Sailing Helmets and the Risk of Injury

Published on May 30th, 2019

While reading a tease for a report to be in the July 2019 issue of Practical Sailor, which will examine the need and options for helmets in sailing (click here), we were intrigued by the comments that followed:

• While I wholeheartedly agree that helmets should NOT be mandated, I have been looking at adding the Gath Retractable Visor to my foul weather kit. As one who has been knocked out once or thrice, bike accidents (no helmet) and martial arts, I’ve taken a few big melon hits while sailing, and none from boom-to-brain-bucket contact.

• You gotta be kidding. What’s next? Seat belts and never go on the foredeck because it’s too dangerous? Cut me a break. This isn’t motorcycle riding in I-95 with insane drivers, texting, distracted, drivers, blabbing on cellphones and all within one to three meters of one another traveling at 65+ miles per hour.

• I concur with the previous comment. Even “giving the impression” that helmets provide a significant safety benefit to sailing is something to be avoided. Incompetent skippers are a proven threat to all boaters, yet we require no licensing. Lack of helmets is proven to have no statistical relevance, yet we have so-called experts recommending the practice. It seems that not wearing life jackets, however, remains an insane habit of most recreational sailors.

• Honestly? Two cited examples from the past (20) years to try to lay grounds on why people should wear a helmet? The article says nine deaths but gives no context or time frame. If helmets are instituted will it be tracked how many deaths are caused because of the helmets; I don’t even think that’s possible.

Of those nine deaths (over what time period) would helmets have saved any of them? Has anyone even looked at number of hours sailors sail (or sub-categorize competitive sailing) vs. the number of hours a blunt force trauma to the head where a helmet would have made a difference? I can bet you it’s less than one in a million hours and from my experience in quality from the automotive braking industry that is more than acceptable (your car brakes are less reliable than that).

So why not just side on the side that says you will get struck by lightning eventually so wear a lightning rod? As I alluded to before 1) helmets can present an added danger, 2) inefficiencies do result in waste, 3) precedent set to people who don’t know will want to start requiring it for pleasure cruisers.

Repugnant leadership by whomever proposes this nonsense

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