I have had 3 salutary experiences.
a) was my own, where as an 18 or 19 year old, got caught under an 18teen, I got out, shaken and stirred and I can still re-live it to this day.
b) not so long ago friend of mine got caught under an 18teen again, only reason he is alive is that the other 2 crew dived and blew air into his mouth while untangling him, ended up in hospital for a few weeks.
And c) Magnus Graver, sailing my 49er in Helsinki got trapped. Alexandro from Spain, cut the rig out and got him up, long stay in hospital and he now runs the Swedish Sailing program. Meet him regularly, last time in Lausanne this year. Very lucky boy.
Paddy Boyd who was then the Gen Sec of Canadian Yachting but obviously Irish told me once that more people die from drowning in Ireland riding horses than die from sailing related drownings world-wide, so the risk is small, but there is a risk, and we should do everything we can to mitigate it.
If you use rope, you need to anchor it. The best “commercially” available rope anchor is the Blue Wave T-ball/Eye and it’s heavier than a simple T-ball. And if you do the sums on a 29er the all up weight difference is less than 100gms.
Against that the simple fact is that well maintained wire does not pig-tail and most importantly it does not float. Spectra floats and pig-tails. People float.
So why would you put floating people in the same region as floating, pig-tailing rope, all to save say 50gm and have a significant increase in windage to-boot?
We have made quite a few changes, very often against public sentiment.
I remember the donut on the end of the spinnaker pole, which was decried and opposed. But if those people had not persevered and had not been successful then today there would be many FX girls with significant life changing scars on their upper bodies after last year.
No-one is decrying the donuts now!
Same goes for the shock cord spinnaker take up which is a mandatory fit-out in the 29er and 49er. I may not have saved a single life, but I for one am not willing to remove it to find out! I am not about to approve any spec change to allow rope on 29er trapeze wires and it would be a very brave ISAF or I29erCA to force the change.