The Macmillan Confidence Builder

Whenever competitors enter their cockpits, they must have attended and participated in an educational training session utilizing the Mac Millan Confidence Builder, affectionately known as the “Turtle or Dunk Tester”. Many theoretical problems became evident while questioning racers as to how they would exit their craft, should accident occur.

The Confidence Builder was funded in 1987 by the Mark Lavin Memorial Safety Foundation, constructed and donated by the Gallagher Kaiser Corporation. Engineering and design was provided by Rich Furst, former A.P.B.A Cockpit Safety Inspector, in conjunction with the Mac Millen Offshore Survival School. It continues in constant use since that time.

The “Turtle Tester” is not a Dilbert Dunker or an accident simulator. The primary goal of the confidence builder is to be sure that all racing competitors have given real thought to the possibility of an emergent situation on or in the water and are familiar with their emergency survival equipment, its use with pre-planned and rehearsed safety evacuation procedure.

The Confidence Builder training program has established five major objectives to assist in accomplishing the goal:
  1. To build confidence in each racer to handle an offshore emergency.
  2. To teach the competitor an organized approach to emergency evacuation of their race craft above water, under water or in the case of fire.
  3. To practice simulated emergency evacuation of a racecraft in a realistic setting.
  4. To gain experience with personal survival and rescue equipment.
  5. To understand the roles and responsibilities and rescue techniques utilized by rescue teams.
These objectives will be accomplished by having all the participants attend a short educational program presented by the Mark Lavin Safety Foundation Staff with emphasis on safety equipment usage, types of injuries, accidents and their preventation, biomechanics and an organized management program for this type of risk.

Following the didactic portion of the training session, racing competitors will be required to meet the “Turtle Tester”. After a brief orientation, each competitor will have the opportunity to practice their survival plan, as dictated by his or her hull-cockpit design, restraint systems, and personal equipment considerations.

The Dunker, with some human assistance, has the capability of simulating an end-over-end accident, a kite, and a roll with only minor impact. Once the participant is seated in the simulated cockpit, he/she is secured into a five-point restraint system wearing his personal flotation device and helmet. In addition, a set of blackout goggles can be used to simulate post accident disorientation. When all the appropriate safety precuations have been taken, the racer is informed that the race craft is out of control. With this cue, he takes a deep breath, assumes the crash position, and prepares to experience the 20 longest seconds of his life. The “Dunker” is then manipulated into inversion, simulating the various accident mechanisms. This leaves the racer suspended upside down, under water, hanging by his seatbelt and shoulder harness. An underwater breathing device is provided should the participant choose to practice this procedure in the inverted position or practice with his Tiger Performance Competition Air System.

With SCUBA Diver / Paramedics at his side, the racer must practice that which he has learned during the educational session and proove his proficiency to himself.
  1. Brace for impact.
  2. Reach and hold on to this “Point of Orientation”.
  3. Access his air supply and place one hand on the lap belt next to the release.
  4. Count to ten to allow for the bubbles to clear as well as his orientation and release the restraint mechanism.
  5. Exit by locating the exit that most simulates his cockpit and extricate himself towards the hand of orientation. (The hand nearest the exit) Locate the direction of bubbles (which indicates up) and swim in that direction after clearing his gunwales.
Most participants are able to complete this sequence in fifteen to twenty seconds. Successful competition is judged on the racing competitor’s ability to maintain composure, follow the appropriate procedures for self-extraction and reach the surface in thirty seconds. With the implementation of competitor safety and protective mechanisms, comes a whole new set of problems to be dealt with by racers and their Medical and Safety Support Teams. Mandatory confidence builder training is just one method of helping the racer work around this often “unanticipated” set of difficulties.