Safety Boat Procedures For Sailing Regattas

Published on March 9th, 2015

by Rick Bischoff
Whether is it a man, woman or child who is in danger on the water during a regatta, it is the duty of the Race Committee to be ready to help. It is very important to establish procedures involving safety and rescue of persons participating in regattas.

The Overall Regatta Chair needs to be ready for action. In a multiple circle regatta, the Principal Race Officers (“PROs”) need to designate a “Safety Officer” for each course along with other safety personnel and Safety Boats. All Coach Boats should be made aware that they might be “drafted” to help in a crisis situation.

The Safety Officer should coordinate and communicate with the Signal Boat. All on-the-water communications should go through the Signal Boat as it will have greater communication capacity and personnel to record data and coordinate further response when needed.

The designated Safety Boat(s) should be manned by no fewer than two persons and should be a vessel which can be maneuvered in tight spaces and of appropriate size to bring aboard any person from the water, whether conscious or not. Additionally, the designated Safety Boat(s) should all carry a “Safety Gear” bag to be able to respond effectively to anticipated situations.

The following acronym is suggested for rescue procedures… ACRCR. Those initials stand for ASSESS, COMMUNICATE, RESPOND, CO-ORDINATE AND RETURN.

1. ASSESS and identify the nature and type of emergency; determine how many people are involved and whether everyone is accounted for; determine whether the situation involves an injury and the severity of that injury.

2. COMMUNICATE with the Signal Boat that an emergency exists and provide your assessment.

3. RESPOND and take appropriate emergency and rescue action.

4. COORDINATE recovery activities and communications with the Signal Boat, the Club Office, emergency personnel and others to assist in the determination of whether any injured person(s) should be transported to shore for emergency care.

5. RETURN injured person(s) to a designated landside point which is accessible by ambulance and communicate status and condition with dockside and emergency personnel to accomplish rendezvous. Report back to the Signal boat that you have completed your task and ask for further instructions.

Just as the sailors check their gear before leaving the dock, boats designated as Safety Boats need to be prepared for anything with several folks trained in CPR. The following is a Safety Gear Equipment List:

• Normal USCG required equipment
• Clipboard with pad and pencils
• Whistle and Air Horn
• Throwing ring or throwing stick
• Throwable flotation
• Boat hook and paddle
• Four additional 30’ lines for towing alongside
• Heaving and securing light line-40’
• Vessel VHF plus handheld VHF
• GPS unit, Ground tackle suitable for anchoring damaged or overturned vessel
• Small bright-colored float with line and carabineer clip to mark the anchored vessel from which crew has been removed, spare carabineer clip(s)
• Towing bridal
• First aid kit and space blanket
• Megaphone with fresh batteries
• Duct tape, towels, spare small lines
• Wire/bolt cutters
• Par-buckle devise to bring unconscious person aboard
• Knife

Too much preparation is never enough in an on-the-water crisis situation. It is certainly worth the time in the weeks before the regatta, to GET READY.

Rick Bischoff is an active contributor to the sport, having been president of the U.S. Optimist Dinghy Association, Orange Bowl Regatta Chair, and commodore of Coral Reef Yacht Club in Miami, FL.

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