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The Dangers of Cold Water Sailing

By June 21, 2012

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This last weekend a Boston area sailor died after falling into the water from a sailboat during a race. He was wearing a lifejacket and was quickly retrieved and brought to the dock to receive medical care, yet he had died of an apparent cardiac arrest. The water temperature was 59 degrees, and the sudden shock of cold is known to sometimes cause a sudden cardiac or respiratory reaction that can lead to death - even when the victim has not taken water into his lungs or has not been in the water long enough to experience hypothermia. Unfortunately, this reaction to sudden immersion in cold water seems poorly understood, and very seldom do we later hear follow-up stories about the cause of death because the coroner's report is often confidential. The lesson for all of us is to take every possible safety precaution when sailing in cold water.

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