“Bla bla bla tragic bla bla bla recommend bla bla bla urge bla bla bla bla bla” - or at least I think that’s the overriding line of thought to emerge from our predictably toothless marine bodies in response to the hideous powerboat accident in Padstow (see Use a Kill Cord: Its Use Can Prevent Injury or Death for the background on the incident and the MAIB report).

PBR sticker attach your kill cordWe are all well aware that the RYA likes to adopt an anti-legislation stance, apparently believing that self-regulation is at the root of an enviable safety record among recreational powerboaters in the UK. But if ever there was a moment when the preservation of a principle began to look like inflexible pedantry, a high-profile incident involving avoidable death is surely it.

Certainly, Hugo Montgomery-Swan, Editor and Publisher of Powerboat & RIB magazine, is keen for something far more concrete than well-meaning words. He has launched a new Kill Cord Campaign, which provides red warning stickers free of charge to all readers of his magazine, as well as to boat builders, sea schools and yacht clubs throughout the UK. He is also pushing for legislation to make "Attach Kill Cord" warning signs mandatory on the dashboards of powerboats - and even more critically, he is looking to reinforce the importance of wearing a kill cord with legislation that enables the imposition of hefty fines for those who fail to comply.

It’s a campaign with considerable merit. After all, to those in the rest of the world, it must appear distinctly odd that in the UK, a complete novice can buy a 1,000hp offshore craft and enjoy a fix of high-speed thrills without any training, experience, insurance or qualifications. In fact, I know it seems odd because I’ve asked my overseas colleagues and their response is one of unanimous disbelief.

Whether PBR magazine will be able to bring about a serious reconsideration of the advisory stance of our "laissez-faire" RYA is open to doubt. If they succeed, it could be the precedent that sets us on the path to mandatory basic training for all powerboat users. If they fail, we will probably just amble on as we are until the next brutal death brings about another flood of impotent platitudes from those with the power to do something about it.

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.