Sports Law • Risk Management

New to Crew, Part I

This year I took up the sport of crewing. Each morning, my eight-person crew hoisted an old, heavy, wooden boat onto our shoulders, carried it across a narrow wooden floating dock and launched into the water as daylight was breaking. It is pretty magical to skim through the water as the sun emerges behind the trees along the shore. However, despite my enjoyment from the activity and from the view, I always reflect on the risks and how to avoid incidents.

For instance, crew members wear all types of shoes. Some wear rubber boots, some wear sneakers, but many wear sandals. Since all shoes are removed and left on the dock before launching the boat, some like the convenience of slip-on shoes. The problem, with flip-flops, however, is that a person can trip stub their toe or trip on something on the ground. A person wearing sandals may injure their foot, or they may fall and hurt themselves, the boat, and their teammates. Although flip-flops are convenient, they are not the best choice in footwear.

Another problem occurs when there are several boats trying to launch in sequence, there is a rush to get into the water. Despite the rush, it is imperative to ensure that all persons can safely navigate the dock, load the boat in the water, and are ready to launch. Slip and falls, particularly on a wet dock, are preventable if caution is heeded. It is best to delay launching for thirty seconds to sixty seconds in order to avoid incident.

Despite the risk associated with wearing slip-on shoes or implementing quick launches, the biggest problem for my crew team is the size of the dock. The worst design of the dock is its narrow ramp. When we angle the boat from the shore down the ramp, four people are clustered at the front of the boat and four at the back. Because the boat is too heavy to carry with fewer than eight persons, the person in the very front of the boat is constantly at risk for being shoved off the end or the sides of the dock. Without a wider ramp, we were constantly yelling at our teammates to avoid being pushed into the water. When building a dock and a ramp, ensure the dock is wider than the boat in order to make room to turn the boat.

There are many risks associated with the sport of crewing. The aforementioned risks are just a few of those that can occur before launching a boat in water. Like any sport, though, risks can be minimized to keep the sport enjoyable, but to reduce the likelihood of injury.