There is a big difference between taking risks and taking a chance. Risk is a major part of many of the decisions a skipper makes and the ability to balance the risks of various choices is an indication of a sailor's level of skill.
For many people the presence of risk and danger is one of the attractions of going to sea and the experience would not be the same if the outcome of our actions was completely controllable or predictable. So, what is the difference between leaving things to chance and taking risks?
A risk is when you have considered all the factors and within the limits of your ability decide that you have a plan to deal with the dangers and that there is a good chance that you will be successful.
You are taking a chance when you ignore a piece of information or a danger and hope that it will not affect you.
An example from my own experience of taking a chance occurred on a night passage from the Solent to Poole Harbour. I drew the ground track I wanted to make from one lit buoy to another, this line passed straight through the unlit Christchurch Ledge buoy (it is no longer there).
I remember thinking, "It will be all right to steer along the ground track, because the tide will be behind us and there is no danger of steering accurately enough that we will be any where near the buoy".
The night was very dark, and nothing could be seen, when I suddenly stood up and looked ahead of the boat. About 20m ahead of the boat was the buoy, fortunately we were able to turn hard and miss it.
I certainly learn a lesson that night!
An interesting point sequel was that my boss at that organisation hit the same buoy in the dark a month later. I never did ask him if he had made the same guesses with his passage plan as me.
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