For some time Club Marine has been supporting Safety at Sea initiatives and we have published many articles advocating a hands-on approach to safety.

By The Editor

We have recommended that families fit their personal lifejackets before they go out on the water and mark them with each individual's name, we have recommended people take the time to understand the oper-ation of flares and other safety devices, and practice man overboard drills.

Sadly it has taken the tragedy of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race and the far-reaching recommendations of the subsequent coronial inquiry before a comprehensive safety course for recreational offshore boating was developed.

The Australian Yachting Federation in association with the organiser of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, has developed a comprehensive training course that goes a long way to addres-sing the issues. Called the AYF Safety and Sea Survival Course it replaces and enhances the broad-based safety awareness programs the AYF has conducted over recent years in preparation for the Sydney to Hobart race and other Category One races.

The course is aimed specifically at sailors, although there is much to be gained for powerboat owners as well. Genevieve White, the AYF's training officer, told Club Marine that the course is designed to assist offshore skippers and crews to develop awareness of yachting safety issues and responsibilities by offering strategies for handling emergencies at sea.

The course is also designed to familiarise skippers and crews with safety and emergency equipment. "Many skippers have never had to use the safety equipment they carry onboard and many have no idea how to use equipment such as liferafts or flares," she said.

The new course is based on the training required for the commercial Coxswain or Master Class Five qualification and is run over two days by qualified instructors. It comprises a number of modules including:

  • Principles of Survival
  • Personal Lifesaving Appliances
  • Areas of Risk
  • Abandoning Ship (Liferafts)
  • Use of Pyrotechnics
  • Weather Forecasts and Meteorology
  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting
  • Emergency Communications
  • First Aid and Early Management of Injury or Illness

Duty of Care

From July I, 2001 this special training is a requirement for at least 30 per cent of the crew to have gained a Certificate of Competence before a yacht can compete in a Category One ocean race such as the Sydney to Hobart. From July I, 2002 the require-ment will be for 50 per cent of the crew to have undergone the training.

The AYF invited a group of yachting writers, including the author, to take part in a demonstration of the Aband-oning Ship module of the course. The author has a Commercial Certificate of Competency, which requires a high level of competence in this type of training as well as a Yachtmaster's Certificate, so it was with some interest that we accepted the AYF invitation.

The module was conducted in the Qantas training pool at Sydney Airport by Matthew Bolton a qualified TAFE instructor. The module included the importance of fitting lifejackets correctly, survival skills in the water and how to board a liferaft. One very important drill was how to right a raft that had capsized and liferaft management once the crew was safely aboard.

To emphasise the difficulties of wearing wet weather clothing in the water, each participant was fitted out with Musto offshore weather gear and an inflatable lifejacket supplied by Ian Treleaven, who markets Musto and Line 7 sailing clothing in Australia. Ian also took part in the course.

For the participants, this was the first time that most of them had ever seen a liferaft inflated, let alone try to get into one. Even though the exercise was held in the controlled conditions of a purpose-built pool, it was an eye opener and at the end of the exercise there was a unanimous decision to never get into in one unless there was no other option.

Phil Jones, CEO of the AYF, said that despite being responsible for framing the rules for offshore yacht racing, the AYF saw itself more of an educator than a legislator. "By the sport taking the initiative it is showing itself to be responsible and it can only be of benefit to those taking part," he said.

While the course is a requirement for the crews of yachts competing in offshore events there is much to recommend it for cruising skippers and others who occasionally put to sea in a boat. Club Marine strongly recommends the course, not only for racing yachtsmen and women but also for anyone who goes offshore in a vessel.

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