Safety at Sea



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This document contains advice and procedures that form part of the clubs policy on safety. It must be read and signed by all members and is a condition of membership. In the main it addresses "Safety at Sea" issues but much of it can also be relevant to sailing on inland waters.


a) Lack of experience in judging conditions

b) Lack of competence or over confidence in demanding conditions

c) Unsuitable equipment

d) Worn or damaged parts / ropes

e) Lack of fitness / strength

f) Fear or panic

g) Injury whilst sailing

h) Fatigue

i) Sailing in unsuitable or deteriorating conditions

j) Sudden increase in wind strength whilst on the water

k) Collision with another board or other vessel

l) Lack of local knowledge

m) Hitting underwater obstructions

PREVENTION of INCIDENTS - ask yourself these questions

a) Have I checked the Inshore forecast and tied table before sailing on the sea?

b) Can I handle these conditions - Am I fit enough and strong enough? (You must be absolutely sure)

c) Is my gear in good and reliable condition? Check all equipment regularly and replace worn or damaged parts or ropes.

d) Do I know the basic right of way rule - The "Starboard" rule? I f your right hand is nearest the mast (Starboard tack) you have right of way over those with their left hand nearest the mast (Port tack). If you are on a collision course on a starboard tack you must shout "STARBOARD". It they still don't give way - YOU MUST TAKE ACTION YOURSELF TO AVOID A COLLISION

e) Is my wetsuit / drysuit suitable for the time of year? Take advice

It is strongly recommended that you carry the following items as a minimum: Spare mastfoot; spare rope/s; 4 metre towrope; "Dayglow" flag and a whistle.


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a) UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES LEAVE YOUR BOARD except to facilitate rescue. Sit on it with the rig in the water and compose yourself. If the conditions are rough, consider lashing the rig securely to the board

b) SUMMON HIELP IMMEDIATELY - Whatever the reason for your distress, you must get help straight away by whatever means is available to you, eg:

Raising and lowering your outstretched arms outwards from the sides of your body

"Dayglow" flag - held so that others can see it on the water or on the shore.

Red aerial "Mini Flares" or Orange smoke flare


Mobile phone in waterproof sack

Shouting, "HELP!"

It should be pointed out that the latter will be of little use if you are sailing on the sea on your own 200 metres offshore because it is quite unlikely that you will be heard (The sea can be very noisy)


If you are windsurfing and notice another windsurfer in distress or if you see or hear a distress signal, you must sail directly to the victim, assess the situation as quickly as possible. (Go to them even if someone else is on their way - two pairs of hands are always better than one). Then follow this procedure:

i) If the victim is in physical or mental distress YOU MUST STAY WITH THEM (two boards and rigs can make a very stable platform) and either:

a) Alert another windsurfer and instruct them to go ashore and dial 999 and ask for the COASTGUARD. At this point the Coastguard can be alerted to the situation - a lifeboat may not be necessary!

b) Depending on distance from shore, get someone else to bring the rescue line out from the shore?

c) Consider towing the victim to the shore

d) If there is a small boat or other craft nearby try to summon their help - it is their lawful duty to assist in saving life at sea

e) If the above options are unavailable or unworkable alert people on the shore who should then take action as described in the "Shorebased Response" section below

ii) If the victim has ,suffered equipment failure but is otherwise OK consider the following options:

a) Is it possible to effect a temporary repair just to get them ashore?

b) Can you assist with a self-rescue or assisted-rescue? Consider dumping the rig and towing the victim in to shore with the 4 metres of rope you should be carrying (NB. If the rig can't be retrieved later you must alert the coastguard to this fact, as it could be a danger to shipping)

c) Can someone else bring the rescue line out from the shore?

d) If there is a small boat or other craft nearby try to summon their help - it is their lawful duty to assist in saving life at sea

e) If the answer is NO to all the options above, alert another windsurfer or go ashore yourself; DIAL 999 and ask for the COASTGUARD. A Lifeboat may now be the only option left


If you are on the shore and notice a windsurfer in distress or if you see or hear a distress signal followed by this procedure:

a) Give two long blasts on the horn as a recognised response signal so that the victim knows that the Coastguard will be alerted and that help is on its way. Get someone else to assist by keeping the victim in sight.

b) Dial "999" and ask for the COASTGUARD. Either alert the Coastguard to a possible rescue and tell (them what is being done to assist or ask for immediate assistance if no other help is at hand. Stay on the line and keep them informed if necessary.

c) If possible get someone to go out on their board (with the retrieval line and a towline) to assess the situation and to reassure the victim - preferably the most competent sailor available - preferably on a high volume board - preferably with a daggerboard fitted to it)