Chase Boat Driver
The Chase Boat Driver will be asked to operate within close proximity of skiers and Jumpers. Therefore, the driver must be an expert operator of the type of craft used in your program. This may appear to be an obvious statement but it must be clear that you can not assume a driver qualified for one type of boat will operate a uniquely different boat with the same level of competency. For instance, a tournament ski boat may not make a good PWC operator and vise versa.
Always remember that the safety of the skier is your prime concern. Follow all state and local laws and regulations. Wear a USCG approved PFD. It is your responsibility to know the local guidelines of the waterway you will be operating on. If a citation is issued it will go to you as the operator and not the organizers of the clinic. Remember, you will be in the public’s view throughout the clinic. An adapted water ski program will naturally catch the attention of the general public, so strive to set a “safe boater” example. At all times maintain the image of the “professional operator”.
If it is the first time you have worked with a new Jumper take a practice run. Set a life jacket out in the open water and rehearse the drop off maneuver with you Jumper actually jumping. You will get a feel for the amount of force this particular person causes when they move off the PWC to the water.
When you are waiting to be assigned to a skier, do so without making any wakes. When stopped or at idle speed, it can be difficult to maintain control of a PWC, and this difficulty is compounded by having a passenger. Whenever possible, stay in close proximity to your assigned towboat. Be careful not to bump or make contact between tow and chase boats and try not interfere with their maneuvering.
Staying close to the towboat is helpful because it makes it easier to relay the skier profile as it is radioed from shore. Listen to the skier profile and pay close attention to the information about water safety. Watch the student as s/he is prepared to be pulled. Observe the skier’s actions in the water. If the skier is comfortable in the water, there is not the need urgency when approaching s/he after a fall. If the skier is frightened or struggling in the water you will want to stay closer in order to respond quickly should the skier go into the water.
At the staging area the chase boat should be approximately 20 feet to the side and slightly in front of the skier and Water Starter. Signal the towboat when you are ready and maintain the position in a wake less manner. As the skier is pulled up, stay clear of the anticipated path and pay attention to the Water Starter dropping off the ski. Be ready for a skier to come out of the water on a cut, moving radically at an angle to the boat’s path (and your anticipation of the skier’s path).
If the skier does not immediately fall (most falls occur within a short distance of the start) accelerate to the skier’s speed and maintain a 45-degree angle to the skier’s path. Position your boat just outside the towboat wake. Never pass behind a moving skier! The distance behind the skier you should maintain will depend on the skier’s speed, competency lever and comfort in the water.
In the event the student falls, it is very important that you have a predetermined plan of action. If the student is a water safe skier and s/he gives the OK signal, immediately slow down and approach the skier at idle speed. Usually, the skier is not in any harm and will only need assistance with getting back into the equipment and maintaining balance. Many skiers “thrash” in the water to free themselves from the cage or to keep their face out of the water but they are not in danger or distress. If the skier is able to get started independently, wait in an area where you won’t impede the towboat from bringing the rope to the skier.
If the skier is insecure, apprehensive, or requires your assistance, swing in to within 10 feet, reduce speed and allow the Jumper to jump off. Slow to an idle and move off at a 90-degree angle to the towboat watching out for a quick released rope and ski. Idle clear of the towboat’s pick up path and wait in a wake less manner for the towboat to move away. Repeat the start sequence picking up your Jumper after the skier has started.
With skiers that are only marginally water safe (look for the Type 1 PFD) or are uncomfortable in the water if may be necessary to use two chase boats. This will reduce the possibility of a long response time, due to picking up the Jumper, if the skier falls just a short distance from an earlier fall.
When using two chase boats, the first boat is the primary boat and the other the secondary. At the start, the primary boat takes up the usual 45-degree position and the secondary boat will follow behind. If there is a fall the primary boat will move in to drop off his/her Jumper. At this point the secondary boat becomes the primary chase boat. When the Jumper from the first boat has gotten the skier going again, the Driver of the first can pick up the Jumper without fear of the skier falling a hundred feet away and not being able to respond. The second boat will take off when the skier starts and will be the primary chase boat. The two chase boats rotate after every fall (Leap Frog positions).
In small lakes it is best for the secondary chase boat to stop in the middle (but off to the side!) of the towboat pattern. This will reduce wakes and congestion. When there is a fall move to that location and resume the primary chase boat duties.
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