9th July 2018
Special safety checks the day before the Round the Island Race, indicated that
many lifejackets aboard yachts may not be as effective as their crews
On Friday 6 July Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station teamed up with sports gear
manufacturers Helly Hansen to provide a free lifejacket clinic at the company’s
marquee on Cowes Yacht Haven. It was found that of the 32 lifejackets examined no
fewer than 75 percent failed safety tests.
“Maybe the take up was low because little wind was forecast for the race,” said the
lifeboat station’s Community Safety Officer, Tony Reeve. “Then there was world cup
“Those who did attend, however, were rather surprised at what was revealed behind
the never-opened fastenings on their lifejackets. Out of the 32, two were condemned
outright, with one having a rusted and corroded Co2 cylinder, barely able to inflate
the jacket’s buoyancy bladder.
“Fourteen had out-of-date inflation systems, the worst having expired in March, 2008.
Six jackets were missing crotch straps and two had no saddle clips.”
So the final count was that of the 32 examined, 24 were deficient in some way.
“Some may not appreciate that fabric is significantly affected by salt water,” added
Tony. “Any defects in life jackets can be revealed by them being regularly opened
and inspected, and through manual inflation. Our hope is that this vital message
reaches everyone who use lifejackets.”
By way of an incentive to submit their lifejackets for inspection at the event, the first
30 were given a free coastal lifejacket by Helly Hansen. Local chandlers were also
subsequently visited by yachtsmen to seek out replacement parts.
Despite the relatively small number taking advantage of the lifejacket examination,
Tony still firmly believed the exercise was well worthwhile, and was very grateful for
the assistance of Helly Hansen. More clinics are planned for Cowes Classic Week on
23-29 July and Cowes Week between 4–11 August. “There will be an increased
uptake as the message gets around,” he predicted.
Station Operations Officer Mark Southwell said: “Life jackets are now well designed
and comfortable to wear and their use is increasing. Tony’s team are all volunteers,
giving up their time to help the wider boating public understand why maintenance is
“It can be all to easy to assume lifejackets are always up to the job, but just like
smoke alarms in our homes, they need to be regularly checked. Someone’s life could
well depend on it!”