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Safety on the skis

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Safety on the skis

The first jet-ski training course in Mayo took place recently in Blacksod. Anton McNulty went up to have a look

Anton McNultyAnton McNulty

ZIPPING across the waves at high-speed making loud noise and recklessly causing a nuisance around beaches and lakes is often the common perception when people think of jet-skiers. The last number of years has seen a large increase in the number of people using jet-skis around Ireland and whether the negative perception is fair or not, many local authorities bringing in by-laws curtailing the use of jet-skis or in Donegal County Council’s case banning them completely from beaches.
Even with the ability to reach speeds of 100kph, users of jet-skis don’t need formal training before they get on the water. In light of a number of tragedies involving jet skis, the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) offer power-craft safety courses - one of which has been organised in Mayo by Broadhaven Marine Training, based in Ballyglass outside Belmullet.
The first course took place last weekend when five jet-ski novices were shown the working of jet-skis and all the safety requirements over two-days. The principal instructor, Amy Veasey told The Mayo News that while safety was of paramount importance in the course, so too was having fun and showing common courtesy to other water users.
“We are running a two-day course for beginners to take them to a national standard of safety. The course is devised by jet-ski users - the ISA brought a group of users together to look at the skills they were using and develop a course to focus on those basis safety skills. This is a national standard award and you can obtain it in different ways and should accommodate everybody - not just those who have just got a ski but those who have had a ski for a long time. As with any type of craft, it is important to understand the full breadth of the craft and the course is designed to cover different types of uses in different areas,” she explained.
A member of both the RNLI Ballyglass lifeboat and Belmullet inshore lifeboat, Amy is an experienced Powerboat and Jet Ski Trainer and has taught recreationally in centres across the UK and Ireland. Before getting on the skis, she tells the participants of the suitable type of clothing for different seasons and how to prepare your ski for a trip. Out on the water, the course covers the basic operation of a ski including basic slow and high speed handling skills as well as advanced handling skills. The storage, use and handling of safety equipment such as flares was also explained and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Jet-skis are designed for speed and Amy explained that the inability to deal with the handling of the ski at speed is the main cause of accidents. When asked about the negative perception of jet-skiers, she is quick to defend the sport and wants to change the negative perception.
“No, it is a generalisation, there are lots of clubs forming trying to bring the image forward. I was based in the UK and a lot of work has been done over there with that same sort of perception. They are fun machines and if they are used safely they should be enjoyed by everybody. Anything that travels fast draws attention and you need to be 100 % on top of your behaviour and I think that is where that [negativity] partly comes from. They are fun but they do need to be used responsibly. There are a lot of people, the ISA in particular who are doing a lot of work to take that perception away.
“With any powerful machine it is important to understand not only for your own safety but for the safety of others how it operates and how you should operate it and how to be courteous to others while your using it. The emphasis of the whole course is to be safe and enjoy your  time on the water for yourself and others.”

further information
on powerboat and jet-ski training can be obtained on www.marinetraining.ie