Red-boarding on the Thames

19/12/2012 14:51:03

This is mostly a question for my fellow river sailors...

Over the past few weeks, racing has been cancelled at Hampton because the river has been 'red-boarded' by the Environment Agency. This is pretty frustrating as last weekend there was enough wind to make up against the stream; I know this because about 6 of us went out for a float anyway.

Red-boarding is only an advisory by the EA (and a relatively newly introduced one at that), rather than a rule. There's a general feeling that we've all sailed in far more full on stream conditions at the tidal clubs (such as Ranelagh) and in the Health and Safety free bliss that was our youth(!). Conditions at the weekend were definitely sailable and not unsafe, so we're wondering what other clubs are doing about it?

I'd be really interested to hear what the rest of you are up to!



19/12/2012 17:01:24
RH .
We sailed last Sunday at Tamesis and have never cancelled a race solely down to red boards. Stream was strong on Sunday but nothing we haven't sailed in before and less than a tidal race at Ranelagh or Salcolmbe. 
We leave issues about whether it's safe to race to the OOD on the day.

19/12/2012 17:56:31
Hi Tim,

We are just as frustrated about this at Cookham. We introduced a rule this year that if the red boards are up there is no sailing. That at least allows people to save a journey. This was due to insurance issues with the safety boat of all things! You might want to check what the liability situation is with yours. My understanding is that we can only launch it in an emergency and not as a precaution. They also state that we would not be covered for anything caused by the stream if the red boards are displayed.

My insurance company are happy to leave it up to me to decide what is safe and what is not.

My opinion is that the EA need to look in to this as thier 'advisory' notice is being taken literaly by insurance companies and is stopping us sailing. The lock keepers cannot take into account the wind strength and direction as it only applies to sailing clubs and what is good for Cookham is not for Upper Thames and we are on the same stretch of river.

This year has been pretty exceptional and has really highlighted this issue. I hope next year will not be so bad or I might have to find a pond to sail on.

20/12/2012 10:11:34
Richard P
We've faced the same situations at UTSC.  It's up to the OOD to decide on the day, rather than just take the "no sailing when the river's on red" route, unless the frontage is flooded.  Interesting issue about safety boat insurance my experience the only thing certain about insurance companies is that they'll take your premium and then do their utmost to deny liability if you make a claim.

The real difficulty is faced when the less experienced see the very able take to the water and think, well if they're out then I can go out too.

20/12/2012 11:08:18
Hi chaps,

Thanks for you responses - all interesting stuff!

Jez, sorry to hear about your rescue boat difficulties; ours lives in the water anyway, so presumably any 'launch' of it would by definition be for an emergency... this said, we seem to use it regardless but just keep on having racing cancelled, which is the annoying bit as far as I'm concerned.

It'd be interested to hear what the others (Thames, Minima, etc., even other rivers!) are up to as well and to hear the Ranelagh perspective.

Thanks again,


20/12/2012 11:55:48
Andrew M
This is a difficult one for clubs with the available "guidance" from pseudo-governmental organisations like the EA and to a lesser extent the RYA.  I was pretty cheesed off at the lack of sailing last weekend, I very much doubt the river will be any different this weekend.  There is a perception about being sued that I doubt is truly rooted in fact.  Who would sue you and with what basis?  Loss of life in these circumstances is incredibly unlikely - when dinghy sailors die it makes the national headlines every few years.  More likely is damage to boats or even total loss, and it is plausible that if an owner found his/her insurer would not cough up because the river was red-boarded then he might try to establish the club's liability as they had run an organised race.  I wonder what the lawyers amongst us would feel about the likelihood of such a claim succeeding - my understanding has always been that the SI's state (& the OOD can reiterate) the ultimate liability is on the individual sailor to go afloat if he/she is competant to handle the conditions prevailing.  Tim's point about Ranelagh is pertinent as this is well-known to be a much more dangerous bit of river, but the controlling authority is the Port of London Authority not the Environment Agency and the river conditions don't change to the same extent with the water coming down.

21/12/2012 20:40:59
old fart
Believe it or not the RYA does have some useful general advice in its Legal advice section - Race Training and Event Management - The Legal Aspects (a 49 page download)
Sports Clubs have a defence against negligence claims if they act reasonably- which I guess depends on the ability group that you are racing with - a bunch of top sailors would be expected to be able to cope with more difficult conditions than beginners etc. An inspection of the course by the OOD and one or two experienced competitors before the race, combined with a briefing to competitors and exclusion of any competitors who were judged not experienced enough, would surely indicate reasonable care.
It would also help if you have a Safety Policy in force which emphasises even more the personal liability aspect of sailing (you can take chunks of the words from the aforementioned RYA download.

20/01/2013 20:48:40
Mark (3442)
I can confirm Andrew's point that at Ranelagh we're governed by the PLA who, as far as I'm aware provide no similar "helpful advice".

Also, being tidal with racing from HW-1 to just after high tide any additional water coming downstream tends to hold the tide back and reduce the flow so we don't face quite the same situation.


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