As I work towards what is possibly the last component of becoming a complete BCU Level 5 Coach, that being an endorsed 5* Trainer and Assessor, I thought it might be good to pencil out a few on-going thoughts. Whilst the BCU 5* Sea may seem to be the least defined of all the awards, there are ways of passing this award comfortably.
Know the area where you will be tested. Paddle it a few times in different weather/tidal conditions. This does not have to be a stressful on-the-spot scouting test, your chart is there as a backup not as your primary means of knowing your location.
Be aware of the Assessor's agenda, they will have their own! Some like a lot of chartwork, some like weather, some like silly tricks performed inverted, some like paddling for miles and miles at 6 knots. The rest is down to judgment and skill. All Assessors will have scenarios and locations where they like things to happen.
You need 'plans' in your head at any one time: a 5 min plan, a 30 min plan and a 1 hour plan. You'll be implementing the 5 min plan, working towards the 30 min plan, and keeping the 1 hour plan in perspective. Some scenarios are unfeasible; accept ones you can cope with, decline silly challenges. you’ll be debriefed at the end on whether your standard is acceptable for this grade.
If you are 'experienced' then it stands to reason that you will draw confidence from having built up a breadth of personal experience, thus enabling you to make sound judgment calls as and when they are required. An Assessor will be happy in the knowledge that you have a good perspective over the whole proceedings.
If you are not so 'experienced' then you need a bombproof game plan or live on your wits – scary! You need to dress-rehearse all the scenarios. This is the hardest way of passing; a good Assessor will detect a candidates lack of flexibility and adeptness and will try to force judgment calls, and potentially forcing mistakes to be made. After all, they need to see if a candidate is safe in any situation.
Don't be put off by other candidates making a right hash of things, stick to what you know and how you want to run things. When the other candidate makes a 'fluff' and you have to take over, brief the Assessor with your account of the situation and what you are planning to do next. Stop the rot, and take decisive action, don’t accept a bad inheritance.
Remember, you may need to use your towline more than once, often in quick succession. Sort out an effective roll and be ready with a quick re-entry; this is a set piece and really highlights good paddling skill, or lack of. Make sure the kit you have is functional, accessible but also easily stowed or secured.
Get in touch if you are interested in starting you 5* pathway or just wish to look at your skills development in a boat.