Number 218 / April 2010

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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lid, stir the mass violently together, splash in some milk, and eat. You will never again be happy with the wersh and fushionless silky slop which passes for porridge. This was the food whose devotees staggered the legions of Rome, broke the Norsemen, held the Border for five hundred years and are standing fast on borders still. It is a dish for men. It also happens to taste superbly. We ate it twice a day, frequently without milk, although such a simplification demands what an Ayrshire farmer once described to me as a 'guid-gaun stomach'. He is a happy traveller who has with him a bag of oatmeal and a poke of salt. He will travel fast and far.

Dried fruit was a pleasant accompaniment. We always soaked a large capful overnight and stewed it briefly in the morning. The fruits could also be eaten in their dry wrinkled state, when determined mastication brought out juicy hints of their dormant virtues. At times we make pancakes, or even simpler articles with flour.

At breakfast each morning we prepared a prodigious bundle of food to be consumed en route. This consisted of sandwiches, which we shared by laying the canoes alongside each other wherever we might be. In seas too rough for proximity, the man with the sandwiches would have to pass some over by paddle. This meant balancing the sandwiches on one of the blades, and holding the paddle out like an old-fashioned church collecting-ladle, until the other snatched the food off safely. Here we grew skilful, and in the end the gestures of proffering and grabbing, among the heaving of the seas, canoes and paddle, were dainty indeed. A loaf or two, followed by some dried fruits, or a few hardboiled eggs, were adequate and satisfying in these conditions. Strangely, although we carried bottles for drinking water, and were many hours afloat at a stretch, we rarely felt thirsty on the sea.

Alastair Dunnett, "The Canoe Boys: The First Epic Scottish Sea Journey by Kayak"
By kind permission of Neil Wilson Publishing, Suite Ex 8, The Pentagon Centre, 42 Washington Street, Glasgow, Scotland.


Great Participation Statement Debate (JeffB) - aka The Confused Helmsman

You will know from the AGM reports and the letter from Renate and PaulW that there is still a lively debate in progress regarding the participation statement and safety policy. I have received a number of letters on the subject, some of which support Paul's position, in whole or in part, but also several that do not. Maybe it is just me, but I find that this is extremely complex and confusing. In fact, I am probably more confused now than I was before I started looking into this in more detail.

Why the change?
SteveR was concerned that the OCSG 'statement of policy and responsibility' did not follow the suggested formula provide by the BCU, to which the Group is affiliated. He therefore asked for advice from a senior BCU coach who said that he did not think it was adequate. The proposed draft brought to the AGM started "Canoe sailing is an 'assumed risk' 'water contact' sport...". This generated a great deal of argument, mainly over the language and whether including pseudo-legal phraseology into the document actually achieved anything apart from confusing people.

The British Mountaineering Council has a much better form of words: "The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions", which seems to have the great advantage of making perfect sense.

At the AGM no consensus could be reached and so it was decided that the committee would agree on the form of words within one month and issue the membership forms. We did this and decided to stick with the BCU's arcane language since another club, the Peninsular Canoe Club in Liverpool, whose membership includes an eminent claims lawyer, had done the same. In fact, we lifted the participation statement verbatim from the document their members are required to sign. That document is far more detailed than ours and extends to two sides of A4! You can find it on their website.

What is assumed risk?
This leads us to consider what is meant by assumed risk and what are the implications? We are now in the realms of the law on negligence and so this is the point at which we really need a lawyer. If somebody has assumed the risk of doing something that carries an element of risk, this may be used as a defence in the event that that person sues another for injury (which may include financial loss or even death), but it does not in any way affect the duty of care owed to another person. For example, a boxer can expect to be hit with a gloved fist in line with the rules of boxing, but not with an iron bar. A boxer has a duty of care to the person he is hitting. There is a document on the BCU website giving more detail about the duty of care.

Third party insurance
So why should this matter? The BCU third party insurance covers the Group's members at organised meets. Any claim, even from a fellow Group member, would be met. So that's all right then, or is it? Unfortunately it ignores the tremendous strain that would be placed on all the people concerned in any claim and also the wider effect on the whole of the BCU. The point was made to me by the BCU that our insurance premiums are very low, simply because canoeing has an

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