It is up to the boat owner or captain to decide what is right for the safety of their boat and crew when going offshore, but for blue water cruisers, ISAF’s Offshore Special Regulations are a good place to start when deciding what you need.
US Sailing’s Safety at Sea Committee has conducted an overhaul of ISAF’s Offshore Special Regulations (OSR), which describes the gear required to be used on sailboats when racing in most local and offshore races in the U.S. The U.S. Safety Equipment Requirements (USSER) document is intended to be used by race organizers, owners and boat inspectors. The proposed updates were approved by US Sailing’s Board of Directors at the organization’s Annual Meeting in Captiva, Fla. on Saturday, October 19.
Based on some excellent initial work by the Northern California Ocean Racing Council in 2012, the USSER sub-committee has completed an initial list of equipment and boat characteristics that will serve the needs of the majority of coastal and offshore racers in 2014.
The USSERs will be implemented by the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, a preeminent offshore race. A US Sailing Safety at Sea Seminar will take place March 15-16, 2014 in Newport, R.I. The seminar will provide details on the new requirements to prospective racers.
The key differences between the US Safety Equipment Requirements (USSER) and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) OSRs are as follows:
1. The requirements are easier for yacht owners and pre-race inspectors to understand.
2. The requirements are self-contained and do not refer to external documents.
3. The number of race categories has been reduced from seven to three: Nearshore, Coastal, and Ocean. Race organizers can then add or delete gear requirements based on the nature of their individual races.
4. The requirements are more specific about certain pieces of gear that lacked definition in the OSRs.
5. The OSRs contained both recommendations and requirements which proved confusing to users, and which increased the size of the document. The recommendations have been removed from the new version.
6. The requirements are far more compact, and can easily be included in their entirety in a Notice of Race or on a yacht club website.
Chuck Hawley, US Sailing’s Safety at Sea Committee Chairman said, “One of the functions of the Safety at Sea Committee is to promote equipment requirements that are appropriate for the conditions, easily verified, and not excessive. I believe that the new USSERs meet those criteria, and will serve offshore sailors well. We encourage all Organizing Authorities to use them, edited if the local conditions warrant, so that races in the U.S. are sailed under consistent equipment rules.”
As with any standards document, the USSER will be modified over time. You can download the new requirements on the US Sailing Safety at Sea site.