SAFETY PLAN annex A - Launch Drivers



These guidelines are intended as an aide-memoire for launch drivers who have passed the RYA Level 2 Powerboat Handling Course, and as an introduction to the safe use of powered launches for those who have yet to attend the course.  In taking on the role of launch driver for coaching and rescue you assume responsibilities for others;  for your own benefit must ensure that you are well trained, well practised and up to date with the current rescue techniques.

As the range of river, lake, and canal venues is varied within our region, a single set of rules would not be helpful. Therefore management principles and good practice developed by experienced RYA launch drivers are provided.  These should be applied as appropriate to the location and the skills of those on the water.


The primary aim of all rescue launch drivers is the safety of all river users within their area of responsibility for the duration of the Regatta, Head Race or other Club activity. If the launch is being used in secondary duties, such as any umpiring, marshalling or coaching tasks, then these tasks must come second to the primary objective of safeguarding crews should the need arise. Launch drivers must not neglect their own safety whilst performing these duties.


The objectives of rescue launch drivers are to

  • Provide rescue facilities to Regattas, Heads, events and other Club activities.
  • Recover capsized rowers without worsening their condition.
  • Transport any injured rowers to medical attention quickly and safely (or vice versa).
  • Ensure that they do not themselves become an accident victim.


All launch drivers should be:

  • Aware of relevant section in the Water Safety Code.
  • Adeuqately trained in boat handling, resuscitation and First Aid.
  • Up to date in their watermanship knowledge and skills.

The launch driver should hold a RYA Level 2 Powerboat Handling Certificate. Boat handling skills and rescue techniques should be practised regularly in the club environment. In addition, as the rescue boat may well be the first craft on the scene of an accident, it is advisable that the driver should hold a recognised qualification in First Aid (see above). The driver, and all crew members, must wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid while afloat.  If the launch is used for ferrying,  then all passengers must wear lifejackets of buoyancy aids.


Launches should be:

  • Stable.
  • Quick and manoeuvrable.
  • Designed so as not to create an excess wash.
  • Of adequate capacity to carry wet or injured rowers back to the boathouse quickly and safely.
  • Properly equipped.
  • Well maintained.

Launches powered by outboard engines, must be fitted with a "kill-cord" so that the engine is disabled if driver and boat part company unexpectedly.  The 'kill cord' should always be used by the driver.


The level of wind and engine noise on a moving powerboat is such that trying to communicate with rowers by shouting is often ineffective.  In most situations it is better to get in close, stop and speak clearly. Choose the right clothing for the prevailing weather conditions and bear in mind the length of time that you will be afloat.

Consider the possibility that a crew member may need to enter the water in an emergency, the effects of long periods of inactivity in cold weather and the need for agility when moving about the boat.

 Hot drinks on cold days, and vice versa, will help to maintain the efficiency of the crew.  Boat handling skills should be second nature so that the driver can concentrate on the plan of rescue without having to concentrate on how to get the boat into the right position.  When manoeuvring boats powered by outboard engines at close quarters,  make sure that the correct helm is applied before engaging forward and reverse gear. Look in the direction of travel and check that the way is clear.


When a rower needs to be recovered from the water, the following precautions must be observed:

The only time high-speed manoeuvres should be used is when making the approach to the scene of trouble or when recovering injured rowers to a medical assistance or a safe place.

Any high-speed approach to the scene of an incident must provide for the safety of other river users. Use the klaxon or another audible warning device to alert other craft. Give way if need be.

The final approach to a rower in the water must be made carefully and at low speed, in order to weigh up the situation and to avoid alarming the person in the water.

On approach, provide a buoyancy aid (life-ring or similar) to person in the water.

Talk calmly and clearly to the person in the water. Make sure they understand what you intend to do and what you want them to do.

Approach from downstream/downwind, as appropriate, in order to maintain control over speed and steering.

When bringing the rower aboard, the engine must be turned off so that no injury can be inflicted by propeller blades. Leaving the gear lever in neutral is not enough as it is easy to knock it whilst attempting to get the rower on board. If the speed of the current or other hazards make this precaution dangerous, then use the anchor to hold the launch in position.

Should the rower require urgent First Aid treatment this should be applied before moving off.

Where there are several rowers in the water, priority should be give to any injured or vulnerable rowers.


  • Keep a good lookout at all times.
  • Don't overload your boat.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • Keep to the right in rivers/narrow channels.
  • When crossing a channel, cross quickly at right angles.
  • Keep clear of swimmers, fishermen, canoeists, dinghy sailors and windsurfer.
  • Think how your wash will affect others.
  • Look out for deteriorating weather conditions.


  • Secure boat to trailer and secure all loose gear. Cover your propeller with a prop bag.
  • Trailer lights must repeat those on the rear of the towing vehicle, including a rear fog light if fitted to the car.
  • The maximum speed limits are 50 mph on single carriageways, 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
  • Never use the third lane of the motorway.
  • Allow extra braking distance if your trailer is unbraked.
  • Corner and reverse with care.
  • Park you car and trailer clear of slipways.