Ebb tide warning system
The heavy rainfall during the winter of 2013/14 caused the Thames to flow at more than 4 times its usual rate. There were a number of incidents in which the RNLI Chiswick lifeboat had to rescue rowers from the water and a number of boats were destroyed. These incidents all had the potential for fatalities.
The vast majority of these incidents were attributable to crews underestimating the power of the stream and/or overestimating their own competence. The Port of London ("PLA"), in conjunction with the Thames Regional Rowing Council ("TRRC") want to reduce the number of such incidents. To that end, in February 2014, they initiated a system of warning flags. The flags relate to the flow rate of the river during ebb tides - i.e. when fluvial and tidal flow are in the same direction. They are based on measurements taken at Richmond Lock. The flag status is displayed on the PLA website, relayed in real-time on the right-hand side of the FSC website and hoisted on PLA launches.
There are 3 main flag statuses: green, yellow and red. The flags are advisory and not mandatory - i.e. the PLA is not requiring (and may not be able to require) clubs not to row on ebb tides during the periods of red flag conditions. However, clubs are strongly encouraged by the TRRC to abide by the advice given by the flag status, due to the pattern of incidents set out above.
FSC expects and requires its members (including those using privately owned equipment if displaying an FSC BR ID number) to comply with the Notice to Mariners as follows:
Green Flag at all times, and Yellow / Red flags DURING FLOOD tides:
- normal club rules apply.
- No novice crews (see below) may go out DURING EBB tides
- No singles/doubles/pairs may go out alone DURING EBB tides
- No crew may go above UL or below Barn Elms DURING EBB tides.
No FSC member is allowed on the river DURING EBB tides, save that non-novice quads, fours and eights may go out during an ebb tide, IN DAYLIGHT, WITH THE EXPRESS PRIOR PERMISSION, on an outing by outing basis, of either the Club Captain, the Club Water Safety Adviser (CWSA) or their appointed deputies.
Such permission must be obtained not more than 24 hours prior to the intended outing and does NOT in anyway abrogate the responsibility of every crew member and coach to continually risk assess the prevailing conditions and their crew's ability.
In deciding whether to grant permission for a crew to boat notwithstanding a red flag, the Club Captain and CWSA will expect to know: (1) the intended crew composition, (2) who will cox or steer, (3) the boat which will be used, (4) details of any coach or other supervision and (5) the intended outing plan.
NOTES: A 'novice crew' is, for the purpose of this policy only, (1) any crew in which more than 49% of the crew has rowed for less than 1 year; (2) any crew in which the cox or steer has been an approved steer for less than 1 year.
Any member who cannot recognize the tide state or who does not know how to find out forecasts or measurements of the tide state should not be on the river unsupervised whatever the flag status."