From the Editor: June 2004

It's a mystery to me why yachtsmen, be they power or sail, get so uptight...

It?s a mystery to me why yachtsmen, be they power or sail, get so uptight about the prospect of breath-tests being implemented. Surely it is not our God-given right to behave in a thoroughly irresponsible and stupid way? Surely we are not fighting to preserve our right to be utter and complete idiots?

Well actually, we are. Or we appear to be. The RYA (the people who are supposed to be representing our interests) has come up with the ludicrous idea that there is a safe speed at which to skipper a boat after drinking. This figure is 17 knots. Below 17 knots, apparently, you can?t do any damage to yourself or others, even in you?re in charge of a 15-tonne boat travelling at ten knots.

I?m surprised the Automobile Association hasn?t recommended scrapping breath-tests for drivers of cars that won?t go more than 70mph. Maybe the Civil Aviation Authority will decide it?s all right for pilots of propeller-powered planes incapable of more than 300mph to have a couple of bevvies before taking to the air.

What the RYA is effectively saying is that sailboat skippers should be immune from breath-testing, while motorboaters shouldn?t. Except for the owners of displacement or semi-displacement motor boats (who, by definition, are thoroughly decent chaps who should be allowed a couple of pink gins should they feel so inclined). But you lot ? you tearaway hooligans with your 25-knot stinkpots ? you should be subject to different laws. Perhaps they?ll segregate you into particular parts of marinas and put up signs. Maybe they?ll make you fly a special burgee. Or maybe the RYA is talking utter nonesense.

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One has to remember the fact that there isn?t a significant drink-driving problem amongst recreational boaters. And if there isn?t a problem, why bother implementing a law? And if the do implement it, who’s going to be in charge? The police? Harbourmasters? Retired Securicor guards? Any curmudgeonly old git with a uniform and a hat? Or is this going to be one of those laws that is never actually enforced? In which case, why bother?

Not that it matters ? only a total moron would take charge of a boat (any boat) while under the influence. But you?ve got to admire the RYA for its considered and sensible approach to the non-existent problem. And I look forward to it recommending red diesel for sailboats only, and compulsory training and licensing for people from Essex, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

That ought to do it!



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