Andrew Short died in Australian racing accident

The captain of the ironically named yacht ShockWave 5 didn’t have a lifejacket on when swept overboard in last weekend’s tragic accident during the 92 mile Flinders Island Race in south-east Australia. Matt Pearce, a survivor, described ‘a set of about four waves in a row that were solid green water, sort of two metres over the top of the boat. When we turned around, he was gone’.


International Sailing Federation (ISAF) ‘fundamental’ racing rules state that ‘each competitor is individually responsible for wearing a personal flotation device adequate for the condition’. However, in the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations Handbook, it states that lifejackets and harnesses are to be worn between the hours of sunset and sunrise, the time of the ShockWave accident.


The incident calls into question whether lifejacket wear at all times should be made a legal requirement in the UK. According to Tony Wafer, RNLI Sea Safety Programmes Manager, ‘in the UK it is your personal choice as to when to don your lifejacket but as accidents can happen at any time the RNLI would advocate that you put your lifejacket on when you first board the boat, and then make an informed decision based on your own risk assessment as to when it is safe to take it off’. The UK does have ‘a very good track record of prevention activities, via the RNLI, keeping the ratio of deaths per boating accidents at one of the lowest in the world compared to other countries that have enforced lifejacket wear legislation’, Wafer adds.


It is perhaps wise for all of us when sailing to remember RNLI advice: ‘wearing a correctly fitted and well-maintained lifejacket, fitted with crotch straps and a spray hood could double your chances of survival in the water’.