Something Goes Wrong During a BCU 5* Assessment and the RNLI is Called in to Help

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

An interesting story is coming out of the UK this week. On the 19th of April, seven sea kayakers were out paddling in very rough seas when they got into trouble and had to be assisted by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

What’s interesting about this is that they were all advanced paddlers and several of them were sea kayak instructors.

From the RNLI press release:

Initial reports indicated that there were people in the water. When the lifeboat arrived on scene it was quickly established that three people, one of which had been washed out of his kayak, were ashore on Porthmelgan beach. It was decided that St Davids inshore lifeboat should be launched to escort two of them back to Whitesands while St Davids coastguards brought one person to Whitesands in their 4x4.

I wanted to do dig more into this and went to my trusty UK news source, There I found a forum thread with a more detailed report and discovered that the incident actually took place during a BCU 5* assessment.

Taran Tyla posted the following:

The incident happened on a 5 star assessment I was attending. One of the Guinea Pigs was struggling a bit with the conditions & had capsized a few times which were quickly sorted out. After one capsize it was decided that he should paddle into Gesail-Fawr, the last get out before St Davids Head, he was doing great considering he had a boatful of water but unfortunately he capsized again just before Penllechwen & got swept past that headland minus his boat.

Just prior to this I was told to tow his boat onto the beach which I did. This left the swimmer, assessor & the other 5 star applicant heading around St Davids Head whilst myself, two other Guinea Pigs & the Assessors assistant landing on the beach.

There is more to the story and you should read through the entire conversation thread. Taran also posted a detailed report on his blog with some amazing photos of the sea conditions, riding home on the rescue boat and close-ups of one of the damaged kayaks.

I decided to highlight this incident not to pass judgement or play the old, you-should-have-done game like so many currently are in the forum. I wasn’t there and not positive that my decisions would have ended up with a different result. What this is is a good reminder that that incidents can happen to anybody. Even when you are on the water with some of the most highly trained instructors in the world.

Update 9:30pm: Reading through the thread since I posted this, Douglas Wilcox has brought up a couple of very interesting points in his comment on the forum and is worth a read. I agree with his point that peer review of all incidents is critical in making sure that we learn from our mistakes so the patterns don’t repeat again. Here is the link.

Photo credit: Taren Tyla

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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