Guidelines to Sweeps  
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N.B. The Golden Rules
  • KEEP TO STARBOARD in cuts (ie stay on the right)
  • KEEP TO STARBOARD (right) when passing an oncoming boat,
    so you pass with the boat to your PORT (left) side
  • NEVER stop in a cut, especially not broadside on! even if you can see there's nothing coming.
  • ALWAYS GO ANTICLOCKWISE (i.e. keep the harbour walls on your right)
    NEVER GO CLOCKWISE; someone else may be just around the corner expecting the way to be clear.
  • ALWAYS HAVE A WHISTLE and use it, especially when going round blind corners.
  • BE SEEN - ALWAYS HAVE LIGHTS AFTER SUNSET. The sweep must have a headlight and there must be a bright bow light. The more lit up you are, the safer you are.

Capetonians are very fortunate in being able to pursue our sport in the V&A - we are the only sport to be afforded this privilege. The V&A is however a working harbour and is becoming increasingly busy with all the tourist traffic. Initially we used to practice in South Arm - this was before the creation of the Marina Basin and we kept our equipment in the clock tower which was virtually derelict! Things are very different now and the harbour is generally too busy to allow us to venture out beyond the white swing bridge.

We are therefore requested to keep within the Marina and Alfred Basins. No boats should be in the Alfred Basin when there are shipping movements under way. There must be an experienced ADULT sweep on board when using the Alfred Basin.

Remember, Dragon Boats are very vulnerable boats, because they are long & very narrow with no keel and they rely entirely on disciplined crew-responses to all the sweep's commands.

It is vital for the continued presence of dragon boating in the V&A that we adhere strictly to the safety regulations agreed on with the Port authorities.

The sweep is the person responsible for the safety of the boat & all who are in her, and the sweep is therefore the person in overall charge of the boat.


Rules & regulations for paddling in the V&A

These guidelines were drawn up in 1997 based on the IDBF guidelines for sweep training,
the V&A Regulations for Dragon Boating and the maritime skippers code. (updated 2011)

Due to increased traffic, we are no longer allowed out beyond the white swing bridge.

There must be on board:

  1. bailers
  2. a hooter or whistle
  3. life jackets for non-swimmers
  4. mooring lines
  5. navigation lights from twilight

What are the other things a sweep should have with them?

INTERNATIONAL RULES OF PROCESSION WITHIN A HARBOUR

  • Do not enter a cut if you are likely to get in the way of another vessel
  • Hoot when about to enter a cut, and always do so on the right (to starboard).
  • Keep to the right (starboard) in cuts
  • Keep to the right (starboard) when passing an oncoming boat, so you pass with the approaching boat to your left (PORT)
  • Never stop in a cut, especially not broadside on! Even if you can see there's nothing coming.
  • Never stop broadside on to the traffic flow, even if it is around the corner in the synchrolift area of the Alfred basin, you may be in the way of another dragonboat doing circuits.
  • Always go anticlockwise (i.e. keep the harbour walls on your right) never go clockwise; someone else may be just around the corner expecting the way to be clear.
    e.g. don't go sneaking into blue bridge cut on the left when you have been stretching in the synchrolift basin, another dragonboat coming out will do so on THEIR right, which will mean you'd collide head on
  • Never assume other boats know or will adhere to rules!

THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN HELMING

  • Be aware of any activity from linesmen standing around bollards it means the vessel is about to depart
  • Be aware of people standing expectantly at an empty berth, jetty or gangway - it means something is about to arrive.
  • Watch the horizontal radar detector on the top of vessels; if it is turning it means the vessel is about to depart
  • Beware of fishing boats with their engines running - they are likely to depart
  • Beware of wakes - and the ricochet of wakes off the harbour walls.
  • Try to orientate the boat so you take waves at a right angle, i.e. on the nose (or stern). Be especially wary of the pilot boat and tugs, they send up a huge wake, even within the confines of the Pier Head. Slow the paddling and if needs be, brace the boat.
  • Watch the swing-bridge light (on the North corner of the entrance to the white bridge cut near Den Anker)
    • Flashing red light = swing bridge is in place - only small boats will be able to pass through (but even these can be a danger)
    • no light - BEWARE! the bridge is open :- something big is about to enter / leave
  • When about to enter a cut, watch for approaching masts
  • If cutting across a cut, do not do so too close to the wall. Get your drummer or stroke pair to look out for approaching vessels.

MEANING OF SOUND SIGNALS
  • one blast (whistle blow) = going to starboard (turning to my right)
  • two = going to port (turning to my left)
  • three = going astern (going backwards)
  • Five = get out of my way - NOW

How long should a sound signal be?

NAVIGATION LIGHTS
  • GREEN = Starboard = Right
  • RED = Port = Left

PRACTICING IN ADVERSE CONDITIONS

Do not take a boat out unless you are happy that you and your crew can cope well with the conditions and that you will run no risk of a swamping, capsise, or of being blown onto the yachts moored in the Marina or Alfred Basins.

If it is very windy in the new basin, don't take the boats out - there's no-one standing by to rescue us when we are practicing. Trying to swim a capsized boat to the side would be extremely difficult and the boats (and people) could get badly scratched on the barnacles as they try to climb out at the sides of the basin.

What signs indicate that it is too windy for a practice?

Stand on the floor of the boat when helming a fibreglass racing dragon boat.
A sweep does not have firm control of the boat when balancing about on the gunwales.
You only sit to helm the wooden flag-catching boats with their upswept stern.
Remember you are responsible for the safety of the boat and its crew.
Welcome newcomers, make them feel wanted, and keep them in mind when setting exercises, we don't want to put them off!!

BE OBSERVANT

Notice which boats/yachts moor where, so that you will know where they are headed for when you see them coming in through the swing-bridge area.
e.g small fishing boats moor on East Quay (the North side of the synchrolift area) so any big fishing boat is likely to be going to West Quay or the dry dock.
The big light-green catamaran tourist yacht moors near Den Anker whilst the white-hulled tourist catamaran yacht moors in the Marina Basin near the Aquarium Jetty.
If you know where a boat is likely to be going, then you will know how best to get out of the way.

Notice where there are places one could get out of the water should a capsize happen.

Where are there any steps / ladders?

SWEEPS CHECKLIST

  • Check the securing of the sweep oar;
    don't trust anyone else's tying & don't tie it too tightly as this prevents rotation.
  • Check the stability of the sweep arm, prongs and platform.
  • Establish if anyone can't swim and request that they wear a life jacket.
  • Brief the crew on safe behaviour and what to do in the event of swamping / capsize.
  • Insist that no-one stands up in the boat!
  • Instruct beginners on paddling technique, and assign someone to help them.
  • Balance the boat; sit paddlers right up against the gunwhales, weight affects the boat more in the middle, so swop a heavy paddler for a lighter one if necessary. An unbalanced boat is an unsafe boat
  • In high side wind, move heavier paddlers to the back to help reduce crabbing sideways
  • Stay in the Marina Basin in poor visibility and heavy traffic.
  • After a session, check the mooring lines are secure.
  • Check fenders are in position and that the bow/stern will not rub against the marina.
  • Cancel the session if the weather is inclement.

Demonstrate the correct method of tying lines to a cleat

KNOTS

  • Click here to see how to tie the mooring line to a cleat.
  • Tying a bowline for tying fenders onto the marina/boat, & for tying the boat to something other than a cleat.
  • How to do a clove hitch (a second method). This is a quick simple knot that is easy to undo.


ALL COMMANDS COME FROM THE SWEEP ONLY.

N.B. Where the coach is not the sweep; the sweep's commands over-ride those of coach or captain of club crews.

Corporate team leaders should not be giving commands on the boat, unless it is to repeat those of the sweep

  • Keep commands clear, simple, and stick to our standard commands.
  • Be assertive! You, and you only, are in charge
  • Emphasize that no paddler may take it upon themselves to initiate any commands!!
  • Don't hesitate to be REALLY FIRM with people whose behavior could put the boat at any risk.
    Call on the team captain (of corporate crews) to enforce your commands if need be.
  • If there is still a problem, return to the jetty.
  • Novice crews must practice in the new basin only
  • If you have any concern about the boat's safety.... wind too strong, waves too big, cross-current too strong, crew behavior, harbour too busy, return to base.

STANDARD COMMANDS

  • Are you ready ?
  • Attention !
  • Go !
  • Next stroke ... Easy ( = stop paddling)
  • Stop the Boat!
  • Backpaddle!
  • Drawstrokes! e.g. drawstrokes left / partners lean right (to counterbalance) or backpaddle
  • Brace the boat! paddles flat on the water in the event of waves or crew exchanging places.
  • Hold the boat! paddles vertical in the water & slightly to the side to stop drifting
  • Disembark one at a time from the front / back

Stop paddling well BEFORE you get close to anything (e.g. the jetty / jet float / wall!)
Do not wait until you are alongside the jetty, call for a stop before you get there
      then use 4 or 6 paddlers to GENTLY take the boat forward.
Smashing the boat bow first into the dock is unacceptable.

Do not rely on anyone listening to you when it comes to you calling "Stop the Boat",
        STOP before you need to and then ease it forwards.

WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF SWAMPING: on the three occasions this happened, it was in the days when we used to paddle in South Arm out beyond the white bridge and was caused by a monster wake set up by a speeding tug or pilot boat - (they are not supposed to set up any wake in the harbour.)

  • the wake must be taken nose on (or stern to), otherwise the boat will capsize.
  • As the boats are in two halves, only the front (or back) will flood badly.
  • Get the paddlers to move quickly but carefully into the less flooded half.
  • Have everyone not in the act of moving brace the boat.
  • Bail hard in the flooded portion!

WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF A CAPSIZE

  1. In the absence of a safety boat
    • Immediately you surface, check your partner is present and okay.
      Front pair check on the drummer, back pair check on the sweep.
    • Count off from the front
    • the next step is to right the boat.
      Remember the commands come from the sweep only (or if incapacitated, the club captain).
      • prior to doing this, move the weaker swimmers to the nose and tail.
      • Pull the sweep oar fully aft so the handle is at the sweep arm (and therefore out of the way)
      • Don't worry about rescuing anything floating away, unless it is a bailer.
        Anything else can be gathered up later. The key bag should be tied to the boat
      • If it is windy, use the wind to help you turn the boat by turning it with the wind.
      • As the boat comes over everyone must be careful to keep clear as it rolls.
      • Once the boat is the right way up and floating at the surface, get two or three light paddlers into the boat and bailing hard.
      • As the boat rises more paddlers can climb in (in pairs as the rest of the crew hold the boat stable).
      • The boat should be clear and floating in 11 to 15 minutes.
      • The last paddlers in the water may need to be helped in by paddlers already there.

    click here for pictures

  2. When a safety boat is present
    • Make sure that the person who was sitting next to you is okay: last two paddlers look out for the sweep and front two for the drummer.
    • Again, all commands come from the sweep only.
    • Count off from the front
    • STAY WITH THE BOAT.
    • Do not make any attempt to right the boat. The air trapped under it will keep it afloat.
    • Non swimmers should be wearing life jackets. If any non-swimmers were not wearing one, try and get them on top of the upturned boat.
    • If anyone is injured, get them on the boat too.
    • Those in the water huddle together and wait for the rescue boat.

A FEW SUGGESTIONS FOR PRACTICES

  1. Number off from the front.
  2. Start with everyone paddling at a gentle pace to warm up and give newcomers a chance to get into a rhythm.
  3. Stretch
  4. Various exercises
    • Odds and Evens (e.g. 30 as a boat, 30 odd, 30 even, 30 odd, 30 even ......)
    • When not paddling rest paddles right against the back of the person in front to stop them bringing their paddle too far back and lifting water, and to give the person behind a goal to reach their paddle right under. If the person in front of a paddler is not leaning forward they must push them forward when they are into the reach part of the stroke
    • Threes - a Canadian version of Odds and Evens (3 odd, 3 even, 3 odd ......)
    • Easy pyramids (e.g. 30 slow 30 hard, 40 slow, 40 hard, 50 slow 50 hard......)
    • Hard pyramids (e.g. 20 slow 30 hard, 20 slow, 40 hard, 20 slow 50 hard......)
    • Jedi pyramids (start sequence then 20 long, 20 power, 20 accelerate, 20 long - whole boat - then same again in pairs or fours. Repeat with 40s, then back to 20s)
    • Front half then back half
    • Sea-pulls - Paddle in pairs (not a good idea in winter - those not paddling get too cold)
    • Paddle in fours
    • 20 as a boat then front pair only for 20, next pair join in for next 20 and so on down the boat until all paddling for 20, then front pair stop, after 20 next pair stop and so on until only last pair paddling for 20
    • Practice starts, front half do the first bit of the sequence whilst back half put the brakes on, then vica versa, then whole boat; now add the next bit of the sequence and so on.
    • more suggestions would be most welcome! send to pam@dragonboat.org.za
  5. Race 500m and 300m
  6. Encourage partners to give constructive criticism, tactfully, to anyone who needs it.


BASIC MANOUVERS & REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATION AS A SWEEP

Control - Sweeps must be able to excercise full control over the boat and the crew and do the following . . .

  • Maintain a straight course at full racing speed with a full crew of 18-20 paddlers plus drummer
  • Steer a figure of eight course around two buoys at normal speed with a full crew, in both directions, or in the absence of buoys, steer a set course which includes both left and right angled turns.
  • Demonstrate safe approaches to a jetty/pontoon in still and windy conditions
  • Demonstrate the correct way to load into a starting pen
  • Execute sideways maneuvers without going forwards.
  • Turn the boat through 360° in both directions without the use of paddlers
  • Propel the boat forward in a straight line without the use of paddlers
  • Propel the boat in reverse for 50m with the use of paddlers
  • Excecute an emergency stop from racing speed to full stop, turn the boat through 180° and start off again
  • Answer questions about basic safety, regulations in the V&A, and the International Rules of Procession within a harbour,
  • Conduct a crew through a one hour practice session

Responsibilities - As a sweep you are accepting responsibility for . . .

  • The safety of your crew
  • The safety of your boat
  • The safety of other water users
  • The image you and your crew presents to the public

When accepting the role of sweep the golden rule is ASSUME NOTHING

  • Do not assume your crew know what they are doing !
  • Do not assume your crew know what you are doing !
  • Do not assume skippers of other boats know what they are doing, or that they will adhere to any rules!

Practice session procedure:-

  • Request non-swimmers to wear a life jacket.
  • Advise people with expensive glasses to remove them if they do not have a retaining chord.
  • Find out if there is anyone with asthma or who is severely allergic to stings,
    request them to have their medication with them.
  • Brief the crew on basic safety.
  • Load the boat.
  • Balance the boat.
  • Instruct beginners on paddling technique.
  • Check your steering equipment.
  • Stay in the Marina basin if conditions are not safe - too much wind, swell, or traffic.
    You, as sweep, have the responsibility for the safety of the boat and its crew.
  • Warm up circuit.
  • Stretch.
  • Various excercises.
  • Dock and disembark.
  • Stow the boat safely.


Comments arising from previous sweep practical assessments


GRADING

To adhere to International standards, you must be able to helm an IDBF standard racing boat.

  • Grade 1:
    Club Helm Novice helms, sweeping for an experienced crew, with an experienced helm on board
  • Grade 2:
    Corporate Helm Novice helms gaining experience (under the guidance of experienced helms) with unpredictable (novice) crews in non-race conditions in a relatively safe environment such as the V&A Marina Basin
  • Grade 3:
    Regatta Helm Sweeps with some experience,
    • gaining race experience by helping with corporate racing in minor regattas in a safe environment,
    • or in low-key club events.
  • Grade 4:
    Corporate Racing Helm Sweeps helming for corporate crews in the International Regatta, These sweeps should have considerable experience in
    • handling unskilled novice crews at practice sessions
    • in racing conditions in minor regattas/monthly club meets,
    • should be experienced with helming in a working harbour
    • have been assessed in their knowledge of the regulations
  • Grade 5:
    Club Racing Helm Race Sweeps helming for International crews in International Competition Club race sweeps should have prior experience helming for corporate crews in at least one local International event.
  • Grade 6:
    International Racing Helm IDBF recognised, experienced race sweeps, who have helmed for International club crews/National teams in International/World Championship events.

sloth's sweep trying to correct and avoid colliding at the ccwc 2004

Sweeping isn't always as easy as the paddlers think ....

the ccwc 2004 had an unusual number of collisions

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