CHIRP recently received a report from a race officer at a sailing club who was monitoring VHF channel M1 (one of 2 private channels widely used by sailing clubs for race control) and who overheard a conversation between an alleged safety boat crew and the race officer from another club.
The Yacht Club boat crew used VHF M1 to call their race officer several times for information including details of the location of the boats ignition key/lock, how to connect the kill cord and the location of the kill cord switch. The reporter was concerned by the probable lack of competence and limited experience of the boat crew that could have significantly affected their ability to operate as a safety boat effectively and safely.
The reporter highlighted the lesson learned: there is a need for appropriate safety boat training and certification followed by appropriate regular experience of using safety boats by their crews.
CHIRP contacted the Yacht Club concerned, who advised they use only ‘Patrol’ and not ‘Safety’ boats when supporting club activities and that they have considered and adopted the RYA safety guidance for clubs. This report has also been discussed with the RYA.
Clearly, driving a club safety boat is vital to the safe running of dinghy racing and sail training within clubs and in an ideal world all club safety boat drivers would be RYA powerboat level 2 and RYA safety boat qualified. However, the RYA recognises that this is not always practical for some clubs and its volunteers and these cases it has put together detailed guidance which is available at
http://www.rya.org.uk/newsevents/enewsletters/theclubroom/sept2011/Pages/Callingallsafetyboatdrivers.aspx. The RYA recommends that crews are reminded of the guidance every time those crews take up their duties.
An accredited Safety Boat Course such as that provided by the RYA is strongly recommended. http://www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/courses/powerboat/Pages/Safetyboat.aspx
The RYA Safety Boat Handbook (G16) is a useful reference document for advice to anyone involved in providing a safety boat back up for dinghy sailing and windsurfing. Additional free information on risk assessment and safety auditing can be downloaded from www.britishrowing.org