Most yachtsmen and many of the non sailing public will be aware of the ultra fast foiling classes of boat such as the America’s Cup and the GC32 catamarans that captivate audiences around the world while blasting along at 50mph.
Technology has raced ahead of boating qualifications and where photographers boats were once seen as a necessary pestilence by racing yachts, these boats are now widely seen as being in danger of getting someone killed.
In June last year a photographer’s boat didn’t read the movements of a giant trimaran called Spindrift 2, and the giant multihull hit the photographers RIB, slicing through both the boat and the passengers’ leg.
The leg had to be amputated and this led to the prosecution of the skipper of the 40 metre long trimaran.
GC32 boats aren’t as sexy as America’s Cup boats but are nevertheless flying, foiling catamarans that travel at huge speeds with large audiences watching their races.
Earlier this year a GC32 hit a photographer’s boat on Lake Garda. Thankfully no one was killed or injured, but it could have been much worse!
Given that there have been two accidents in two years it is almost inevitable that something worse than an amputated leg will happen unless elite yachting organisations get their heads together.
Foiling multihulls travel at speeds where the RIB driver has to use full throttle to pass them to get ahead of the race even with 200HP engines on the back. You know all about it when you are travelling at 40mph on the water!
A Sailing Anarchy blog recently covered all the aspects of what a spectator or photography boat driver has to cover to avoid accidents with these crazy fast sailing boats. They concluded that with all the alertness and hard work, “If you have done it right you come ashore about as knackered as the sailors at the end of the day.”
The author of the blog felt that no qualifications are suitable for elite photographer/spectator boat qualifications. Let’s look at some of the aspects he covered and attempt to put together a set of RYA qualifications that would make you a sane choice to be selected to drive a boat in one of these situations;
As the Sailing Anarchy blog indicated above this, people can and do do intensive sailing courses and do not get sea sense from time at sea because they don’t get the time in.
I have enough experience in my RYA logbook to go for a Yachtmaster. I did that over years getting wet whenever I saw the water. I didn’t log the thousands of miles I have done in all sorts of other watercraft. Saying that, I wouldn’t be confident to zip in front of an AC45 to get a close shot in before safely getting out of the way – it is insanely dangerous doing that even for the pros!
I set out to write this blog to try to argue with the Sailing Anarchy writer believing (wrongly as it turned out) that the RYA has the courses to qualify you to be a photography boat driver in elite racing. Sadly, having looked at the RYA syllabus, other than the RYA Advanced Racing qualification there isn’t much that cannot be short-cutted by buying an intensive course.
I must defer to my betters – get a glowing CV as a yacht racer yourself, don’t shy away from slower regattas as a safety / photography boat driver, and get as much experience as you can. Perhaps the RYA would do well to offer such a new qualification – that can’t be short-cutted with an intensive course – and then we won’t see someone killed by a hot shot learning how little they actually know about yacht racing the hard way…