Regatta Safety

Planning for safety, on and off the water, is particularly vital to any event. Your particular venue will make certain safety measures important and it’s vital that you develop a plan and collect the resources to meet the conditions and location of your regatta. A meticulous troubleshooting walk around the event site and approaches by land and water will identify any potentially dangerous situations. Do this months ahead, so remedies can be implemented.

First and most importantly, create a Safety Plan. A safety plan is your best protection in case of an accident. IF you EVER have an accident, if you get into court, you will be asked to show your standard of care. IF you don’t have an emergency plan, you won’t have a formal standard of care and could be in trouble. Your plan at a minimum should include:

  • How you will manage an accident on and off the water.
  • How you will communicate to emergency services both from the water and off the water.
  • Having the necessary life saving equipment both on the water and off. These include bolt cutters and rigging knives.
  • Identifying where you will keep medical forms so they can be immediately accessed in the event of an emergency.
  • There should be no risk that a mast hit a powerline.

There are checklists, waivers or releases and other forms for sailors under 18. For big boat racing, other requirements will need to be met. Learn more about US Sailing’s Safety at Sea training program.

The Burgee Insurance Program provides a Junior Sailing Safety Guide and a Yacht Club Safety Manual to all clubs insured through the program.

To receive the “full” version of these safety materials, or learn more about insurance protection for your club or regatta you can visit, e-mail or call 800.262.8911.

Life jackets save lives!

Recent studies have shown that US Coast Guard approved PFDs do a better job of keeping one’s head afloat than CCE approved life jackets. US Sailing requires USCG approved life jackets at their events for this reason. Look inside your life jacket. If it says anything other that USCG approved, it has not been approved by the Coast Guard and does not meet US Sailing’s requirements.

Make your PFD policy known to all, in the SIs, and at competitors’, RC, coaches’ and safety-boat meetings. US Sailing recommends that competitors are required to wear PFDs on the water, as are coaches; all other on-water support people, including boat drivers, parents, are strongly encouraged to wear PFDs.

Lightning deserves mention at your Competitors’ Meeting (if there’s even a remote chance of a storm): Suggest what competitors can do if lightning appears while boats are on the water, e.g., capsize and sit on upturned hull awaiting instructions/assistance.

US Sailing recommends a ratio of one safety boat to every eight (8) boats racing.

Safety boats should be softsided vessels, capable of coming up next to a small boat. Ideally, there should be two people on each boat, or at least one person capable of lifting an adult out of the water and with knowledge of how to right dinghies. Assign safety boats to specific locations on the race course or in the sailing area, to assure proper coverage of the area.

One safety boat has emergency first-aid supplies. One has tools and a limited number of boat parts, tape, etc. to deal with breakdowns. Many have water. All have radios AND rigging cutters.