Controlling the Controllables

After two days intensive sea survival training, myself and co-skipper Mick
Liddy have completed one of the pre-requisites for the Round Ireland Yacht
Race. We had to do a sea survival course and pass it in order to secure an
entry in the race. And now that we’ve got the certificates, the real
survival training can begin…

It seems that surviving at sea is about pre-empting problems before they
happen and knowing exactly what to do if things go wrong. From here on, much
of our training will be focused on controlling the  controllables. By that I
mean we will have to practice each and every scenario that could go wrong –
making emergency radio calls, practicing heavy weather sailing techniques,
use of storm sails, first-aid drills, launching the life-raft and of course
practicing what I will do if something happens to Mick.

Mick is both an experienced off-shore sailor and an equally accomplished
search and rescue helicopter pilot in the Air Corps. He has seen what can
and does go wrong from both perspectives – from the water and the air – and
he is driving the sail training part of this project. We will have no
compromises on safety.

The emphasis on controlling the controllables featured in my last survival
course whilst training for the South Pole Race back in 2008. During that
training we jumped into frozen waters on glaciers, practiced crevasse rescue
routines and medical emergency scenario training. Much of the training was
focused on eliminating emotional responses if something went wrong and
replacing the emotions with swift, decisive action.

The message that came across loud and clear in both the Polar and sea
survival training was that most emergencies should not happen in the first
place because the danger should have been controlled for and action taken
early. Surviving in any environment seems to come down to two things:
firstly, practice everything you can in advance to prevent problems
happening and secondly, if something does go wrong then take decisive action
quickly. It’s about controlling the controllables!

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