Not long ago, one racing sailboat lost more than half of the crew in a raceoff the west coast of the US. All were experienced racing sailors and the latestrace-required safety equipment was aboard.

They sailed into an area that showed breakers on the chart.  The breaker line wasclearly marked. The boat capsized. More than half the crew never returned home. 

If you sail into a breaker line and get pounded by a breaker you will likelyend up with a broken ______ (you fill in the blank--hull, keel, rudder, mast,boom). Your sailing crew could sustain serious injury or lose their lives. 

This particular event was not a rescue attempt by the US Coast Guard or Royal Lifeboat Institution. Nor was it a mission to land troops on a Normandy beachduring WWII. In those circumstances, skippers and crews understand that theywill put their lives on the line for others. 

But in this incident, loss of life occurred  during a recreational sailboat race.Risk will always be part of sailing. But where do you draw the line? I believeeach skipper must make that call and accept unconditional responsibility for hisor her actions.

I like to think this as a "Go or No Go?" decision. Pretty simple. But it applies tojust about everything you do as a skipper. 

Do you cast off for a cruise or wait for a wider weather window? Run an inlet orsail a few a few more hours to an alternate entrance? Race around a point of landwhere breakers abound or bear away to a safer course? No matter what others do.No matter the peer pressure of the moment. You make the final call. Alone.

The order of skipper responsibility has not changed since man took to the sea.

This order remains the pillar of responsibility of every skipper, no matter theirexperience level. This applies across the board, whether you skipper a dinghy,powerboat, cruising sailboat, racing sailboat, freighter or super tanker.

1. Passengers2. Crew3. Boat

Passengers (those that pay you to sail aboard your boat) come first. If you haveno paying passengers, your Crew comes first. Always. Those that step aboard yourboat have placed their trust in you. Unconditionally. How will each decision thatyou make affect them? "Go or No Go?"

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