Just seven days out from the start of this year's Rolex Sydney to Hobart the media relished in reporting weather conditions for the race to be as bad as the horrendous 1998 race.
Conditions have tempered since then but at the time it triggered much angst amongst the sailing fraternity that these reports were hyping up the danger and worrying families and friends of those about to head out into such dangerous conditions. While that concern may well be warranted, what is not well known is one of the rulings made since that disastrous year mandates that at least half of every crew must have completed a 'Sea Survival and Safety Course' (SSSC).
This course consists of two days, usually over a weekend, designed to provide a crew member with the information, the experience and the confidence to cope with a calamitous situation at sea. All courses use the respected Royal Yachting Association 'Sea survival handbook' available from Boat Books and other marine bookshops.
Training schools are linked to Yachting Australia to ensure the proper SSSC courses are provided and uniform across Australia.
Over the two days an attendee will learn about survival in cold water; usage of lifejackets, liferafts, personal locater beacons, EPIRBs and flares. Part of the course entails setting off old flares to get used to the handling and proper firing of such devices.
Other parts involve learning the proper radio communications when calling for assistance, how to enter the water and a liferaft and then the proper procedure for being rescued by helicopter or another vessel.
There is plenty more to learn and the book provides the back up study required. On the next day you will conduct a practical exercise in full wet weather gear either in a pool or other body of water. Various necessary techniques are practised in staying together as a crew and keeping warm plus entering and leaving a liferaft.
At the end of the course there is a brief exam to ensure everyone is up to speed with what is required. The course is not onerous but it certainly is pointed in showing the dangers and importance of staying informed and educated on sea survival and safety.
In truth, every ocean sailor should attend such a course as a matter of importance. Check the sailing school in your area via Yachting Australia.
Phillip Ross attended the Pacific Sailing School SSSC course with thanks to Terry Wise and the team. Check out the video below to get an idea of how the weekend pans out.
Safe sailing is everyone's responsibility.
– Phil Ross, editor Cruising Helmsman magazine