Harken Derm

Risk Management and Safety at Yacht Racing Forum

Published on October 6th, 2016

Seahorse Magazine
Among topics introduced for the 2016 edition of the Yacht Racing Forum is a new module dedicated to Risk Management & Safety, an issue that is of increasing importance for all yacht clubs and race organizers.

Sailing is changing rapidly, with new technologies, faster boats and more and more high speed close contact. You are a club, a race organizer, a sailing team? Very probably you have no real idea of how exposed you are legally with this rapid evolution. We are talking liability, fines, compensation, and in some of the most extreme cases a real risk of prison.

Some recent examples include Phaedo’s miraculous high speed escape from the midst of the ponderous X One Design fleet in Cowes Week, Spindrift’s tragic accident during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Lorient and the much-publicised and violent GC32 crash with the powerboat of a famous international photographer in Italy during July. Plus of course, Franck Cammas’s own severe injury suffered when falling from a foiling catamaran.

Another example is the GC32 of Prince Casiraghi of Monaco as it sliced into the Rib of Italian photographer Carlo Borlenghi earlier this year at Malcesine on Lake Garda. The GC32 pitchpoled violently after impact, launching several crew far away from the capsized cat and her exposed foils. This incident highlights the severe lack of forward visibility once such boats are up and foiling, something that is yet to be widely appreciated.

There have been plenty of other near misses as well, as boat speeds increase so inevitably do the inherent dangers.

The Yacht Racing Forum initiated this debate last year in Geneva. One year later and the subject has reached such a level of urgency that a dedicated module is considered both appropriate and necessary for Malta next month. Chaired by outgoing Volvo Ocean race CEO Tom Touber, this conference will explore and assess participants’ and organisers’ awareness of the risks involved, with the aim of identifying more dependable and reliable strategies for the future.

Sarah Allen, maritime lawyer at Bentleys, Stokes & Lowless, will detail the legal implications while for the organizers there will be input from Phil Lawrence (VOR Race Director), Christian Scherrer (GC32 Class Manager), Luca Rizzotti (Garda Foiling Week) and Gunnar Larsen (Nacra 17 Class).

One small example, just 15 years ago relatively few people wore a helmet regularly for skiing. Today, few skiers would venture onto the slopes without adequate head protection. Sailing, on the other hand, still lags behind. For the mainstream market in particular the rules of our sport have yet to adapt to the new reality.

It is only at the highest level of yacht racing, primarily in the America’s Cup, that personal impact protection is seen as essential. Compare this to horseback riding where the majority of those taking part now consider body protection to be the obvious choice, especially for the younger rider.

The objective of the Forum’s new Risk Management & Safety conference is to encourage our own sport to pay more attention to the ways in which other sports, some of which are clearly now moving ahead of sailing, address such important central issues. The Yacht Racing Forum 2016 will take place in Malta on November 28-29. Full Story.

Seahorse is the dominant international magazine for anyone serious about their racing. Take advantage of their subscription offer or order a single copy of Seahorse online at www.seahorse.co.uk/shop or for iPad download the Seahorse App at the iTunes store. Contact by email at subscriptions@seahorse.co.uk.

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