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What is it like to do a sea survival course

Sea Safety Training
We joined Hamble School of Yachting for three days of training, covering the RYA/ISAF Offshore Safety, RYA Sea Survival and RYA First Aid courses.

Why do training?
There is no substitute for the practical hands-on experience gained from spending time at sea, but despite what the ‘salty sea dogs’ say, there is always more to learn; and the best way to learn is from the experts. Our three instructors were all highly experienced – a professional delivery skipper, an ex-Royal Naval training instructor, and a Fire Brigade trauma care instructor – and their personal expertise was an excellent addition to the official syllabus.


Who takes part?
My fellow students were a mix of ARC and Rally Portugal participants, people considering long-distance cruising and partners who wanted to feel more confident onboard. Our ages ranged from late 20s to the mid-60s. Some were taking the courses as part of a wider range of formal training, others just looking to brush-up their knowledge. Five ARC 2012 crew had come out from Denmark specially to take the Offshore Safety and Sea Survival courses, as these are not available closer to home.

What is covered?
The courses are designed to improve your knowledge and help you to prepare for the worst situation. We learned practical tips for what to do if the yacht is holed or if a seacock fails; how to manage a gas leak; what to do in case of fire onboard; recovering a man overboard; helping a seriously injured or sick crew; clearing and managing a dismasting; and the ultimate worst-case scenario, abandoning the yacht.

Our instructors made us think about how we would equip and manage our boats in these situations, and how we would prepare ourselves if we were crewing or chartering. We learned about the different issues facing yachts and crews who sail outside of coastal waters, and we discussed the need for independence and self-reliance when ocean sailing.

Is it just sitting in a classroom?
The courses were very hands-on. We used the local swimming pool for lifejacket and liferaft practice, and we used the sailing school boats in the marina. We hoist storm jibs and tri sails, looking at the safety equipment installation and trying out man-overboard recovery systems; we fired handheld flares and fought imaginary fires with a range of real fire extinguishers; we cut wire and rod rigging with bolt croppers; we tried mouth-to-mouth and CPR on dummies; we practiced swimming in full wet-weather gear and lifejackets; and we launched and boarded a liferaft and then righted an inverted raft.

See the You Tube video clips below of us having a go:
Cutting rigging
Handheld flares
Smoke flare
Fire extinguisher (water)
Fire extinguisher (dry powder)
Fire extinguisher (CO2)

What did we learn?

At the end of the weekend I felt ready to consider how best to prevent emergencies onboard, and capable of managing the situation should the worst happen. The practical experience in the swimming pool and in the liferaft really brought home to me that abandoning to a liferaft is the really the last thing to do, only when all other options have been exhausted.

See a video of participant Christian Koefoed-Nielsen talking about what he learned on the training.

As Christian Koefoed-Nielsen, skipper of Psyche (GBR) said: “It has given me serious food for thought, and I am now more alert to what can go wrong and how to fix it.” Christian’s partner and crew, Suzanna, said that the courses were a real confidence booster: “As a less experienced sailor I found it massively helpful. I’ll never hear the words ‘grab and bag’ again without wanting to fill one up immediately!” Bernard Sumner, skipper of Siren (GBR) said: “You’ve got to think through the issues and to be prepared in advance for events without scaring yourself to death.



Ocean Safety - Pyrotechnics: A Complete Guide

Flares are an essential part of the safety equipment to be carried on board all rally yachts and our official safety partner, Ocean Safety Ltd have just released a complete video guide to pyrotechnics.
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Ocean Safety Man Over Board Recovery Demonstration

Marine Safety Experts; Ocean Safety, demonstrated their JonBuoy Recovery Module at the WCC Bluewater Weekend in June. The demo showcased an array of safety products which would assist with a man overboard situation whilst at sea and safely recovering a casualty.
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Radio Communications at Sea – It’s good to talk

Staying connected is important both for safety of boats at sea and for the social interaction between crews that adds another level to the enjoyment of sailing offshore. During ocean stages of our rallies there are daily SSB (HF) radio nets, which are a mix of safety messages, discussions on weather and routing, and social contact between the boat crews.
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Safety Equipment Requirements

We expect boats to carry a range of safety equipment that is fit for purpose and ready for use. Our requirements are based on the ISAF standards for offshore sailing.Full equipment listing and links to advice and information here.

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Video Training Library

Visit the World Cruising Club YouTube channel and browse our playlists of helpful safety training videos.

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Communications Equipment

We require boats in all our offshore rallies to have communications equipment capable of sending and receiving emails whilst at sea. This can be via satellite telephone (Iridium, Inmarsat) or via SSB radio with a pactor modem. For advice on different equipment types, refer to your rally handbook, or visit for impartial advice.

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Learn about ocean weather with Chris Tibbs

This new two day weather course is for any yachtsman who would like to expand their knowledge on a complex subject made simple by the marine met expert Chris Tibbs – “the ARC weatherman”. If you are a budding skipper or an experienced sailor this course will build on your understanding and help you improve your forecasting skills, whether you are sailing in the Solent, crossing the Atlantic or sailing around the world.
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What is it like to do a sea survival course

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