Safety Guidelines and Rendering Assistance

Published on March 17th, 2021

The Racing Rules of Sailing are all rooted in the basic principle of sportsmanship which states how competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce.

Simple enough, but when the first rule in the book has to do with safety, and it remains a tenet we don’t fully grasp today (Getting an education in offshore sailing), Rich du Moulin reflects on an earlier experience:

At Block Island Race Week about 20 years ago, when I was serving as Commodore of Storm Trysail Club, we had a serious Man Overboard incident in the very large J/105 class. It was blowing in the upper teens, and all crew were hiking hard, and the MOB was on one of the leading boats,

Most of the class sailed on by, with many boats not seeing the MOB, a problem in part caused by the entire crew including tactician hiking with no lee lookouts. Several boats noticed the MOB, one even threw a life jacket, but all kept on sailing. Finally someone made the recovery.

That afternoon the very upset Club flag officers and Race Committee met to discuss the situation. There were no protests, and we did not have the names of the boats that failed to offer assistance. However, we followed up with very strong communications in writing to the fleet, and the next morning before racing we made a lengthy announcement over VHF.

After this event, we developed a Club policy detailing what we define as “Rendering Assistance” so no competitor could have any doubts about their responsibility. Over the years we have tweaked it… here it states:

A. The Racing Rules of Sailing (Rule 1.1) clearly states that “A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.” This is reinforced by SOLAS Convention Chapter V, Regulation 33.

B. Nevertheless, several events of “Man Overboard” (in some cases multiple MOB) have occurred in the past where nearby boats failed to render any assistance or rendered inadequate assistance. The Storm Trysail Club (STC) hereby offers its view of “rendering assistance.”

C. At all STC events, the following “Guideline for Rendering Assistance” will be referenced. Boats and their owners (and skippers, if different) who in STC’s opinion violate this Guideline (and therebyrule 1) may be disqualified from the race, a series, and possibly future STC events. STC advises every competitor to familiarize themselves with this Guideline and act in accordance. If a competitor witnesses a violation rule 1, they should protest.

To read the guidelines, click here.

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