Given the grace and beauty of sailing, one can easily forget the dangers involved. However, as all sailors know, our sport will never be without risk. Data from the United States Coast Guard and the National Safety Council remind us that 701 individuals were killed while engaged in recreational boating in the United States in 2001. Drowning was the principle cause in 519 of these deaths followed by 119 deaths due to traumatic injuries and 22 due to hypothermia. Indeed, our sport has been touched by tragedy over the last several years. Reducing the risk of sailing is the responsibility of skippers and boat owners.
Those of us racing in Area III LMSRF should take special note of safety in our sport. Yacht clubs and other regatta-organizing bodies may discuss issues of liability, prescriptive safety rules, and other requirements. Additional discussion may occur at the dock and in the clubhouse among us, the sailors. Throughout these discussions, we must not forget that the safety of a yacht and her crew is ultimately the responsibility of the skipper and boat owner. As Fundamental Rule No. 4 of the ISF's Racing Rules states: "The responsibility for a boat's decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone."
With honest reflection, many of us will admit that while we, the sailors, know what it takes to reduce risk and increase the safety of our yachts and crew, there are occasions when we do not practice what we preach. For example, the Coast Guard estimates that 445 (or 86%) of the boaters who died from drowning in 2001 could have been saved by wearing PFDs.
This is a call to action for a recommitment to basic sailing safety! As skippers and boat owners, we should:
Educate each member of our crews, especially new recruits, about standard safety procedures on our boats.
Practice what we preach regarding the use of PFD's, harnesses, and other safety equipment when and as appropriate.
Practice MOB procedures with all crew on board. MOB drills should take place several times during the season so that is it second nature for our crews to react immediately and professionally if the need occurs.
Never condone high-risk behavior and censure anyone who advocates "macho, cowboy-type" behavior in our sport.
Most importantly, set the example by establishing a culture of safety responsibility on our boats. Each skipper and boat owner must not forget that the safety of crew and boat are his or her responsibility.
Adopted by the Board of Directors of the Chicago Yacht Club, February 19, 2002.