Fire! Fire! Fire! The instructor’s voice rings out at the South Shields Ocean Safety Centre, in England, where Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing are following a two-day offshore safety course.
The course, which includes both lectures and workshops, is compulsory for teams competing in the Volvo Ocean Race. This time the fire may not be real, but dangers at sea are great and this kind of training saves lives.
“The original idea is to follow the ISAF course syllabus and to make it realistic,” explains Alistair Hackett, the Ocean Safety General Manager. “It’s important to relate the rules to what is actually physically possible on board.
“The other part is to get the teams to speak and exchange views about their experiences. When it comes to an emergency, your rescue boat may actually be your rival.”
Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion were the first teams to start on Monday morning with topics including safety equipment on board and vessel damage.
The instructor Yvonne then detailed “man overboard” situations. A round-the-world veteran with the British Steel Challenge in 1992, she recommends “practising with a large white cabbage – that’s the closest you can get to a human head.”
Soon it’s time for some medical training. All crew members get to practise heart massages, recovery positions and other first aid techniques. And the staff here do not hesitate to tackle less glamorous topics such as skin problems and the sort of digestive trouble that comes with eating freeze-dried food for weeks on end.
The afternoon is spent firefighting. Dressed in protective kits, Franck Cammas and Ken Read’s men fought their way through a smoke-filled room and then tackled a diesel fire.
On Monday, the teams were looking forward to the day two session with a life raft in a specially designed pool
“Most of us already did these kind of training before,” said Thomas Coville, helmsman and trimmer for Groupama. “The added value here is the pool session to take place tomorrow. We will see what we will get there!”