Recently Marlow RC held one of its PR1 Capsize drills and PR1 Rescue Training (big thanks to Helen Kingsbury). The exercise allowed us to further understand the ideal protocols for PR1 rescue.
In particular, we used our new “wide bracket” PR1 set up. The good news is that this setup DOES make the PR1 board much more stable (ie. less likely to capsize). The other news, though, is that IF the boat capsizes, the extra stable brackets also makes it much more difficult to apply the “righting” approach. I demonstrated the righting technique at the session and even with the empty boat, it took quite a bit of effort to flip it. When we did it with a good sized PR1 athlete (Stephen Montague, 6’0”), it was not possible even for me (big guy myself very practiced in this technique).
RIGHT OR RELEASE? – This observation revisits the classic conundrum in PR1 rescue: to (a) right the boat (by standing on the rigger and reaching over), or (b) assist with strap release (either helping with the Velcro pulling off or using a safety knife). In the most recent PR1 Capsize drill and rescue training, the consensus was that “righting” was the preferred first measure as it was (a) very effective with the right technique of stepping on the near rigger, and (b) gets the athlete out of the water fastest. But previous experiments with this approach by British Rowing found the technique too unreliable -. My conclusion after yesterday is that the “best” approach depends.
It depends on two factors: (a) the boating being righted (ie. how stable and how big an athlete), and (b) the person doing the righting (ie. how big). It comes down to (a) boat stability versus (b) rescuer size. The higher the “boat stability to rescuer size”, the harder to right the boat and the preferred strategy should be “strap release assistance”. That is, if you have a smaller rescuer trying helping a bigger athlete in a more stable boat (ie. pontoons splayed wide like Swift model or the adaptive Wintech approach), then it will be very difficult for that rescuer to right the boat.
One of the benefits of the “righting” technique is that even if you can’t “flip” (right) the boat, you typically *can* get the boat levered upwards (the first 90 degrees is relatively easy, but the last 90 degrees is the challenge). As a result, even if you cannot “flip” the boat, you can often rotate the boat to the degree that the athlete’s head can get above water. Doing that can both buy time as well as calm the athlete.
This question (of which technique to use) then highlighted the importance of advance communication between the athlete and the safety cover as to which method would be employed first given all of the considerations. Sort of a hierarchy of rescue (“If you capsize, right I will try do X, but if that does not work, then I will do Y…”). In all cases, the #1 mode of rescue is self-rescue. The other rescue options are contingencies for if the athlete is not immediately successful with extraction from the fixed seat.
FLOAT REMOVAL TO EASE RIGHTING – One final consideration is that righting a more stable boat (or any boat with floats) can be made easier by first removing the float (the nearside one). It should be understood that this is an option if the first approach to righting is too difficult, but we have decided not to recommend an approach of “remove pontoon first” because (a) that would add complexity to the process and the simplest process is the best in such a situation, and (b) removing the pontoon can be quite tricky and the rescuer could waste valuable time messing with them.
COACH/SAFETY LAUNCH LIFE JACKET – Marlow’s standard life jacket protocol is for athletes who have not passed their swim test to wear a manual inflation life jacket when rowing, and for coaches and safety launch drivers to wear auto inflation life jackets. Since a coach or safety cover for a PR1 might need to get into the water to assist rescue, we determined that it made better since to give these individuals manual inflation life jackets. Having an inflated life jacket on could very well impeded accessing the athlete under the water to assist. A manual inflation vest would enable the rescuer to get in the water, have maximum maneuverability, and then inflate the jacket if needed (eg. they we getting into difficulty or they had the athlete and needed to buoyancy to facilitate rescue assistance after the extraction.