Dealing with entrapments within dinghy sailing


Many of us have had large spells off the water this year, with some club and training centre activity being disrupted or unable to resume at this current time. Everyone's circumstances are different and when the time is right it is important to consider how we return to our many roles.

Boating is inherently safe, but an important consideration after a long period away from activity is a safe return. Whether it be your own safety, equipment used, those around you, or if an instructor or safety crew, those in your care.

Over the last six months, the RYA has released a series of Club Development videos looking at different aspects of club activity. As well as helping to increase knowledge and providing an opportunityto learn from others, the videos have covered key topics for both clubs and centres whilst our activity remains restricted.

In this article, we will look specifically at entrapments within dinghy sailing. However, it is important to remember an entrapment can happen in many forms and on a range of craft. Through the incident reporting log completed by our training centres and clubs, the RYA are able to identify common themes and lessons learnt, aiding advice, guidance and prevention.

Back in 2005, the RYA published entrapment research using statistical data to analyse the incidents which had occurred. The research also provided us with an ability to raise awareness of the risk of entrapment and to educate our network of possible prevention methods. It was also important to reinforce the safety of the sport, keeping the research in context with the number of people who participate.

15 years on, although boat design has seen developments with concepts such as foiling becoming more accessible and new classes emerging, the most important elements of awareness and prevention remain the same:

  • Educating sailors to keep lines short, tidy and maintaining any elastic, enabling fixtures and fitting to do their jobs effectively
  • Ensure sailors have the appropriate personal equipment for the activity in question
  • Carrying a sharp knife, which is easily accessible, preferably serrated
  • Masthead flotation, a route to preventing inversion, conserving energy and especially useful in training environments
  • Rescue techniques, educating safety crew to right the boat as quickly as possible, carry knives which are easily accessible. Revisiting training regularly especially at the beginning of the season, or as we have seen this year - after a period of inactivity. Regular training dates, especially with crews who are infrequently used, and when new boats are introduced to a centre or club.
  • All staff and volunteers should also be familiar with the types of vessel being used for activity.

Careful consideration should be placed on ensuring full understanding and knowledge of all boats going afloat, including rigging procedures and alternative methods of rescue.

Each boat's functionality may be different and therefore should never be assumed. Risk assessments should be used to aid preparation and understanding, for example weighted keels which are designed to be lifted or retracted. Failure to properly secure the keel or centre plate in the down position may affect its ability to recover from a knockdown, compromising the safety of those aboard.

Similarly, consideration should be given to alternative means of righting an inverted craft where the centreboard or keel is retracted.

Personal equipment also needs careful consideration depending on the students and their abilities, the type of craft and the operational areas in which it is being used. Generally, in a dinghy and keelboat sailing environment, the use of buoyancy aids would be recommended, especially where there is a risk of capsize and entrapment. However, through careful consideration and risk assessment, there may be certain situations where life jackets may be deemed more appropriate.

In addition, trapeze harnesses have been identified as a contributing factor in a few incidences over the years, in both a training and racing environment. An ISO Standard for Trapeze harnesses was developed and published in 2009, designed mainly for a racing environment, but reinforcing the need for certain features to increase the general safety of wearing a harness.

This standard will be in the rulebook from January 2021 but does not come into force until 2023. However, as yet there are no harnesses on the market that meet the standard.

The RYA's incident reporting log is a really important way to record your incidents and accidents and provides a mechanism to review and look into lessons learnt, ensuring the key factors and messages remain current.

It is important to talk about incidents and share experiences. This information, although difficult for those involved, is fundamental to the continued safety and development of the sport.

Watch the video

The newest Club Development video looks at entrapment and a number of the areas detailed in this article, as well as delving a little deeper into some of the following areas:

  1. Instances of entrapment, entanglement and common themes.
  2. Importance of sharing knowledge and learning from incidents. How we can report triggers to the RYA reporting.
  3. The importance of proactive procedures to help reduce the chances of entrapment/entanglement
  4. Individuals responsibilities.
  5. Physical interventions/considerations, such as the conditions and taking the decision to sail, effective house-keeping (Proper rigging (EG tramps/toe straps, tidy boat) reefing early, mast head floats)
  6. Effective tuition: teaching capsize drill, performance boats (Trapezes), landrills.
  7. Safety boats: Equipment and operation. With ease of access to knives (personal/boat), cutting tools, pre-prepped lines, floats on board, radios, and  pro-active safety boating , as well as positioning, counting heads, fleet management, ratios, crewing, experience and knowledge, fleet/boat knowledge.
  8. Effective training for dealing with an entrapment.

Simply watch the video above or to catch up on the RYA's YouTube Channel click here. A new Club Development video is released every Thursday at 4pm as part of our Club Zone series. All the videos are available on the RYA YouTube Channel, subscribe here.