Head protection has become a hot topic among sailors. Volvo Ocean Race helmsman wear surf helmets with retractable visors. Americas Cup crew wears them, along with body armor and breathing equipment. Amateurs in high performance beach catamaran and dinghy classes are adopting them in big numbers, and some youth, college, and Olympic sailing programs have made them mandatory, like PFDs. Even cruisers are beginning to wonder about trips up the mast, heavy weather sailing, and even routine bumps. Is it the new thing, or just transition period until we work out where they make sense?
I recently interviewed Mark Bologna of Landfall Navigation. Hes a safety expert, major supporter of safety training and has decades worth of experience selecting and servicing inflatable PFDs. The first thing I asked Mark was whether or not I was overly concerned about the inflatable lifejacket issues mentioned above. His unequivocal No, and follow up advocacy for training and regular gear inspections paralleled most of the opinions above.
In the early 1800s Norwegian sailors started wearing cork filled vests dubbed the Seamans Friend. And over the next two centuries, life jacket design and the materials used have continued to evolve. One of the most promising offshoots has been the inflatable personal flotation device (PFD)-invented and patented by Peter Markus and one thats drawn our interest for over three decades.
At night, when only the counted seconds between the lightning flash and thunder-crack offer any clue of what is to come, the intertropical convergence zone seems otherworldly.
As an avid climber I pay attention to my aches and pains. To blindly ignore them puts myself and others at risk. The same is true for sailing.