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Resue Hints

  • So it's your duty day and you're in the rescue boat - here are some hints and tips. Your club handbook gives you lots of detail, also please make sure you have read the pages on 'outboard engines' and 'how to use the radios'.


    Before You Start

    Rig up the rescue boat with all the gear:

    1. a fuel tank with enough fuel, secured near in the boat with the straps
    2. a rescue boat container (includes first aid kit and a knife)
    3. a paddle
    4. an anchor
    5. ropes; all stowed so they can't go over the side
    6. a radio

    There should be two people to crew the boat, dressed warmly and suitably to get in the water if necessary. On warmer days, take a bottle of water with you.


    Check that the engine starts; ask for help if you don't know how to use an outboard. It's not difficult.


    Techniques for Rescuers

    People before boats!!

    Keep a look out - don't get so engrossed in your conversation that you aren't looking.


    If you see someone capsized or in other trouble, get over there at full speed. When you get near them, slow right down and check to see if the crew have their heads above the water and are safe. If all is well and they are just dealing with a normal capsize, keep at a safe distance and let them get on with it, keeping an eye on both this crew and others on the water. Your help invalidates their race so if they're quite happy, you just need to provide moral support.

    If there's a problem, get them into the rescue boat - if matters are serious, forget the dinghy, it's insured and replaceable if you can't anchor it. Cold wet people may not listen to reason, so be assertive.


    Where to be

    make sure you aren't in the way - keep clear of the start line and the 'run-up' area'. Once the race has started, position yourself where you can see the fleet comfortably. If there is more than one rescue boat, stay separate from each other unless necessary; be where the other boat isn't.  Keep clear of marks, but on a windy day the gybe mark is where it will all happen so you may want to be near that.


    First Aid

    Everyone should know the basics of first aid - if you don't, go and get trained. The main things are to maintain Airway, to maintain Breathing and to maintain Circulation - or as my first aid instructor told me, keep air going in, stop red stuff coming out and dial 999 for a large vehicle with a flashing light.

    If you need to call an ambulance, the address details for the club are by the phone. Send one person to the road gate and one to the bottom of the steps to direct the crew when they arrive. Note that anyone who has been unconscious, however briefly, must go to hospital - both partial drowning and concussion can cause later collapse in someone who seemed fine earlier on.

    There are wall-mounted and portable first aid kits in the committee room, plus stretchers and blankets. Please let the Rear Commodore House know if anything needs replacing.



    1. To tie to a capsized dinghy, throw the line with the float; if it misses, you can tow the line to hook on to the boat, and then pull it off the lee shore or wherever it is stuck
    2. To right a capsized dinghy (i.e. one on its side); go alongside with bows facing the same way, keeping clear of the crew, sails and ropes. Ask the crew to free sheets and loosen the kicker if possible to depower the dinghy, plus an asymmetric spinnaker must be stowed before righting. Turn the combination into wind.Get hold of the forestay and 'walk' your hands up it - this will bring the dinghy upright. For a boat such as a Laser, 'walk' up the mast instead. If the crew are on the cockpit side of the dinghy, take the rescue boat to the rear and get them to move backwards to the stern and get out that way.
    3. To right an inverted dinghy, first check that the crew are above water and safe - if anyone is underneath, you must hurry! Put the boats bow to bow and face the combination into wind. Get the dinghy painter or tie a rope to the bow, and then gently move the rescue boat backwards in an arc. This will pull the dinghy bow round and it will slowly come to lie on its side; after which you can right it as above. If it is in shallow water, tow it carefully clear before trying this.
    4. Rescue boats are surprisingly difficult to capsize if you keep them head to wind, so to bring someone on board, reduce the freeboard by leaning the boat towards them. Grab them by the buoyancy aid or under the arms, and lift them in facing you so that you don't aggravate any back or neck injuries. Lay them with head to the back of the boat (less bumpy) and head for shore with all possible speed.
    5. To tow a dinghy - get the sails down if possible to steady it. Raise the centreboard and either steer with the tiller if someone is on board, or it will self-steer if unmanned. Some boats are easier to tow alongside; make sure the back of the dinghy is ahead of the back of the powerboat.
    6. Don't reverse a rescue boat into waves, you'll get waterlogged!
    7. Dinghies must be towed from strong points, don't tie to fragile cleats.
    8. Rescue boat crews should keep a look out at all times, you need your head on a swivel. In particular, watch for a flashing light on top of the clubhouse as that means they're trying to attract attention. In extremis, you'll hear lots of hoots.
    9. Sailors can and must help those in trouble if needed - you can ask for redress for your race result.


    Further reading in the RYA Safety Boat handbook, and we run training courses at a very cheap price; so get trained!