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 US Olympic Committee has an excellent awareness training program on working with children which you may be interested in sharing:

Head injury is something that all regatta organizers should be aware of. Any sailor of any age who receives a blow to the head should receive immediate medical attention and not return to the water until they have been evaluated by a medical professional. More information and customizable templates about concussions can be found on the CDC website.

Your state may have additional requirements that you will need to follow.

The Burgee Insurance Program offers a comprehensive group of safety materials and resources including a Junior Sailing Safety Guide and a Yacht Club Safety Manual. Click here to access these resources. To learn more about insurance protection for your club or regatta, visit, email or call 800.262.8911.



Emergency Action Plans for Sailing Organizations:
Six Tips to Optimize your Plan and Response

Gowrie Group and The Burgee Insurance Program are proud to offer important safety materials and resources to sailing organizations nationwide. We believe one of the most important documents that all sailing organizations should have in place is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). At the most basic level, an Emergency Action Plan covers these important things:

  • The key steps to take if an emergency or life threating injury occurs.
  • What to tell 9-1-1 or emergency responders when reporting the situation.
  • The exact locations for where to meet the emergency responders.
  • The key contact information needed for communication during and after an incident.

Visit Gowrie Group’s Safety Resources page to download an Emergency Action Plan Template and other important safety resources for sailing organizations and sailing programs.


Six Tips to Optimize your Emergency Plan and Response
As you create and practice your EAP, Gowrie Group recommends you also review these 6 tips to empower your team to respond to an emergency as quickly, safely, and effectively as possible.1. Review and Practice your Emergency Action Plan Annually

  • Review your EAP with all staff at least once a year.
  • Run a practice “drill” each season – invite your local emergency authorities to participate.
  • Team with local emergency authorities (Coast Guard, fire department, police, harbor master, etc.) when developing and practicing your EAP.  Together, determine the optimal rendezvous locations for emergency transfers, document how to contact each authority, and understand how jurisdictions change from water to land.
  • When necessary, revise your plan based on learnings from your practice “drill.”

2. Post and Share your Emergency Action Plan Prominently

  • A summary version of your EAP should be posted prominently in multiple locations at your facility: near phones/VHF, dock office, front office, etc.
  • Laminated versions of your summary EAP should be given to all on-the-water staff and attached to each coach boat, launch, club vessel, and/or RC boat.
  • It may also be appropriate to share a copy with your club members and/or to post to your website.

3. Employ Effective VHF Communication 

  • Know what VHF station your club/program uses, and what station the local emergency teams use.
  • Ensure employees do a radio check before taking a VHF radio into service/action, every time.
  • Determine a strategy for having 2 VHFs and 2 people with the injured person/incident at all times.
  • When speaking, clearly state your name and which boat you are in (every radio transmission).
  • Use HIGH power setting on the VHF for maximum volume and reach in an emergency.
  • Ensure shore team receiving injured person has a working VHF tuned to the right channel (borrow from another uninvolved staff member if needed).
  • Use cell phones when and where appropriate and effective.

4. Know how to Communicate your Location

  • When practicing/reviewing your plan, make sure the team knows the number/names of the closest government buoys, landmarks, and channel markers.
  • When reporting your location, use North/South/West/East to indicate direction (not Left/Right).
  • When possible, report your location using Latitude/Longitude, in addition to visual landmarks and nautical markers.
  • Know how to drop a waypoint at the scene of the accident – this can be critical in the case of missing lives or assets.

5. Prevent Additional Accidents and Incidents

  • Train your team to stay calm, focused, and alert; and to act as quickly as they safely can.
  • Do not put yourself or others in harm’s way when responding or attending to an incident.
  • Respond and assist the injured person(s) to the best of your abilities – without risking additional injury to yourself or others.
  • If Junior Sailing related, remember to ensure the safe return to shore of the other children in the class.
  • When possible, secure the other boats involved and around the incident.
  • When possible, reduce or eliminate non-emergency (discretionary) recreational boating in the area.

6. Be Smart about Communication and Information Sharing

  • Ensure all onsite staff knows an emergency situation is occurring (dock, launch, instructors, galley, office)
  • Have Office personnel or periphery person notify Flag Officers or General Manager as soon as possible.
  • Follow US Sailing’s 10 Crisis Steps:Act as quickly, responsible, humanely and openly as you can. Form a small management committee but speak with one voice. Immediately contact all people with a connection by telephone. Call for independent review. Send no emails unless absolute security is guaranteed. Inform your insurance agent and listen to what they say.  Listen to your lawyer, but do not sound like one. Respect the public’s need to know, while also respecting victims’ privacy. Be accurate; say nothing unless you know it to be true. Take ritual seriously honor rescuers; consult clergy, psychologists and other specialists.  Respect PTSD. Grief counseling is extremely valuable.










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.


US Sailing has developed a number of waivers for use at its regattas.  These are provided for guidance only.  Individual state requirements vary and it is an organization’s responsibility to ensure they meet state and local laws.

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