Von Bongo said:
"Your point is well taken and I am not disputing that life lines are the real deal."
~~ No problem. This discussion - pro and con - is very healthy, IMO. I hate that we have to discuss these topics immediately after a tragedy, but sadly, that's about the only time most people really think seriously about adding safety equpment.
You said: "As for inflatalbes, when it refers to swimmers, it means you should already be able to swim if you are going to wear one, as opposed to being for people that cannot swim."
~~ Then that just further underlines the flaws of using an inflatable in our application. An inflatable would be very bad for someone who is knocked out, which happens quite often during a hi-perf boat wreck.
You said: "I would be intereted in the testing that is done to rate impact protection. Some USCG vests like the Mustang MV 4600 list a High Impact rating. What does that mean?"
~~ As far as I know, the only two life jacket companies in the USA that will actually state that the jacket gives a body "Impact Protection" are Lifeline and Security.
A "100 MPH vest" is refering to a totally different thing all together. The "100 MPH Rating" is only for the materials surviving a wreck - because 100 mph water will strip clothing right off your body, and anthing made of loose material will disentegrate. These companies want you to know that the materials will withstand "100 mph". But I dont know who does the testing.
But of all the companies I've called on who advertise "100 MPH" vests, they have NEVER claimed that the rating is for any sort of "bodily protection". I think it's too bad that this explanation is not expressed more clearly, because a lot of people incorrectly think the "100 mph vest" label means your body will be protected if crashing at 100 mph. That's simply not the case.
You asked: "Is there a standard test, such as I drop a 100 lb weight from 5 feet and the vest reduces the force by 40%? What is the measure? What is the impact rating of a Lifeline and how is it measured?"
~~ I don't know if there is a specific test they use. But the best test is the years of seeing people survive accidents wearing them. That's the best test you can ask for. I've been involved in boat racing for nearly 30 years, and Lifeline and Security are the only open cockpit racing jackets allowed, as far as I know. (Gentex was another brand of racing jacket but was been banned from use in competition years ago, probably due to not meeting specs).
Lifeline also includes a ballistic material down the back of the jacket which helps prevent propeller and other types of punctures from entering vital organs. The frontal area is filled with impact resistant material, to protect the chest, heart and lungs.
Some of the racing jackets are built for special types of boating: Stock jackets (knee riders) will have an extra long back (ballistic tail) on them, so that the driver's tail bone and backside are protected from another boat or prop, while Offshore style is designed to add a little more protection from impact and designed specifically for use in bolsters.
You asked: "Also will it turn an unconsous person face up in the correct time? Will it do it when they are wearing a helmet?"
~~Absolutely. Face-up flotation has always been a requirement by the major boat racing organizations for many decades (IHBA, ODBA, APBA, UIM, AOF etc), and literally hundreds of boat racers put these jackets to the test every year. To my knowledge, I've never heard of a Lifeline or Security jacket not performing what it says it will do. If any of them failed during a race, they would be corrected immediately, or banned totally.
This is also why the APBA requires that a racing jacket be recertified by the mfg every so many years. (I think it's req. every 10 years).
You asked: "Why doesn't the USCG recognize that you don't need to hook all the straps on a lifeline to use it as a class III PFD? I mean if you put on the vest and zip it up and jump off a sinking boat will it come off if you don't have the leg and crotch straps on? I have to belive that just zipped up it does as much good as a ski vest. Why can't it be a class III if that is all it takes to make it usable? Granted it doesn't offer the full protection as when used properly but tell me any jacket that you can put on as you are being chucked out of you boat at 70 MPH. "
~~ I don't know the answer. Perhaps the CG likes the others PFD's that have cloth ties or quick snap buckles so you dont have to worry about zipping anything up? Maybe they don't like the fact that it is very difficult to swim while wearing a Lifeline (nearly impossible, actually). Maybe they feel these race jackets are too bulky to swim away from, say, a boat fire or explosion? Then yet again, maybe they don't want people in high speed race-equivalent boats out boating with the general public?
I really don't know the answer to why a Race Jacket is not USCG, but I do think the "USCG" concern is a moot point because all you have to do is put some USCG PFD's on board your boat, and the problem is solved. And then everybody's happy!