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Calling all safety boat drivers. Following reports of a few incidents or close calls involving safety boats and dinghies, the RYA has put together some guidance for clubs. Driving a club safety boat is vital to the safe running of dinghy racing and sail training within clubs. In an ideal world all safety boat drivers would be qualified, at the minimum, to RYA powerboat level 2 and RYA safety boat qualified. However, this is not always practical for a club and its volunteers so, wherever the club can reinforce “best practice,” prior to a duty, both to those who are powerboat qualified and those who are not, this is a good thing. Remind safety boat crews about your club’s policy.
Whenever possible, safety boat crews should be reminded of the club’s policy for safety boat drivers. This could be as simple as a summary card reminding individuals of their duties as they sign out the key and killcord. Some top tips for safety boat drivers. Always wear a kill cord. Keep your hands on the throttle and wheel at all times when moving.
Always switch your engine off when dealing with a person in the water. Wherever possible keep your boat speed to a minimum so that you do not create unnecessary wake, and make it easier for people anticipate the safety boat intentions. When approaching a capsized dinghy, it can sometimes be best to approach bow first, from up wind, keeping the prop away from the boat hazards and crew.
Avoid steering directly astern of those who are racing, in case they capsize, fall out or alter course unexpectedly. If it is necessary to come alongside, it is best to do this when a sailing boat has stopped on a close reach and the safety boat can come in on the windward side of the dinghy and hold the shroud to keep them close. Once in place turn the engine off if necessary for ease of communication. If approaching a moving dinghy let the helm know your intentions, communicate clearly, approach from the windward side. Always have an escape plan up your sleeve, know which way you’re going to turn to get out of a situation before things go wrong - sometimes just dropping into neutral will do it.
Above all maintain a good look out around your safety boat at all times. Refresher training. It’s worth bearing in mind that many safety boat drivers only take to the controls once or twice a season, so they can often be pretty rusty. One idea is to have a pre-season “blowing the cobwebs away” half day or evening followed by a BBQ or curry. Invite club members along and remind them about the club’s safety boating policy, advising them of any new procedures and refreshing on-water skills.
How does your club tackle this? What refresher training do you organise? Let Club Room know and we’ll include your tips in the November issue. There are a number of good resources available to support safety boat driver training. Having a copy of the RYA’s G14 The National Sailing Scheme Instructor Handbook and the RYA’s G16 Safety Boat Handbook available for reference at your club is highly recommended.