Some vessels with a centre plate are considered self-righting with no crew on board, with the centre plate down, and the mast at no more than 90 degrees.
Experience shows self-righting boats can and do get ‘knocked down’ or capsize, increasing the risk of inversion and entrapment. There are known examples where through a variety of factors they have subsequently inverted, including with the keel or weighted centre board retracted. There are known examples where a sailor has slipped out of a knocked down boat, increasing the risk of entrapment and reducing the ability to right the boat. If you are faced with such a situation, the important thing is knowing what to do and how to do it.
Mitigations, such as mast head floats, may increase the time a boat is on its side rather than inverted.
Manufacturers will use owner manuals and guides to share information about a vessel’s limitations (e.g. rigging, safety features, conditions, number of people, load).
Some sailors may have restricted mobility or ability to help themselves if they ended up in the water or partially in the water. Equipment is available to maintain posture or improve control of steering / sails that has the effect of securing the sailor to the vessel. Both of these factors can increase the risk of entrapment.
Boats with a ballasted lifting keel are heavy and while the standard techniques to right them work, they may require more power.
The self-righting characteristics of any boat are compromised if a lifting keel or weighted centreboard are not in the down position, as is the ability to right from an inverted position.
Actively trimming sails, rather than cleating them off enables them to be released quickly if needed.
An overview of the key elements of safety systems
Providers of activity have a clear duty of care to keep those involved in the activity safe. People of all ages, with a wide range of impairments go sailing. It is important to consider the person, the situation and the staff / volunteers involved before making safety decisions.
It is important to get the choice of personal flotation device right each time a person goes afloat, particularly for people who may not be able to actively participate in their own self-righting if they were to end up in the water.
Strapping and other equipment are used for several reasons including to maintain posture and improve control of sails and steering. Straps and harnesses can be used by a person day to day (for example, in a wheelchair) or as a specific part of sailing equipment.
Self-righting means different things for different vessels. Experience shows self-righting boats can and do get ‘knocked down’ or capsize, increasing the risk of inversion and entrapment. There are known examples where through a variety of factors they have subsequently inverted, including with the keel or weighted centre board retracted.
Any modifications that deviate from the original design specification may alter the stability characteristics of that vessel and access to the full range of controls (steering and sails).
When towing vessels participants usually remain in the boat. The seating arrangements in some vessels used for disabled people, and participants’ own limited mobility, may make it harder for the crew to stay out of the way of a tow rope, particularly if multiple vessels are being towed
Explore equipment like slings or wet nets, the importance for having a plan for individuals who may not be able to fully help themselves and the role really good communication plays
Seating and posture are important for both personal safety and the ability to take an active part in sailing.