Gas Explosion on Board

In association with Admiral Boat Insurance, Yachting Monthly created a series of potential disasters to find out if all the theories of how to deal with such situations actually work in practice. The boat used in the crash test is Admiral’s own 1982 Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch, Fizzical.


Enlisting the help of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Explosives experts, the Crash Test Team embarked on the most technically challenging trial in the Yachting Monthly Crash Test Boat series in conjunction with Admiral. The site chosen for the test was off Bembridge Ledge, at the eastern end of the Isle of Wight, where the yacht was anchored in 8m and a 200m exclusion zone was set up under the watchful eye of the Queen’s Harbourmaster at Portsmouth… see what happened below.
The Crash Test Boat, finally met all but her grisly end when she was subjected to a gas explosion which blew off her coach roof.

The explosion took place off Bembridge Ledge in the Solent in September and was carefully planned. The Royal Navy’s Fleet explosives experts were called in, plus an expert on gas installations. A 200m exclusion zone was set up under the watchful eye of the QHM Portsmouth. The gas was dispersed throughout the yacht’s cabin mixing with air. The explosion was detonated by a wireless remote trigger from the Navy’s RIB, and according to the Yachting Monthly report there was “a brief orange fireball” followed by the explosion which sent hundreds of pieces of GRP into the air. There was a fatality…. the onboard Crash Test Dummy had lost his leg.

The boat is being recycled. The hull of the yacht is being delivered to the International Boatbuilding Training College in Lowestoft where students will practice their skills on her. Before it is submitted to the young would-be boat builders of Lowestoft, the Crash Test Boat will be exhibited at the Excel London Boat Show from 6th – 15th January 2012.

Crash Test Boat Gas Explosion

A Series of Crash Tests

Over nine months Yachting Monthly subjected the Crash Test Boat to a punishing programme of destructive experiments, including the following:

  • Capsize
    YM capsized the Crash Test Boat twice to see if the saloon, galley etc could be made safe or become a hell-hole in the unlikely event of a capsize or knockdown.
  • Dismasting
    After breaking the mast under sail, methods of getting rid of the broken spar were tested before it threatened to puncture the hull, then a jury rig was made with what was left.
  • Holed below the waterline
    There’s a thud and the boat groans before sailing on. Within moments the cabin sole is afloat and you’ve got a big problem. YM found out how long it takes to locate the hole and which emergency fixes work best.
  • Galley and engine fires
    YM tested a variety of measures aimed at making sure you can extinguish a fire before you have to abandon ship.
  • Gas explosion
    When did you last inspect your gas pipes and hoses? YM found out how much gas makes how big a bang and exactly what it can do to you and your boat.

Robert Holbrook, MD Admiral Marine

Robert Holbrook“Often, the first natural human instinct when an emergency or disaster strikes is panic. In a series of controlled experiments, the Yachting Monthly crew put theory to the test by re-enacting some typical worst-case scenario sailing accidents or emergencies – such as grounding, capsize and mast failure. Risk assessment and careful consultation with experts was at the core of all tests. How often are incidents like this photographed and filmed in detail? By sharing their findings in a series of articles, I could see how yachtsmen could learn much invaluable information. Admiral bought Fizzical in November 2010 and the project was born. Why not learn from our mistakes by following her story so you can avoid making your own?”

All Yacht Monthly articles are available in full

Download the full, unabridged Yachting Monthly articles in PDF format below for reading at your leisure.

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