Safety At Speed

Published on March 14th, 2018

by Gary Jobson, Sailing World
Skiffs, foiling multihulls and monohulls, and supercharged sportboats are raced by motivated and skilled sailors creating a new game with the potential for regular incidents. Combine overstressed equipment used by competitors who push themselves and their boats to extremes, and no matter how hard you try to prevent them, accidents will and do happen. High speed inevitably translates into equipment breakdowns, and boathandling errors, which heightens the obligation for sailors to watch out for one another.

Olympic 49er sailor Joe Morris, from Annapolis, Maryland, once dealt with a man-overboard situation in a 420 regatta when he was a teenage sailor. He found himself in a rare situation. “On a downwind leg, we passed a female sailor in the water. She was unconscious, her head was down, and she was not moving,” says Morris. “Instinct took over, and I grabbed her trapeze and hauled her into our boat. Apparently, she had been hit in the head by the boom. Her boat and skipper had drifted away.”

A patrol boat transported her to the ­hospital, where she recovered. One can imagine the impact such an incident would have on a teenager like Morris. Years later, he teamed up with fellow college All ­American Thomas Barrows in the 49er. The 49er is a tough boat to sail, he says, and things happen quickly. “While you need to keep an eye out for others,” he says, “you have to ask yourself, Is it better to go help another boat, or try to seek help?”

The first thing you should do if you end up in the water is yell to draw attention, he suggests, adding that a whistle attached to your PFD is essential.

In another incident, Morris and ­Barrows capsized a 49er in 30 knots of wind off ­Portugal. Morris couldn’t initially find ­Barrows, but swam around the boat and found him with his legs wrapped around the sheets, his head barely above water. Morris was wearing a PFD, preventing him from diving below the surface to free ­Barrows’ feet from the sheet.

Complete story… click here.

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