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Safety Tips that we may need to modify - Any comments ?

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Notes for clubs organising long distance catamaran races

Draft prepared by William Sunnucks for UKCRA meeting on 3rd March 2001, with minor amendments inserted after the meeting. Still in discussion stage.


These notes have been prepared for discussion by the UK Catamaran Sailors Association. We could leave them in draft form, as a useful list of issues to be considered. Alternatively it might be worth going through a proper consultation process and issuing them to clubs as a practical guide, particularly clubs running a long distance race for the first time.

They will never substitute guidance issued by the RYA. However long distance catamaran races are different from normal dinghy races and the differences need to be addressed. The boats are faster, and a much bigger area of water can be covered.

Starts: race officers for long distance catamaran events are not expected to set windward starts or to wait for the right wind conditions to make the start fair. Races should normally start on time regardless of weather unless there is significant danger to life. The “regardless of weather” bit allows seamanship to be tested in all conditions and is incidentally helpful for media coverage. A 1 mile windward leg before setting off on the full course works well in French events: by contrast the Ronde om Texel organisers make no attempt to set a windward start, and somehow get 750 boats away on one line.

Gates: Gates to bring the fleet together every few miles complicate the course and can lead to unnecessary disqualifications. They also remove some of the challenge and tactical interest by forcing the boats into one long line. However one gate may be necessary in order to allow the course to be shortened. (The 2000 Tiengemeten organisers only had one gate to set. The leaders had difficulty in finding it and 17 boats were disqualified for missing it. Better to use natural features such as a rock or an island which can be identified in advance on a map)

Natural hazards: there should normally be a briefing before the race on known natural hazards. However it is not the race officer's job to lay a course which avoids them or to warn of every possibility. Competitors are expected to show standards of seamanship similar cruiser skippers i.e. have their own charts and have made their own enquiries. (the Worrell fleet sails 80 miles along the coast in the dark. A 3 mile unmarked breakwater sticks out into the sea just before the finish - it is the competitors responsibility to avoid it.)

Safety equipment: for normal UK long distance racing (30 - 50 miles in coastal waters) the following compulsory safety equipment should be considered:

one compass

one paddle

one flare on each crew member and in working order

a 10m tow rope. The rope may perform other functions (such as spinnaker or jib sheet) while racing (there is no need for a 30m dedicated tow rope as in some existing instructions)

Additional equipment could be allowed or compulsory for more extreme races

mobile phones - these can potentially play a major role in improving safety and reducing rescue cover costs

hand held radios - currently compulsory in the Worrell, but getting displaced in practice by mobile phones.

an anchor - difficult to store and almost never used. Only advantage is the possibility of anchoring a capsized boat while the crew is rescued.

GPS - a valuable navigation aid, and getting cheaper ($140)

EPIRBs - should be considered for races which go offshore without rescue cover

Relevant charts - laminated charts may be best procured in bulk by the organisers and sold to competitors at the event

Safety checks: helmsmen should be warned that the leaders and a sample of others may be subject to a safety check upon coming ashore. (This provides a strong incentive for sailors to keep their safety equipment in good working order. I feel that the safety checks before the race are not taken seriously - sodden flares are passed, and some sailors “borrow” equipment to get through the check. The organisers are probably increasing their liability by attempting it)

Standing by: there should be strong incentives for boats to help others in difficulty. Competitors who do not stand by a boat in difficulty should be at risk of disqualification. Those who do should be amply compensated for the time lost.

Handicapping: race organisers are advised to use the SCHRS handicapping formula. Lists for all major classes are available from Robin Smith (robinandlisa@onetel.net.uk) and should be available before the race

Boats on the list do not have to produce a certificate, but can still be checked

Boats not on the list have to produce a handicap certificate (we don’t want to swamp new ideas and designs with too much bureaucracy - but we don’t want blatant cheating either)

The certificate can be a printout of the SCHRS spreadsheet, which lists all measurements

The only signatures required should be for the weight of the hulls (if non-standard) and the sail measurements (the other items can be readily checked on the beach)

The signatures should be from an independent person with appropriate measurement experience (it would be onerous to insist on a proper RYA measurer)

Measurement checks: organisers are advised to have scales, tape measures and a measuring floor available to check measurements on a spot basis, either before or after the race. If there is difficulty in finding scales, Reg White may be able to help (01206 30 2724).

The sailing instructions should make it clear that boats may be measured after the race, and will be disqualified if any measurement differs from the measurement form and, in the opinion of the race officer the difference confers a material advantage. (This provides a big incentive to get the rating right, and is less time consuming than pre-race checks on all competitors)

Slower catamarans: where slower catamarans are allowed to enter organisers should set longer courses for the faster catamarans. This can be done

(i) by sending all catamarans with a SCHRS number faster than the benchmark on a long course, or

(ii) by allowing sailors to choose their course (long or short) before the start or

(iii) by including a compulsory gate at 2/3rds of the distance which is closed after a certain time. Boats which reach the gate after it is closed, race directly to the finish and are eligible for a separate prize.

(Unless we do this we will never have truly testing races for the faster catamarans).

Single handers: single handed catamarans are excluded from some long distances races on safety grounds, but allowed to sail in others. Where they are included, organisers may wish to recommend the use safety lines, permanently attaching the helm to the boat.

Age limits: race officers have a higher duty of care towards the under 18s, and may consider:

disallowing entries from anyone under 18, or

allowing under 16-18 year olds if they are sailing with an adult

Disclaimers: competitors should be warned in the notice of race and/or sailing instructions that the standard of safety cover will not be as high for a long distance catamaran race as for racing in a restricted area. Attachment 1 is a disclaimer which organisers may use to further re-inforce the message if they so wish. (Others may know more about this minefield than me. But it is absolutely critical that long distance races are not constrained by round the buoys standards. The Worrell organisers insist that helm and crew both sign a legally binding disclaimer before competing. In general the RYA are against special disclaimers believing that the standard race instructions give sufficient protection while case law to develops. I would argue that this is unsatisfactory for our long distance races, and that a clear set of guidelines combined with a special disclaimer will reduce the legal risks to organisers.)

Helmsman's responsibilities: as with any sailing race the helmsman is responsible for the safety of his boat and particularly his crew: this means that if there was ever litigation brought by an injured crewman he should sue the helmsman first, not the race officer. This point can be emphasised by giving more detail in the race instructions about how the helmsman should discharge his responsibilities, for example:

“It is for the helmsman of each boat to decide whether or not to race, or continue to race. In deciding he should have regard to his experience and fitness, his crew's experience and fitness and the state of preparation of the boat for the likely conditions. If in doubt he should seek advice from an experienced sailor or race official.”

Race officer’s responsibilities: the race officer's responsibility is to run the race. There is no obligation to cancel just because he fears that some boats might not be able to complete the course, or that rescue boats may not be immediately available to stand by capsized boats. (I believe that a clear statement such as this in generally accepted guidelines will help protect race officers. Note that a capsized catamaran normally provides a safe platform on which to wait for assistance. Note also that the Worrell organisers run a 1000 mile race in unfrequented waters with no rescue boats at all and no concessions to weather conditions. We insist on blanket rescue cover even in waters where there are hundreds of leisure craft afloat at weekends)

Organiser’s responsibilities: clubs should make it clear exactly who is responsible for what. This has two benefits: first it leads to efficient administration and second it offers greater legal protection. Responsibility at the Forts race was very diffuse, with an external RYA recommended race officer, the Whitstable Yacht Club and various race officials all involved. In practice Nick Dewhirst took control when things started to go wrong - very weak in legal terms and not v. practical.

Example of an American disclaimer, as used by Worrell 2000 organisers

(included as an illustration only - it is not suggested that this can be effectively translated into English law)


Recognizing the DANGER, the undersigned, does hereby assume the risk and

release and forever discharge WORRELL 1000, Inc., and its employees, agents

and sponsors from all claims, demands, rights, actions, or causes of action

on account of or in any way growing out of any and all personal injuries

and consequences thereof, including death, and specifically including also

any and all unforeseen developments or circumstances, to me, and medical

expenses and loss of earnings and any and all other damage resulting or to

result from my participation in the 2001 WORRELL 1000 and do hereby for

myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, successors, assigns and next

of kin, covenant to indemnify and save harmless WORRELL 1000, Inc. from all

claims, demand costs, expenses and compensation on account or in any way

growing out of any occurrence or accident that may result from my

participation in said 2001 WORRELL 1000.

I hereby warrant that my boat and team shall be outfitted, equipped and

handled in accordance with the 2000 WORRELL 1000 Rules and Conditions of

Entry, and that the boat will be in proper condition, seaworthy, and

competently manned.

I understand and hereby agree that as a condition of my acceptance to

register and participate in the 2001 WORRELL 1000, my team has received two

(2) complete copies of the Rules and Conditions of Entry for the 2001

WORRELL 1000, which I have read and understand. I further understand that

to complete this registration process I must initial and date each page of

one (1) complete set of these Rules and return the initialed copy with this

Registration Form.

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