Stay Safe in your Solo

Friday, May 22, 2020

Yippee we can go sailing!

Solo sailing is high on the list of approved dinghy sailing activities; many of us are socially distant in any case. However we must all be mindful of the need to act responsibly in our quest for a sailing fix. In effect we are free climbing, sans ropes or safety net.

For those sagacious minds of HMG Epidemiologists in conjunction with Health and Safety experts have determined that free sailing only, is permissible. There shalt not be any form of organised racing and you cannot use the club changing rooms either. This presents pitfalls.

Here are some guidance notes to consider how we might stay safer when sailing our Solos without rescue cover, as a single-handed dinghy alone or in small groups. You should should also be conversant with any Covid-19 guidelines and any by-laws from lake or harbour authorities.

Before proffering advice we should stress that the NSCA do so in an effort to support you, by way of this guide; we do not qualified members if the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

However it seems to us the key areas to consider are:

  1. Ability to return to your Start Point
  2. Avoiding risk of Head Injury
  3. Avoiding risk of Entrapment

1) Ability to return to your Start Point


  • Sail with a buddy(s), ideally one capable of towing you home. Agree on a plan & communications. Stay together.
  • Sailing the middle of the day if possible so that there is more day light remaining.
  • Tell somebody you are going out, where you are going and when you hope to return. Have them monitor the conditions and set to raise the alarm if necessary.
  • Check out & check in procedure.


  • Consider the direction of the wind and current so that you might be able to get back after a breakage.
  • Check the forecast and real time data too. The late spring can produce very changeable weather, as any time can. Stay well within your ability and physical limits. With limited safety support we should also limit the conditions we set sail in too.
  • Heading upwind of your starting point enables the possibility of drifting home when there is no tide.
  • The tide, and how it is changing. Springs or neaps.
  • On a small lake drifting onto the far shore might not be a large issue, however, you should consider not going out onto open water in an offshore breeze.


  • Carry a tow line. A spare Solo mainsheet is perfect.
  • Take a paddle even i.
  • Comms: Carry a whistle (easy in the front of your BA/PFD), phone (good waterproof cases are common place now), VHF if you have one. Have phone easily accessible and the phone numbers of key people you might need to call ready on speed dial so you can rapidly call if needed.
  • Visibility: Wear a bright top (red, orange, yellow, bright blue) as they are more easily spotted if you are parted from your craft or drifting on a turtled hull. There is too much dull black, white and grey sailing kit out there.
  • Consider the need for a smoke flare or EPIRB

Maintain your boat;

  • Check it over to ensure everything is working well and that nothing is about to break.
  • Carry a 1m length of 3mm dyneema for emergency use.
  • Carry a multi tool/roll of insulation tape.

Self Recovery;

  • Be confident of your ability to self-recover a capsized Solo in the prevailing conditions.
  • Righting Lines. We strongly recommend you fit them; even if as a temporary item.
  • A capsized Solo can be cantankerous. In any kind of breeze, it lies with the mast upwind; meaning that the only means of righting is by an “Eskimo roll”. If you are not confident in your abilities to achieve this, do not venture out in capsizing conditions.

2) Avoiding Risk of Head Injury

  • Helmet: Consider wearing a helmet, especially on windier days and sailing without support. Helmets are becoming increasingly commonplace.
  • Rigid Cap Insert: If you don't want a full helmet there is a reduced option popular with our North American Solo sailors which is a rigid cap insert that can fit discretely inside a cap, sun hat or fleece/woolly hat. Link

3) Avoiding Risk of Entrapment

There is relatively little risk of entrapment in the Solo. Mainsheet: Don't have one longer than you need. Keep it tidy. Avoid it tangling around your feet and undo tangles as they happen.

By Graham Cranford-Smith, with a big acknowledgement to Pete Barton who provided much of the material.

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