There are heightened risks associated with the use of small boats, i.e. doubles, pairs and singles. Please note, risks also exist, albeit to a lesser degree, when using larger boats, i.e. fours and eights, and the safety drills are common. Dangers cannot be eliminated entirely but we must all make a huge effort to minimise them.  The major hazards have been identified and for small boats we have agreed the following  safety policy.

The Danger

The big danger is falling out of the boat either as a result of catching a crab or as a result of a collision with another boat, a navigation mark, a bridge or a large piece of driftwood. Another hazard, particularly for novice scullers is the wash from passing motor boats with inconsiderate or unaware drivers. A lesser danger is that of “sinking” in rough water, although even when full of water racing boats will not actually sink as they still float albeit a little below the surface.

In cold winter conditions survival time in the water is likely to be extremely short.  The golden rule for anyone suddenly finding themselves in the water, particularly in winter is; do not abandon the boat to try to swim to the shore. An Oxford oarsman lost his life by trying to do this. Instead, keep hold of the boat, even if it’s upside down it will keep you afloat, and then as quickly as possible using your legs/free arm push the boat towards the nearest shore/shallow water. There you should be able to turn it upright and clamber back on board. This will give you the best possible chance of survival. If, at the river’s edge, you find you can’t get back on board then and only then abandon the boat and try to get yourself out of the water.

Our Policy

All active members of the club must be competent swimmers.

Under 18s are NOT permitted to go out in any boat, without a senior member on board, outside recognised club training sessions. Even during club sessions, they are not to go out without the permission of a senior coach or club official.

During all club training, other than land training, a rescue boat must be either on the water or available for launching immediately. There must also be competent people available to crew this boat.

Provided they have taken account of all relevant factors listed below, over 18s, who are considered by the committee to have sufficient local experience, are permitted to go on the river at their own discretion but, it must be clearly understood that all outings are entirely at their own risk. Furthermore, in adverse weather members are strongly advised to comply with the common sense restrictions suggested below.

Before going on the water consider:


•  Weather conditions are crucial in deciding whether or not it is wise to go out. The main factor is the strength and direction of the wind. A northerly or north westerly wind is always likely to make the river rough. Consider too the risk of sudden squalls, particularly in winter when the temperature can drop like a stone and the river can suddenly become very rough.

•  Is the river in flood? If so, the danger will be hugely increased, particularly in cold weather. Also, remember in flood conditions there’s likely to be driftwood. Huge chunks of wood such as whole fallen trees floating quickly downstream, like big crocodiles, are potentially lethal.

•  Individuals should consider how experienced/competent they are in small boats.

•  Is all equipment to be used in good condition? For example, small holes in the decking can cause a boat to fill with water if it’s rough. Hulls need to be intact, riggers tight and blades strong. Adequate heel restraints are vital.

•  Individuals must also consider how well they know the river. Do you know where to find shelter from the wind? Do you know suitable places along the bank where you are likely to be able to climb back into the boat or get ashore? Do you know where the shallows are, particularly at low water? Do you know where the flow is strongest? Do you know where all obstacles are?

•  Does anyone know you are going out? If using club equipment, remember to make an entry in the log sheet.

•  In cold weather wear as much warm clothing as possible. In the event of falling into cold water, several layers of warm clothing could save your life.
After going afloat remember:

•  Stick to the rules of the river.  The basic rule is it’s the opposite to the rule of the road i.e., keep right. On the Bann this means proceeding upstream close to the west bank (Killowen side) and downstream close to the east bank (Boathouse side). Unless the tide is very low you can use the main western arch of Sandleford Bridge when going upstream. If the tide is low and you are in any doubt, however, then cross over and use the eastern arch. It is absolutely vital that the steerer of any boat going upstream through the eastern arch of the Sandleford Bridge and passing the navigation post at the Ford should first satisfy himself/herself that no boats are coming downstream. Boats going upstream must give way to boats coming downstream.

•  If the river is rough due to a northerly or north westerly wind then seek shelter, where the flow is lower, close to the reeds along the west bank.

•  In rough conditions, if seeking as much shelter as possible close to the west bank in contravention of the normal rules of the river when going downstream, then look round frequently and take truly exceptional care. In such rough conditions, other steerers going upstream and coxes of larger craft must keep a particularly sharp look-out and be prepared to make special allowances for small boats seeking shelter. In these circumstances a degree of flexibility, extra commonsense and special care is needed.

•  If the flow is strong don’t even think of going below the town bridge. Indeed, it’s not advisable to go downstream of the boathouse steps; as if anything were to go wrong you would be swept below the bridge in no time. In fast flowing conditions you may also consider turning just above Sandleford Bridge, where the flow starts to get much stronger, but at all times stay well clear of the bridge pillar.

•  If the tide is very low remember there are dangerous shallows under both extreme arches of the town bridge, from the western arch of Sandleford Bridge upstream to the ford and right out into the middle of the river above the big bend up towards The Cutts.

Commonsense tells us that a big, fast-flowing, tidal river like the Bann requires us to treat it with the greatest possible respect. In any case, consideration of the above points ought to reinforce the message that there is considerable danger.

Only the most experienced and competent rowers/scullers should even consider going out on the river when there is any doubt whatsoever about any of the above, particularly when on their own. It must be clearly understood, however, that at all times all over 18s, using club equipment or boating from club premises, do so entirely at their own risk.

All active members of the club are required to study this document carefully and abide by its guidelines.

How to avoid Weil’s


• Never drink water from a river or lake

• Only drink from your own water bottle

• Always shower after contact with the water

• Wash hands thoroughly and shower if necessary before eating or drinking

• Cover cuts and abrasions (including blisters) with waterproof dressings

• Wear suitable footwear when launching or retrieving a boat,

• Avoid immersion in, or contact with, water, particularly if there is an algal scum or bloom

• If contaminated water has been swallowed, consult a doctor

• Hose down all equipment after outings to remove any potential contamination

September 5th, 2010

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