A Message from US Sailing President Gary Jobson
The extremely unfortunate incidents over the past month in California, coupled with those from last summer, have caught the attention of the authorities and participants, and raised questions as to the safety of our sport. While no tragedy should be discounted, we will learn from these events and work to prevent incidents like this in the future. Through it all, sailing remains one of the safest water-based recreational activities. Sailing accounts for an extremely small percentage of the total boating accidents and an even smaller portion of the fatalities. A lot of this has to do with the fact that safety, and respect for the weather and waters has always been a priority for sailors.
As we enter the busy sailing season, these incidents should not dampen our passion nor discourage people from participating, but rather serve as reminders and impress upon all of us the importance of diligence as we plan, organize and participate in upcoming events. We are currently conducting independent panel reviews into the sailing accidents in California, and expect that our findings will identify areas for improved safety and preparation, as well as reinforce the practices and standards currently recommended.
To help as you prepare for your upcoming events and programs, below are some resources and things to consider that can assist you in your planning and execution. This is not an all inclusive list, but highlights some key areas and should spark additional ideas for your organizations.
Tips on race planning and preparation from Safety at Sea Chairman Chuck Hawley
- Work closely with your local Coast Guard sector when applying for a marine event permit. Make sure that you have a communications plan with the Coast Guard so that there are no questions about how to summon their resources and whom they should contact if an issue arises.
- Race organizers should identify the races by their category, and then require that participants equip their boats to meet ISAF/ US Sailing Offshore Regulations Equipment Standards.
- Reinforce the message that life jackets, EPIRBs and PLBs, distress signals, and VHF radios are essential for safe boating.
- When conditions warrant, fly the Y flag and keep your racers safe by requiring that they wear life jackets.
- Hold a skipper’s meeting and emphasize safety. Remind them of the need to equip their boats with required gear.
- Have in place a Crisis Plan so your race management team is prepared to deal with an incident.
Safety Materials from The Burgee Program
The Burgee Program by Gowrie Group is committed to helping yacht clubs and sailing organizations achieve and maintain the highest safety standards. We recommend that clubs review the safety materials below and implement safety standards during early season preparations. When the club is in full operation, a live review should be conducted to make sure all standards have been successfully adopted and put into practice. The Burgee Program is endorsed by US Sailing and is the only custom insurance program for yacht clubs and sailing organizations. To learn more or request the full documents, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.262.8911.
- Dock Safety Guidelines
- Hurricane Activation Plan Template
- Yacht Club Safety Manual
- Junior Sailing Safety Guidelines
General safety resources
- Encourage your racers and other participants to take the Boat US Safe Boating Course online
- Hold a Safe Powerboat Handling course at your club, followed by a Race Support course.
- Does your club have a safety plan with local rescue services like TowBoat US, SeaTow, County Sheriff, Harbormaster, or ambulance services?
- Download the US Sailing Safety at Sea planning document so you can see how to host a Safety at Sea seminar at your club or facility.
Safety plans should include:
- How you will manage an accident on and off the water.
- How you will communicate to emergency services and among yourselves.
- The necessary life saving equipment both on the water and off. These include bolt cutters and rigging knives on a designated safety boat, along with VHF radio(s) and cell phones.
- Contact information including day, mobile and evening phone numbers for all parties and distribute them in advance.
- More emergency action plan items from the US Sailing Championships site.
More considerations for youth sailors
- Almost every state has legislation in place on how to deal with a sailor who has been hit on the head. As a general rule, US Sailing recommends that any sailor of any age who receives a blow to the head be checked over by medical personnel. Under 18 year olds’ parents should be notified and sailors should not be permitted to sail unless cleared in writing by medical personnel.
- Get your safety plan signed off by your insurance agency to make sure you have not forgotten anything.
2011 US Sailing Safety Reports
US Sailing conducted three independent panel reports on the youth sailing 420 tragedy on Severn River, 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac accident involving Wingnuts, and the Rambler 100 incident.
Please click below to access each report from the panel.
- Youth sailing 420 tragedy on Severn River report
- 2011 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac report
- Rambler 100 report
US Sailing and our dedicated and experienced volunteers have a wealth of knowledge and resources. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions.
- For questions pertaining to offshore regulations and safety, contact the US Sailing Offshore Department at email@example.com.
- For question related to instructional curriculum for safety in junior and adult sailing programs, contact the US Sailing Training Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For questions about safety protocol from race officers, judges, umpires and competitors, contact the US Sailing Race Management Department at email@example.com.