Friday, January 7, 2011

Race Committee; The Lowly Crash Boat Operator

It's winter in North America; the season of the yacht club seminars. Lets see, there is always a seminar about how to improve your racing results (probably several of those), a seminar about the racing rules and one for proper race committee procedure; but I have never, ever seen a seminar about the best ways to run a crash boat. Even our hallowed NGB, US Sailing, has yet to put together a course on crash boat operation! Odd, because crash boat operation is such an essential part of safety for the sailors in a regatta. "Ah!", you say, "No big deal in running a motor boat to and fro, righting capsized boats and plucking those hapless dinghy sailors from the water." Well, it definitely is a bigger deal than most clubs plan for. Operating crash boats safely and effectively in big winds and big seas takes quite a bit of skill and experience. Unfortunately in most U.S sailing clubs, the crash boat operator is the low man on the race committee totem pole; they are usually the volunteers with the least experience. And to compound the problem, most clubs plan on just two crash boats, no matter the size of the regatta. Things can go south quickly when two crash boats with inexperienced operators are faced with multiple boats down!

I've done a fair bit of crash boat work (though now, I too am mostly consigned to the main RC boat these days). There are things that work and things that don't work as well. There needs to be some national discussion on best crash boat practices, maybe even a crash boat manual drawn up. And these procedures should be taught every winter!

Well at this point, I was going to drop into a well done YouTube video by an English club on crash boat procedures. The video had just popped up in the last week, prompting me to climb onto this soapbox. Unfortunately, after getting all this verbiage out, I found the post had been taken down. (Sigh!!)

Well not to worry. This subject is certainly worthy of a thread of future posts. I would like to hear of other experiences with crash boats, either as an operator or as one being rescued; good and bad.


3 comments:

Tillerman said...

Excellent subject. I will see if I can dredge up some ideas on the topic to contribute to the discussion.

John said...

When I took my US Sailing level 1 instructor's certification a few years ago, we did spend some time on the water actually driving the whaler, albeit in calm and sheltered water.

Very important topic, especially with regards to towing procedures and rescuing different kinds of boats--very different matter to deal with a swamped Beetle Cat than a turtled Laser, for eg.

Worth a thread and eventually a training outline

johnz said...

.S. Sailing has some kind of crashboat course that the good folks at American YC in Rye NY took before rescuing me in my Moth when the gantry blew out at 20 kts in the middle of LI sound last Oct. The crash boat was a RIB. The crew had discussed Moth rescuing before the regatta and did an excellent job of towing me, rack on the sidehull, 2 miles to the dock in 20 knots to windward. Even had a gentlemanly leeward rack touchdown on the dock and jumped from RIB to Moth to dock without getting wet. These guys were great!