I can totally appreciate that many (most?) people have a contrary opinion on this subject, but I am going to bring it up here again if for no other reason than it’s good to talk about things. Take a look at this pic of Seb Josse racing in the Vendée Globe. He is in the Southern Ocean sailing in rough seas and I imagine he is hitting speeds in the mid-twenties. I know what it’s like to sail down there. I have done numerous Southern Ocean transits and I know it to be an unforgiving region. So I was interested to see that Seb is wearing neither a pfd nor a harness. Interesting. Not sure if you saw the incredible footage of Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss careening along on a broad reach at who-knows-what speed. He was certainly at full speed and the boat was awash most of the time. If you have not seen the footage Google Hugo Boss Southern Ocean. Also note that Alex is running around on deck without a harness. Stupido they might report in an Italian magazine. Perhaps.
So my positions on both whether or not you should wear a life jacket and/or a life harness are well documented. I am not for wearing either but I do appreciate that both have saved lives and I know that there are many sailors who vehemently disagree with me. Heck I even got a death threat from someone so incensed about my position on life jackets. I am not sure he would really have killed me but who knows? Hope not. So I was not surprised to see that I got a bit of a scrubbing in the Sailing Anarchy Forum and perhaps it’s deserved – not sure.
Here is what I really want to say. When the heck did we stop thinking for ourselves? It’s absurd. Some sailing body publishes their view on pfd’s and we all take it as religion. They have to err on the cautious side; they are an organization that is funded by sailors. Imagine if US Sailing came out and said that wearing a life jacket was for pussies (you know I would never have used that word in a blog before Trump made it ok to do so…;) They can’t and won’t ever do that but when they do offer up an opinion take some time to examine what’s being said.
Yes I agree that pfd’s save lives and yes I agree that they should be worn but I say it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves when to wear one. If you are on a boat where the owner/skipper mandates wearing one at all times then wear one at all times or do not sail on that boat. But seriously, do you really need a life jacket when the boat is still in the marina tied to the dock? Kids for sure, but fully grown adults capable of rational thought? I don’t think so.
So I write these pieces not to annoy anyone and I certainly don’t enjoy getting trashed or personally threatened. I write them to provoke a conversation, to urge all of us to stop following like sheep and to bring some personal responsibility back into our lives. Think for a moment if Mr Josse, who by the way is an immensely experienced sailor, had been wearing both a life jacket and a safety harness and somehow (probably taking a leak off the stern) had been washed overboard. I would venture to say that he would not stand any chance of surviving. If you think he would be able to pull himself back on board a boat sailing at twenty-plus knots I personally believe that you are mistaken. Think about the amount of clothing he is wearing to stay warm at those latitudes and think about how heavy it gets when soaked.
One person in the Forum stated that at least there would be a body to recover and I guess that does offer a certain perspective. Say he was wearing a life harness and a life jacket but was not clipped on and fell overboard. Not sure what good a life jacket would do as you watch the autopilot sail your IMOCA 60 over the horizon other than prolong your suffering. Also remember that the Chinese sailor Guo Chuan who recently fell overboard from his trimaran and was lost at sea was indeed wearing a harness but the lifeline snapped and he was never seen again.
So before you flood my inbox with hate mail all I am saying is we need to start thinking for ourselves a bit more and taking more personal responsibility for all the things that we say and do. – Brian Hancock.