment for hypothermia 10 exposure and shock.  more details
01-Jan-2000 Tyne, UK 8+   2 near drowning, rescued by fire brigade  more details
1999 Tideway, London, UK Two 8+     more details
July 1999 Ottawa River, Ontario Rowing Champs, Canada 2 bow loader 4s Vespoli Rescued by officials.  more details
1999 Lake Champlain 4x “elderly” non-buoyant   Rescued by safety vessel  more details
1999 NZ – southern lake     Rescued after 30 minutes in the water. Experts estimated they were only 10 mins away from “total disaster”.  more details
1991 Tideway, London, UK 8+ Wooden Crew waded ashore  more details
1990s Tideway, London, UK 2x8+ Janousek Aylings “open” Crew waded ashore  more details
1990s Lake, Netherlands 4+ Open Construction 4 dead - drowned -cold water fatal within 15 mins.  more details
March 1988 Elk Lake, Victoria, Canada 8+   Rescued  more details
Jan 1988 Elk Lake, Victoria, Canada 2x8+   2 dead - 1 drowned, 1 hypothermia  more details
Mar 1986 New Hampshire, USA 3x8+, 1x4+   1 or 2 dead  more details
1983 Lake near Sofia, Bulgaria 8+ Open construction, Empacher 1 dead  more details
Mar 1979 Putney, UK 15 x 8+ Decked ends, wooden, open construction Rescued or self-rescued  more details
25 Mar 1978 Tideway, London, UK     Rescued by safety launches  more details
1970s East Germany     4 dead - drowning  more details
1962-64 Swan river, Perth, WA 4+ Open Construction 1 dead - hypothermia and drowning  more details
1957 Manchester, UK 4+ Decked ends, wooden, open construction 1 drowned  more details
24 Mar 1951 Tideway, London, UK     Race re-run 2 days later  more details
1907-2001 Japan Various   68 deaths appear to be buoyancy-related  more details

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