Dinghy Entrapment

Entrapment - do you think about it enough? 

Draycote Water recently dealt with an entrapment. This is what they learned.

Entrapments are thankfully extremely rare. But the question that’s been asked at Draycote Water recently is how can we make them even more rare?

A club sailor at Draycote Water suffered an entrapment in June, but thanks to the club’s full-time rescue staff, a very serious situation was dealt with efficiently and thankfully had a happy ending.

It was the first time in 17 years working full-time in training centres that Draycote Water Sailing Club’s Water Manager, David Rowe, had ever had to deal with an entrapment, but this wasn’t a training session or lesson, it was club sailors enjoying a social cruise on a perfect, sunny Force 2 weekday.

After the incident the club, which has 364 day a year safety cover, reflected on the policies they had in place for entrapment prevention and a number of actions were forthcoming to make their procedures even more robust.

David highlights some of the key points that came out of their personal experience.

1) Take the opportunity to attend RYA Instructor refreshers

“By complete coincide I attended a workshop on dealing with entrapment at the last West Midlands Regional Instructor Training Day at Bartley SC in February. This meant that things were definitely a lot fresher in my mind. As an instructor you’re prepared to expect things to happen in a training environment but that is very different to everyday club sailing when you may not even know the person involved.”

2) Practice dealing with entrapments
"Clubs and safety boat drivers should actually practice dealing with an entrapment more. Drivers need to right the capsized boat ASAP, normally by applying weight and pressure to the centreboard. That was the action that was required in our incident.”

3) Review emergency operating procedures on dealing with entrapments 
“Capsizes happen all the time in sailing, a capsize itself isn’t a form of distress. It was only when I was 15 meters away the seriousness of the situation became apparent. We have emergency procedures in place to deal with entrapments but in the practical reality of a life being at stake, I found the procedures weren’t the most common sense instruction. One emergency action plan doesn’t always fit all incident types.”

4) Make masthead floatations available to all club sailors free of charge
“The reality is that very few club sailors are going to buy a £75, 40l masthead float for such a rare occurrence. We already had them for the training fleet but at the club now we have invested in a number more that are available  for people to use free of charge. We are actively trying to encourage more dialogue with people when they sign in to say that if there is anything unusual or unfamiliar about their sail on that day, whether that’s boat, crew experience, weather, location etc, to borrow one. No-one’s going to judge them, this is club cruising not the Nationals.”

5) Sailors should talk more about capsize, entrapment and the best methods of prevention
“As clubs we can make our safety procedures and staff training as rigorous as possible but sailors also have to take responsibility for knowing what to do in an entrapment and the best methods of prevention. Everyone is taught the capsizing drill as beginners, and know it is good practice to carry rescue knife. But they should be reminded if they are in an entrapment situation the most important thing maybe as simple as getting on the centre or dagger board and getting the boat on its side.”

RYA Dinghy Entrapment Survey – have a read of this survey into the numbers and contributing factors of entrapments under capsized dinghies here