Everyone is thankful that it hasn't been needed in earnest, but Skandia Life Cowes Life Week 2002 benefited from new on-water safety cover.

Everyone is thankful that it hasn’t been needed in earnest, but Skandia Life Cowes Life Week 2002 benefited from new on-water safety cover.

Light winds for much of the week have helped to keep competitors safe. But when you have several thousand people out on the water racing several hundred yachts, medical emergencies can occur, whether or not they are directly related to the sailing.

It’s for just that eventuality that Cowes Combined Clubs Ltd has introduced four new safety boats around the courses. Each has a trained paramedic on board who can be called quickly to the scene of any incident. Richard Salaman, a man already hugely experienced in the tricky art of powerboat racing safety cover, is the designated Safety Officer. “We are here to assist Cowes with the running of the event,” stated Richard when we caught up with him earlier in the week, “particularly marshalling, control and a safety presence. We are a front-line defence for medical or other problems. We can take the weight off the coastguard for something simple like a broken arm, although we do work closely with them.”

The full medical capabilities of the safety boats have not been tested this week, but the four craft have a busy secondary role in monitoring wind speed and plotting the positions of all the racing classes.

The Safety Officer also liases closely with the Cowes Inshore Lifeboat Spirit of Cowes, the official charity of Skandia Life Cowes Week. Affiliated to the Solent Sea-Rescue Organisation and completely independent of the RNLI and other national organisations, this is the only operational lifeboat based in Cowes and it requires in the region of GBR14,000 per annum to keep operational. It has 25 volunteer crew on pagers and typically responds to 35-40 emergency callouts per year in addition to regular patrols.

Again, other than towing the occasional Victory free of its entanglement with a trimaran and helping to save a Flying Fifteen from sinking, the 9m RIB has been under-employed as far as the 2002 regatta is concerned. But the charity’s chairman, Chris Greenham, has been grateful for the way in which Skandia Life and Cowes Combined Clubs Ltd have provided the volunteers with additional recognition. Fund-raising events during the week have included the raffling of a Corum Admiral’s Cup watch and a set of Henri-Lloyd foulweather gear. The immediate goal is to purchase a new winter on-water berthing system for Spirit of Cowes.