Safety First

11 June 2012

Safety First
12 June 2012

Before the boats start the rally, every one will have a safety equipment inspection carried out by one of our experienced team.  This check ensures that every boat is carrying all of the mandatory safety equipment that we require - these are set down in the Safety Equipment Requirements and are a condition of joining the rally.
Since the very first rally was organised - the ARC in 1986 - we have always required boats to carry specific safety equipment. The current requirements are based on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Offshore Special Regulations - the 'rules' that govern offshore racing.  While Rally Portugal isn't a race, the ISAF regulations are a good guide to use, as they have been formulated by experienced sailors from around the world, and influenced by reports on sailing incidents worldwide. They are good common sense too!

During the safety equipment inspection we check that the boat has all of the equipment we require, and also that it is ready for use.  There is no point having the best lifejackets if they are sealed in bags in the bottom of a locker!  The picture shows inspector Rob Gaffney (who is also the principal of Hamble School of Yachting) looking at the small safety equipment on Miss Charlotte.

Because our inspectors are all experienced sailors, the inspection is an opportunity to discuss safety issues and share good ideas.  Onboard Scarlet Lady we discussed how to set-up and deploy a drogue in rough weather and for emergency steering.  A drogue isn't a requirement for the rally, but many long distance cruisers choose to carry one 'just in case'; and having an extra option for emergency steering is always a good idea.

Some good ideas that came out of the Rally Portugal 2012 safety equipment inspections included:

  AIS man overboard beacons fitted to lifejackets 
This one, a Kannad SafeLink R10 is fitted to the lifejacket top-up inflation tube.  If a person falls overboard, then they activate the beacon which sends a distress message, including GPS location, which is received by all vessels with an AIS receiver.  
Onboard Miss Charlotte, these had been professionally fitted to provide  semi-automatic deployment.  These personal AIS beacons are not mandatory, but they are a good idea, and relatively inexpensive.
  Clearly labelled first aid kits
All boats have to carry a first aid kit and manual, but the contents very from boat to boat.  These kits on North Point have been carefully packed and labelled so the correct kit can be quickly located in an emergency.
On Coral IV the comprehensive selection of drugs were stored in a compartmentalised tool box, with pain killers in one section, drugs for stomach complaints in another; again making quick identification much easier.
  Easily accessible white hand flares.
These are used for collision avoidance, as the bright white light is very hard to miss.  In areas with lots of shipping, like the Bay of Biscay, with commercial ships, fishing boats and yachts, having the flares readily to hand is a very good idea.
Onboard Miss Charlotte there is a white hand flare, torch and sharp knife mounted just inside the companionway where they quickly to hand for anyone in the cockpit.
Scarlet Lady has white hand flares in a netting bag in the companionway.
  Quick washboard securing system
All boats must have washboards that can be secured shut, and have lanyards fitted so the washboard can't be lost.  On Hallberg Rassy North Point, the beautifully varnished washboards are secured with simple sliding bolts, and the lanyards clip from the companionway handles to u-bolts screwed to the washboards.
Solutions like this are inexpensive, quick to install, and can be removed in port.
  Manual bilge pump on deck
Some boats, like Hallberg Rassys, don't have manual bilge pumps installed in the cockpit.  Not surprisingly, most owners are unhappy (or unable) to drill through the cockpit moulding to fit a pump.  A simple solution is a make a new washboard from plywood, and to fit a manual pump to this.  One end of the hose will reach down into the bilge (you can fit a strum box), and the outflow will pass through the washboard (through the hole in this photo) and empty either into the cockpit or over the side.
  Clipping points that allow the crew to clip on before coming on deck. 
Onboard Scarlet Lady the permanently mounted cockpit table is strong enough to have a jackstay attached to the base.  This allows the crew to clip on and move around the cockpit without having to clip and unclip.
Other boats have installed u-bolts and bespoke clipping eyes within reach of the companionway and helmsman.
It is important to always clip-on to the 'high' side of the boat, and to use as short a lanyard as possible.  Crawling up the side deck with a short lanyard may not be the most comfortable, but in rough weather it keeps your weight low and the short lanyard will stop you falling into the water.