Reminders for Safety Boat Helm

These helpful Instructions and Guidance for Safety Boat Helm and Crew have been written by members for members. Updated 24/10/2020 with ref. to RYA Entrapment Advice at:  

Dealing with entrapments within dinghy sailing | October 2020 | Club Room | e-newsletters | News & Events |RYA - Royal Yachting Association

A. General:

  • Always wear a kill cord.
  • Keep your hands on the throttle and wheel at all times when moving.
  • Wherever possible keep your boat speed to a minimum so that you do not create unnecessary wake and make it easier for people to anticipate the safety boat intentions.
  • Avoid steering directly astern of those who are racing, in case they capsize, fall out or alter course unexpectedly.
  • If it is necessary to come alongside, it is best to do this when a sailing boat has stopped on a close reach and the safety boat can come in on the windward side of the dinghy and hold the shroud to keep them close. Once in place turn the engine off if necessary for ease of communication.
  • Above all maintain a good look out around your safety boat at all times!

B. 5 Stages of Rescue Response:

1) Swift Response

  • Proceed as swiftly as possible to the scene of the incident avoiding unnecessary wake and keeping clear of boats not involved.
  • When approaching a moving dinghy let the helm know your intentions, communicate clearly, approach from the windward side.
  • Always have an escape plan up your sleeve, know which way you’re going to turn to get out of a situation before things go wrong - sometimes just dropping into neutral will do it!

2) Count Heads

  • Check the number of sailors’ heads corresponds to the expected crew level of the boat – if there are discrepancies, presume possible entrapment.
  • When approaching a capsized dinghy, it is best to approach initially bow first, from up wind, keeping the prop away from the boat crew, equipment and hazards.

3) Right the Dinghy

  • Proceed to the mast head and consider attaching a flotation device to guard against inversion
  • Always switch your engine off when dealing with a person in the water.
  • Lift the mast and/or use the shrouds/forestay to right the dinghy – if inverted, work along the forestay to lift the mast to horizontal, then proceed as above.

4) Free the Sailor(s)

  • Ensure the crew are free from ropes and equipment, one of the safety crew should enter the water if necessary to do this whilst the other keeps hold of the righted boat.

5) Recover the Sailor(s)

  • Ascertain whether the sailor(s) wish to return to their boat and sail independently.
  • If you suspect any exhaustion, injury or lack of competence, board the sailor(s) to the Safety Boat and return them to shore at the landing pontoon.
Please take time to familiarise yourself with the following documents:


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