Be warned...


 
Jerry Freeman looks at a serious potential hazard facing anyone sailing in chilly spring waters
If one of your crew falls overboard this weekend he may be dead within five minutes of hitting the cold water. Your well planned and frequently rehearsed man overboard drill (joke) may have him alongside your boat in 10-15 minutes but getting him back over the side without further injury is an exercise that you certainly have never practiced. He may be dead before the lifeboat is launched but at least they can recover the corpse for you. Cold Shock is the killer in water below 15degC; Bramble Bank is reporting a sea temperature of 9 degrees today! (March 25th). Thousands of keen sailors will be afloat this weekend blissfully unaware of the risks they are taking in the coldest sea water of the year, some will have Sea Survival Certificates stuffed in their knickers as good luck charms, cycling proficiency certificates would be as much use. The biggest selling sea survival manual in the UK devotes just 47 words to cold shock, whereas drinking warm turtle blood before it congeals and catching a fish in your sock warrants 70 words! Cold Shock is about gasping, panic, hyperventilation, inhaling seawater, heart attack, stroke and rapid drowning. This is not Hypothermia, the favourite topic of sea survival instructors and scout leaders since Noah shivered in the Arc, hypothermia kills over a time scale of hours, cold shock kills in the first few minutes of immersion. A fit young crewman wearing a lifejacket may survive the sudden immersion but an 85kg sub-prime athlete in his fifties with an undiagnosed dickey ticker probably will not survive, and when did you last have an ECG? Race committees fly the flag Y to require the wearing of lifejackets when the wind exceeds force 5, it would make more sense to hoist flag Y when the sea temperature is below

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