Rule No 2 : It’s up to you.

Challenge 65 continued.

Rules of engagement 2, the human factor.

In my previous post i started to take a look at rules and regulations for our proposed 100 mile small craft race along the English south coast along similar lines to the Watertribe/Everglades Challenge event and, as a reader commented, probably more like the Race to Alaska which is another source of inspiration for this event.    In rule no 1, i said ‘bring a boat’ and pretty much any boat will do as long as you and a maximum of one crew could launch it off a beach and have some chance of sailing an inshore coastal route in British waters.    In this post i want to address the human element : the competency and capability of the skipper and crew.

Rule No 2, it’s your decision and your responsibility to take part and if need be, to retire.

I want to encourage sailors and paddlers to both create and take part in this kind of event because i think we need these kinds of challenges that promote competence, even excellence, self reliance and individual decision making in the modern world : and it’s my contention that we need them even more in a society that is becoming increasingly fearful , micro-managed and risk averse.

I note that the Watertribe describes the Everglades Challenge as a dangerous event under Florida state law and is therefore at pains to make sure participants understand that, furthermore that those taking part do so under their own responsibility and not in any way under the responsibility of the race organizers.  Here in the UK i don’t know of any statute that says going for a sail or paddle along the coast in a small craft that defines such activity as dangerous and nor does it seem to come under the legislation that the outdoors industry works under, where duty of care and ‘safety’ is paramount or so it seems.

I would say that going about our business on the sea has inherent dangers and risks and i happen to think that most sailors and paddlers deeply understand that , at least once they have got a few miles under their belts.  While i specifically don’t want to start adding in any rules and regulations about who can take part and in what way i do want to throw in a useful concept from the greatly misunderstood world of risk management , and that because i want the sailors and paddlers to think about and prepare, train and plan to reduce those risks.  In a way this is something that major event organizers have ended up having to do and where the end product isn’t an understanding of the risks but rather a list of equipment to be bought and carried and then some arbitrary filter to demonstrate competency and/or experience.     In the back of my mind of course are the offshore races that i took part in as a young sailor…..the Fastnet race of 1979 which happened as a kind of background when i worked in a boatyard and it’s outcome effectively changed the face of offshore yacht racing for ever.

Rather than creating a list of mandatory equipment i would much rather make up a list of kit that is highly recommended but i would also back that up with a generic risk management tool for participants to work with : for example a well worked out capsize and recovery drill that, if i were to ask a crew how they actually do it, would expect them to have worked out and practiced.

Self declaration.

What the experienced sailors who have been following the development of this whole concept have said is to go for self declaration of responsibility to take part and i thoroughly agree with that.  In principle i would much rather encourage and include potential participants to take place rather than create artificial filters and then mandatory requirements other than the most basic and obvious…..turn up for example with no buoyancy aid or no means of communication then i’m likely to slap you around the head a bit !.

As this post goes live it’s only a few weeks before the sailors and paddlers gather in Tampa bay Florida to start off the 2021 Everglades Challenge and i wish them fair winds and good cheer.  I was wondering though what would happen if, out of the blue, a stateside sailor suddenly needed a crew and had read some of my posts…..would i be ready to throw my sea-bag on the plane and fly out to join up ?.  Now, if you like sea stories then that’s exactly what i did in 1990 when the Big Yellow Bus urgently needed a medic of any kind who could sail and wind a big winch…..with only barely 10 days notice i literally dropped everything, new job, girlfriend etc and flew out to Auckland NZ to join the 1989-90 Whitbread race.   Quite literally arrived, went to boat, had a beer that night and then started on leg 4 of the race the next morning, would i do that today with the Everglades Challenge if somebody invited me ?

My answer is probably not and not just because of the current problems with international travel , i couldn’t go just for that reason alone and then probably wouldn’t be allowed back into the country without quarantine and a hefty bill…..oh and while i think about it i just renewed my British passport today at a hefty £91…..what a rip off !.   But no, i wouldn’t go and take part in the EC in most boat types because i don’t have any relevant current experience with dinghy-like sailing boats and i’m not so confident as to say that my big boat experience counts : for sure i’m a half decent sailor in anything with a keel, can navigate and ‘hand, reef and steer’ but i don’t have small craft experience.

This year i’m working on 2 major things in my sailing life, firstly working out the parameters and eventual choice of my long term small craft and secondly learning to sail a dinghy-like boat at least competently.  To those ends i’m waiting on study plans and getting my workshop together but also thinking about an intermediate boat as a training tool….something that costs very little but which i can train on and learn with so here i am : 63 years old and learning to sail all over again .


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