Downwind safety

General DW safety thread.

Edit: this article covers the full range of options, I would imagine for most beginners an Apple Watch with cellular is sufficient and probably where I’ll start, but for big adventures like the 100km stuff the Aus guys are doing it would seem sensible to have either PLB or VHF (instead of just handhelds) and know how to use them but I guess licensing will prevent the VHF


I found some pretty relevant information regarding safety by looking at the surf ski accident accounts. eg:

Surf ski crew generally advocate for a PLB personal locator beacon (EPIRB) for more extreme offshore and a cellphone as a default. Having spent a lot of time offshore I really prefer a VHF but as per the article it’s maybe less ideal when exposed like a ski / board. I think James Casey uses an Epirb in is his longer runs from what I can see.

Anyway - possibly food for thought if you’re considering downwind, I know of many instances of surf skis drowning due to losing ability to remount, wind direction swings or general unpredictable nature of being beyond a mile offshore. Hypothermia also a significant risk for those unlucky enough to be far from the tropics. Surf ski has the problem of remounting where foiling you can always get onto the board.

I imagine cold or exhaustion and offshore winds the most likely risk, as in most situations you could always drift in? Or leash snapping you’d be effed. It does seem like the surf ski favours 30kn which mostly excessive for foil

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Another useful tool is “what3words” app. It brakes down the earth into 3m triangular grid and gives you 3 words to pinpoint your location.
Very useful and accurate.

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Just did a VHF course for this reason. I reckon a DSC handheld is the way to go. If the shit really hits the fan you can send a DSC distress with your gps position with one button. Also want to be able to radio our local coast watch to let them know what I’m doing before and after I go to avoid any unnecessary call outs from well meaning people on the beach.

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New iPhone 14 has emergency SOS via Satellite. Over time I’ll probably end up doing the VHF but think phone sufficient for what I have planned. I’m just super wary of relying on cellular, even in the UK with great coverage it can be patchy.

Anything with real risk and I don’t think you could beat EPIRB to call for help and VHF to coordinate last mile of rescue.

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