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Staying alive
from Yachting Monthly

How do you gave a man overboard? Should you buy a special rescue device? And how can you enhance your chances of being rescued if it's you who goes over? This special feature has the answers.

Would you know how to rescue your crew or skipper if they fell overboard? this is the question every sailor should be able to answer "yes" to. You never khow when it's going to hapen, and if it does, you need to be able to act instantly. On the following page the YM team examines the actions needed to find the man overboard (MOB), how to position the boat for the recovery, and how to get him back onboard. We tested special rescue devices and eliver our redict on which are most likely to save a life. Plus stories of ordinary readers' dramatic rescues.

Sea Survival

Understanding how to help yourself if you fall overboard is essential if you're to survive the experience.

You might think drowning is the most immediate danger involved in falling overboard, but it's not. If you're wearing a lifejacket, you won't drown right away - there are other things to worry about.

The shock of suddenly and unexpectedly plynging into cold water is immence. As the water hits your face you gasp involuntarily and incontrollably - sometimes before you get back to the surface - and the muscles controlling the windpipe may contract to stop water getting into your lungs. This leaves you unable to take a breath once you've surfaced. Your chest feels as if it's in a vice, and your heart rate slows drastically. This effect is called the Diving Reflex. As the shock takes effect, the breathing rate increases from about 10 to 60 breaths a minute and the patient begins to hyperventilate. External blood vessels constrict to conserve heat and increase blood flow to the brain and major organs, and blood pressure rises rapidly, thus increasing the chances of suffering a stroke.

This initial cold shock can kill. In some cases the combined assualt in the heart can prove too much, resulting in cardiac arrest. The body will eventually adjust to its new evironment, but to increase the chances of survival, you must attempt to control your breathing rate by staying calm and still. Don't try to swim, unless the boat or a flotation device / danbuoy is very close by. Swimming saps your energy and the circulation if cold water can increase heat loss by 50 per cent.

Water is a great conductor and you will lose body heat about 30 times faster than in air. Heat escapes particularly quckly from the head, armpits and groin, where there are lots of blood vessels close to the skin.

On inpact with the water, pull your oilskin hood over your head, keep your arms folded across your chest with your hands inside your lifegacket and cross your legs - this position is called the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP). If two or more people are in the water they should huddle together and wrap their arms and legs aroud each other.

elderly or unfit people are most likely to succumb to the initial shock. Most people will get over it, but unless they are pulled from the water quckly they will fall victim to the intence shivering and exhaustion that priceded hipothermia. It brings confusion, disorientatiion and a feeling of paralysis. Drowning ofte follows. This stage can accur at any time beween three and 30 minutes after entering the water, depending on the water temperature, what the MOB is wearing, (including a lifegacket), age, fitness,weather and sea conditions. It is now more important than ever to stay rational, maintain the HELP position and conserve energy.

The next step is hypothermia, which will set in as the boky temperature drops to 35C. It brings amnesia, nausea and , eventually, inconsciousness. shivering will cease as the nuscles become rigid, speech becomes slurred and behaviour may be irrational. Once the body temperature falls below 30C, the usual cause of death is heart failure. warm water is no barrier to hypothermia - it can occur in water up to 24C. In the UK water temperature rarely exceeds 15C. People with high ratios of body fat to lean tissue can stave off the effects for longer; children will succumb quickly; women tend to last longer than men.

Rules of 50

1. An average adult has a 50/50 chance of suviving a 50-yard swim in 10C water.

2. A 50-year-old person has a 50/50 chance of surviving for 50 minutes in 10C water.

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