“Hey, We’re Sailors! Why powerboat training?
And, aren’t Powerboats much easier to operate than sailboats?”
This is a common refrain among sailors. However, the truth is more nuanced. Powerboats ARE easier to move than sailboats. forward gear, turn the wheel like in a car. simple. However, they are capable of creating chaos and unsafe conditions when handled improperly.
Most support, coach and safety boats are capable of up to 30 knots of boat speed. This means volatile reactions to waves and wakes at speed. This also means dramatically increased potential for collisions and allisions (unintended and damaging contact with fixed objects). The time to take action to recognize the potential of a collision and take avoiding action is a fraction of the time compared to a sailboat doing 5 knots. At 30 knots, the potential for injury and death in a collision/allision on a powerboat are dramatically increased compared to sailing. In addition to the obvious potential damage from the propeller is the blunt force created by the hull at those speeds. Finally, small powerboats at speed can shake or throw crew, even the operator, out of the craft after hitting a wake. There is something well known in the boating safety world called the ‘circle of death’. This occurs when an operator is thrown from the boat, hasn’t deployed his/her engine kill switch and the torque of the engine at high throttle, throws the boat into a high speed spin, circling over the area where the operator is in the water, over and over again.
In order to ensure club operators (instructors, coaches, launch operators, Race Support personnel) don’t fall prey to these terrible consequences, instruction and education are critical.
Also, research has shown that close to 40% of instructor candidates need additional training to pass their Level 1 Small Boat Instructor Certification due to inadequate skills on small powerboats. That’s 90% of all candidates needing additional training. (The rest are split between class presentation skills, technical knowledge and sailing skills.)
Enter US Sailing’s Safe Powerboat Handling Course. This course virtually ensures your instructor will pass the powerboat competency portion of the Level 1 Instructor Course. More importantly, they will be well versed in the methods and skills used to prevent the sort of calamities mentioned above.
Now, you don’t have to provide US Sailing’s course, with a certified instructor, to prepare your instructors and volunteers. You can use a senior member of your staff or volunteer leadership to put together an informal training for your team and you can use US Sailing’s standards to ensure everything important gets covered!
Better, get one of your senior staff certified as a Safe Powerboat Handling Instructor and hold your own courses with someone who has learned and demonstrated the cutting edge approaches to training and educating powerboat handlers.
After the Powerboat Instructor Trainer Course at the end of January, the Bay Area will have two new Powerboat Instructor Trainers, Morgan Collins and Chuck Hawley, so it soon will be quite easy for us to create a larger stable of powerboat instructors for our Bay Area camps, schools and race support teams. And, we already have at least 25 PB instructors within a 50 mile radius of SF. So, pretty easy to host a course, either open to the public or for just your instructors and volunteers.
But, wait! There are two more really great courses available at US Sailing! Safety and Rescue is a great tool for small boat sailing instructors and safety boat drivers (capsize recovery, entrapment rescue, etc) to up their game and keep your students and racers even more safe. Mark Boat Handling is a narrowly targeted class to allow your race volunteers to develop professional mark set, mark moving, mark retrieval skills so that you are better able to serve your racers safely and competently.
Now, how do you know this is useful or even necessary? Firstly, the vast majority of Level 1 instructor candidates with Safe Powerboat Handling Certification pass with flying colors. Secondly, consider that two regional sailing associations, Gulf Yachting and Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound, have made the attendance at a Safe Powerboat Handling Course mandatory as preparation for Level 1 instructor candidates in their regions. Their candidates routinely ace the Level 1 instructor course requirements as they are already competent in small powerboats. This also allows them to focus more on the knowledge, sailing and oral presentation sections of the evaluation.
I urge you to consider making powerboat competency a strategic imperative at your yacht club, sailing club or community sailing center. You will find that your volunteers and staff appreciate the extra skills and development, your new instructors have fewer problems completing their Level 1 certifications before camp season starts and your risk management folks will thank you.
Feel free to contact me with questions or needs: Rich Jepsen, VP Alameda Community Sailing Center, Board Director at US Sailing firstname.lastname@example.org 510 504 9077 Resources: http://www.uspowerboating.com/ to learn all about US Sailing’s powerboat training under its DBA US Powerboating http://www.uspowerboating.com/courses/course-calendar/ – these courses are listed by date, but you can search and find current courses in the Bay Area.