Sobering news for amateur sailors subject to new laws

Amateur sailors will be subject to the same alcohol limits as drivers, the Department for Transport has announced. Restrictions for professional sailors, introduced in March 2004, will now cover amateur yachtsmen as well.

The drink limit will apply to those ‘involved in the navigation of a vessel’ longer than 7m (23ft) capable of speeds of 7 knots or more. Jet skis are not covered, but ministers are looking at bringing them under the legislation as soon as possible.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said: ‘Everyone has the right to enjoy themselves on the water, but in a way that does not put others at risk.

‘I am satisfied that in bringing in an alcohol limit for non-professional mariners and in setting the exclusion limit at 7 metres and 7 knots we are providing the best balance between improving safety and avoiding unnecessary regulation.’

The government will publish draft regulations shortly. Mr Ladyman said the draft regulations took into account responses to a consultation from sailors and enforcement officers. He said he had also considered submissions from MPs on behalf of their constituents ‘who have had personal experience of the tragic consequences of accidents involving vessels, where alcohol was thought to be a causal factor’, and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch recommendations from those accidents.

The RYA, however, has not welcomed the news, CEO Rod Carr said: ‘We believe that new legislation is unnecessary because there is still no evidence of the existence of an extensive problem relating to alcohol and boating.’