First Aid on the Race Course

Conventional first aid training for those of us without formal medical training often presumes that more qualified help will arrive within a few minutes of our 911 call.  That just isn’t the case on a sailboat, even on Long Island Sound.  As a practical matter, we cannot afford to have a floating EMT unit following us around the buoys, so we have to do the best we can.  We have been very lucky, but it would be unwise of us to rely on continuing luck, rather than intelligent preparation.

Here are some related ideas, and we welcome suggested additions at firstaid@breakwaters.org.

  1. Take a “Safety at Sea” course, even if you limit your sailing to local waters.  If the next ten minutes are critical, you are just as alone on the Sound as you would be on the Atlantic.
  2. Maintain CPR certification.  The big reason is to equip you to save someone’s life.  A second reason is that Connecticut’s Good Samaritan law favors those who have current CPR certification under standards of the Red Cross or American Heart Association.  Certification is renewable on-line.  First aid courses are also offered.
  3. Carry a good first aid kit, understand how to use it, and check its contents frequently.
  4. Make sure your crew is as prepared as you are, because you may be the person who needs help.
  5. Carry aspirin.  Chewing a few aspirins is said to be the best first aid in response to heart attack symptoms.
  6. Know in advance how you or a crew member will call for help in the event of a medical emergency.
  7. Man Overboard Drill.  Do it.  At the beginning of every season and when orienting new crew, talk through safety precautions and rescue procedures on your way to the race.
  8. Render assistance to anyone in danger.  It’s Rule 1.1 of the RRS because it is our most important rule.  Forget the race; give help.