About 8 years ago Ron Polli wrote an article for Extreme Boats Magazine that set the hair on fire of many in the powerboating world. Many of those who were offended and upset were considered to be leaders in the industry, boat builders, engine builders, and anyone else who paid for advertising in the magazine. The rage over the article became so loud and furious my old friend Johnny Schaldenbrand who represented the magazine and did all of the advertising sales just stopped answering his phone as advertisers screamed at him and cancelled their ad contracts. Many believe what Ron did was just tell the truth and state the reality of what was really going on with performance boating events and paralleled the difference between racing and performance pleasure boating.

Then as now many individuals’ voice opinions as to what should be done and how it should be done. In 2005 I was contacted by the guys from Extreme Boats and they asked me to help do something different than just talk about what should be done. They asked me to help with a solution rather than just stating the problem. I agreed to help and noting the first problem would be to relieve the opinions, agendas, and politics of the many voices. The solution as I saw it was to develop a quality management system based with principles from ISO 9000 and the International Safety Management Code, (ISM). Of course since this was pleasure boating and the recreational market, I knew the process would have to be scaled down to make the effort reasonable and attainable. Moving forward we assembled a panel of subject matter experts (SME’s) and identified the list of gaps / competencies and requirements for organized boating events. From this the safety guidelines/best practices document was developed. We also established a registered 501 c 3 not for profit to attempt to get federal boating safety grant money to support these safety initiatives.

So what happened? “Let’s kill all the lawyers, let’s kill them tonight” Since the SME’s were identified and the not for profit had a board of directors, proper liability insurance was encouraged to protect everyone in the event of a lawsuit resulting from a potential incident on an event using the best practices document. Proper insurance for the board was unattainable and since the BeSafe model was designed to make ZERO profit and done completely as an altruistic effort and since the“Industry” (as defined by all of the players who make money selling you boats, engines, and parts) is so myopic and unsophisticated as compared to the commercial maritime industry we couldn’t find a way forward.

BeSafe was shelved and with the exception of the Florida Powerboat Club incorporating some of the best practices into their procedures has not been a benefit. Today’s issues are not new. This is ground hog day with a nightmare theme. Safety is a broad stroke and often spoken by the uninitiated with strong authority which misleads the masses. Action is what makes the difference and the only action required is personal accountability and responsibility.

The real difference between racing and not racing is the psychology each individual employs while running their boats. Meaning if I am racing I will open up my exposure to risk and take chances I would not otherwise take. If I am pleasure boating I will not place myself a position that will increase my exposure to risk and I will back down rather than bow up. This is what happens on any given weekend on the lake, street, or dune. Me and my machine will travel faster than yours.

To suggest these guys just go racing? That won’t happen until offshore racing is a unified and professional entity that is actually inviting. To suggest we just slow down is akin to Ferrari announcing for 2015 they will build a new cabriolet that will go slower and have less horsepower. The evolution of everything lends itself to more speed in almost every category. Modern engines and engine management systems are so much better than they were we can make old pieces of glass go so much faster today.

Speed does not cause incidents, speed dictates the severity of consequence and the causal factors leading to root cause are a sequence of many that usually directly links to the failure of the human.

Boating Safety classes and online courses bring knowledge but knowledge alone is not a substitute for safe operation. The unifying theory of human performance includes knowledge but it must have a skill component. To achieve high performance individuals must know how to do the job(knowledge) and be able to do the job (skills). The acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills create the ability for individuals, teams, and organizations to perform. Therefore,knowledge and skill are two basic elements of human performance.

The performance equation states that knowledge and skill are additive, Knowledge without skills makes you a consultant or a commentator-I know, but I cannot do. Skills without knowledge make you a “natural” But even the natural must acquire knowledge if they are to increase their performance beyond the natural capability that has been given to them. It is the individual who possess high levels of both knowledge and skill that will consistently achieve the highest level of performance.

The long term solution is to manage the risk through cooperative efforts and engagement. This requires the INDUSTRY to message safety and to be actual participating advocates rather than passive casual supporters. We are not going to slow down but we can manage where and when we chose to run at speed. Event organizers will ultimately be supported or not by the industry and the participants based upon how they chose to apply basic risk management principles and consequences for their events. Until the majors in the industry make a firm commitment and demonstrate leadership no one will really take action but the talk will continue.