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6 April 2002, 08:41 pm
Paul Henderson On Safety
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Skiffs - should there be safety changes?


It is with a heavy heart we all heard about the tragic loss of the fine Austrian Tornado sailor, Johannes Haeupl, who was competing at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Spain.
We all know that our sport is one where we take our boats to sea to challenge nature knowing the risks but when such an unfortunate tragedy happens we are all reflective. Our sincere thoughts are with the Haeupl Family and the Tornado Fraternity at this time.

During these times we all focus on how such unfortunate happenings can be prevented in the future. I have had several personal calls from top sailors pointing out issues where ISAF should ensure safety regulations are put in place. ISAF does not want to become bureaucratic but when the top sailors come forward and make valid observations ISAF should act. Here are the concepts that have been presented:

Trapeze Hooks: They must be easily detached. Over the years the sailors, so as to ensure they do not become unhooked, have taped the hooks or made solid connections. The hooks must be open and easily disconnected. A suggestion has be made that the plate should be easily removed from the belt which could be done with connections like are seen in car seat belts.

Trampolines: There have been several fatal accidents where sailors get trapped under the trampoline when the Cat turns turtle. The suggestion from a top sailor is that at least two velcro patches or other system could be installed in non-traffic areas on the Trampoline that could be pushed out from either side. There must be some way installed that a sailor can be freed mechanically and not with a knife.

Lifejackets: I heard from Patrick DeBarros who heroically jump into the water from his Dragon to save a sailor in distress who had an inflatable lifejacket which did not inflate. Patrick says that ISAF must only allow positive floatation life jackets and that the inflatable ones not be accepted. In Canada they are not legal.

Hobbles: Hans Fogh, two time Olympic Medal winner FD and Soling, came to visit me yesterday and he was adamant that "hobbles" which tie both feet to the boat instead of hiking straps be banned. His concern was not only for the Soling but now especially in the Yngling. Hans said that many times he was scared about the safety of his crew when they broached and the crew was hung-up. Hans then says the sailors now tape the release hardware so as they will not eject unnecessarily. This means that when they are in "panic stations" it is impossible to release. ISAF should ban "Hobbles" now and not wait for the Classes to wake up through the "eyes of a disaster".

Weight Jackets and Sweaters: Although ISAF banned this practise years ago classes and sailors have begun to cheat. They are using very unique weight jackets and also wearing heavy sweaters again outside their wetsuits and foul weather gear. Juries and Judges must enforce this rule.

It is very sad that it takes such a unfortunate incident to address the issues required. Hopefully we will all work together to ensure that when we go to sea to compete in our beloved sport we do so with a respect for the safety aspects required of sailing.

Regards,
Paul Henderson President ISAF

ISAF welcomes your feedback on these safety issues. Please send to webfeedback@isaf.co.uk, subject line 'Safety'.
Paul Henderson/News Editor
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