An entrapment incident took place during a training session for single-handed dinghies at our sailing club. Weather conditions were good, wind estimated force 3 to 4.
A sailor capsized when going about. The duty safety boat immediately responded, and observed the boat partially inverted and suspected that its mast head had become stuck in the mud (water depth is shallow estimated approx 2 – 3 metres). The sailor was trapped at the front of the cockpit, with his head above the water.
The safety team was concerned that the boat was inverting further. Recognising the danger, they took immediate action to prevent this by putting pressure on the boats dagger-board.
It was noticed that a strong string used to retain the sailor’s hat to his buoyancy aid had become caught up on the boat. After several minutes the sailor managed to free himself by breaking the attachment point on his buoyancy aid.
During discussions after the incident it was recognised the sailor was carrying a knife and there was one available in the safety boat snatch bag, However, neither was given any consideration to effect a quick release. No injuries or breakages were sustained during this event, and it has been categorised as ‘a near miss’. Fortunately the mast did not break otherwise the boat may have fully inverted, trapping the sailor.
Lessons Learned: A club briefing was issued to all members noting the following: Preferable to attach hats with clip-on retainers rather than string or cord. Clothing and equipment should be tucked away and ‘snag free’. Sailors should carry a safety knife for such an occurrence. A reminder was given to all safety boat crews that safety knives are packed in all the club’s safety-boat grab bags.
It is encouraging that this sailing club has an established process for reviewing incidents, discussing the lessons learned and applying them. We commend the club for this. Does your club have a similar process?