safety first

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I am in the management team of a sailing club in Switzerland. We have about 300 members, a relatively moribund regatta programme and a pretty thriving junior sailing programme. We’re trying to pep things up a bit, without going too overboard, and have come across 2 problems, that I am sure sailing club people all over the world have encountered and I’d like your advice on.

1) We had an incident during our junior sailing camp last summer. The kids (8-16 years, up to about 24) stay over in our clubhouse and spent a week sailing lasers and optis on the lake. The camp leaders are all pretty young themselves, between 16 (for assistants) to about 23/24 years. They have all had the local youth training courses, safety courses and the like, but we still had a near miss where a young kid was thrown out of the club launch (motorboat) during a turn and then in turn was just missed by another  motorboat. That could have been really really nasty. The motorboat excursion was just a break and the kids just took their eye of the ball, but it is not the first time we’ve had, thankfully minor, incidents.

We had a talk with them last week about improving the safety culture and proposing a few measures, but we are treading a fine line here. On the one hand are we very happy with the engagement and quality of the sailing coaching they put in, on the other hand we need to manage the risks, both from a welfare as well as from a liability perspective. The trainers are happy to talk about it, but, young as they are, don’t really see major ways to improve risk. We don’t want to come down like a tonne of bricks, but at the same time, things can’t continue as they are.

Does anyone have any experience in dealing with this kind of issue? Clear, concise but “light touch” safety regimes? Training exercises in risk awareness and avoidance? Creating a safe risk-discussion environment where they can all talk to us and amongst themselves about these topics without any stigma or fear of repercussion? Any pointers and links would be greatly appreciated.

2) Like all clubs, we struggle with regatta helpers. The number of people are going down, as well as the number of times they are helping. This then leaves precious few people organising regatta for an also diminishing crowd. We could cut our losses and strike some regattas (we might still have to do that) or try to change things.

We have chosen, for now,  to try and pep up the regatta scene, but  also need helpers to make that happen. Does anyone have any experience in engaging and motivating helpers? Do you use payment schemes? Mandatory 1 regatta helping per year for every entrant? “Average Result” bonus for helpers that would normally race (i.e. you get your average historical result in this regatta as if you’ve sailed it), bonus points, free dinner, you name it.

What works and doesn’t work? Are there any other schemes out there we should consider (and we’ve considered them all 🙂 )?

Thanks a lot for your insights and feedback!