Regarding inflatable PDF's:
If the PDF inflates automatically when in the water we will accept it. If the paddler has to pull a cord to activate it then it is not acceptable.
The reasons we hold to this is, one if a person has a seizure, heart attack, stroke, blackout, etc they will not be able to pull the cord to activate the vest. During my time dragon boating I have seen each of the above situations and several more arise. These events can vary greatly in the immediate trauma and the effect on the team and boat.
I witness an incident at Toronto island many years ago that happened to a well-respected team one of the team members at full race pace 125 meters from the finish line followed his paddle right through the stroke with his full body. I believe he momentarily blacked out. Three or four paddler directly behind him were knocked out of the boat at the same time. The boat losing all that weight on one side immediately flipped dumping the rest of the paddlers. At this point I could not tell which paddler was the one that initially had the problem. 22 people in the water is a lot of people.
The next problem that arose was one of the paddlers was flailing as if he was drowning. This brought on the next problem the safety boat operator could see this "drowning" person and was trying to get to the person before he went under. Next problem is you have a safety boat with a prop trying to weave its way through the milling paddlers. Not a good situation. Everybody was ok. Nobody was clipped by the prop. It was close, way too close to a bad situation.
The flailing paddler who looked like he was drowning was obviously not good in the water. He either did not think to pull the cord to inflate his vest or was too cheap to pull the cord on his vest because it would require a replacement cartridge. I heard later it was the latter.
A lot of safety boat people are volunteers or even paid staff who may or may not have the training and discipline to correctly handle what is perceived as an emergency situation. The person running the boat may be the calmest most reliable person yet this may not be what that person is like in an emergency. Can you imagine the grief and upset to everyone if that prop had actually made contact.
We do not want any of our staff, volunteers or participants in that situation. It can be avoided by mandatory life jacket rules.
Safety boats at many festivals are light boats, if a paddler reaches up and grabs the side of the boat this action will often cause the boat to turn causing the back of the boat to arc around amongst the nearby paddles.
Safe boating works for me.
Mustang has a jacket $230 that has a hydro-static valve that will only release if you/it are submerged in the water. The replacement kit if this happens is about $73. When is the last time you fell in the water? The valve should also be replaced every 7 years.