Safety, Waivers and Risk Management
This section of Championship Management provides all of the Safety and Risk Management considerations that must be part of any U.S. National Championship. 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 should include how you will manage an accident on and off the water, how you will communicate to emergency services, having the necessary life saving equipment both on the water and off. These include bolt cutters and rigging knives. There are checklists, waivers or releases and required 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.
Planning for safety, on and off the water, is particularly vital to any event, so appointing a qualified and committed person to head up this effort would be a good early assignment. 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 dingies.
Powerline hazards should be first on your safety officer’s “To Do” list. A meticulous troubleshooting walk around the event site and approaches by land and water will identify any dangerous situations. Do this months ahead, so remedies can be implemented. Read “Electrical Hazards” under Safety and Risk Management Considerations.
PFDs save lives. Make your PFD policy known to all, in the SIs, and at competitors’, RC, coaches’ and safety-boat meetings (e.g., 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.
Your particular venue will make certain safety measures important. These, from a US Sailing event at Chicago Yacht Club, will suggest measures right for your event:
• Station someone with a scratch sheet at the harbor mouth to check sailors out and in. The check-out/check-in person has a VHF and a cell phone (with list of emergency numbers).
• Appoint a safety boat captain. Among this person’s responsibilities is to assign safety boats to specific locations on the race course or in the sailing area, to assure proper coverage of the area. Safety boats tend to congregate unless assigned specific areas of responsibility.
• 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. Click here for more.
• Medical consent forms are alphabetized and kept at the Communications Desk. Someone is assigned to the desk at all times while sailors are on the water.
• The spectator fleet is instructed to contact race organizers if they pick up someone. They are also instructed that, in any weather emergency, they would be counted on to help in any way and should know the channel on which the RC will be broadcasting.