Enhanced Man Overboard Techniques

Dick York Quick Stop With Lifesling 3

Enhanced Man Overboard Techniques

McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers is a supporting sponsor of the Newport-to-Bermuda Race, one of the world’s the preeminent ocean races. Along with supporting this offshore race, McMichael is also a strong advocate of safety-at-sea and, as such, for many years has sponsored the Storm Trysail Club’s annual Hands-on Safety-at-Sea Seminar.

Part of these curriculum of these seminars is the teaching of effective man overboard recovery techniques. In recent years, the thinking on optimal MOB recovery has evolved in important ways. The following is a statement recently released by STC on updated MOB recovery techniques. This is particularly pertinent given the Bermuda Race starts this weekend as will many of our customers’ sailing seasons.

Mob Dummy

Stc Combo Mark Color

Advise to Offshore Sailors: Follow up from Storm Trysail SAS Seminars

This communication is for the consideration of offshore sailors, particularly those who attended Storm Trysail Seminars in 2021-2022.   Through its online presentations, hands-on training at SAS seminars, and Training Days, Storm Trysail has pioneered improved methods of recovering MOB.  Storm Trysail’s core message to all sailors is:

  • “Study all the techniques available, practice with your own crew on your own boat, and develop your own preferred plans that work best for you.  This correlates with the Marine Corps philosophy: Train the way you fight; fight the way you train.”

For the safe recovery of a MOB, it is key to avoid running down the MOB or allowing the MOB to slip under the yacht.  As long as the engine is operational, all sails should be dropped and the recovery made under power so the yacht has maximum maneuverability.  Watch out for lines over the side that can foul the propeller!

If the MOB is “mobile” (uninjured and conscious) – therefore able to grab a Lifesling- then circling with a “Lifesling” enables contact to be made between the yacht and the MOB without the risk of the yacht injuring the MOB.  Once contact is made, there are two techniques to recover the MOB.  The conventional is to pull in the MOB to midships and secure a spinnaker halyard onto a knot permanently tied about 20 feet up the Lifesling rope from the MOB.  There is still some risk, particularly in a seaway, that the MOB can slip under the yacht if this connection and hoist are not done quickly.

The new “Midline Lift” that Storm Trysail has evaluated at four SAS events in various conditions on about 20 different yachts is the alternate method of recovering the MOB after contact has been made with the Lifesling.  In this case the MOB is not pulled in directly.  Instead the spinnaker halyard is clipped onto the Lifesling rope near the stern where the rope is cleated.  When the halyard is hoisted the MOB slides towards the yacht and is immediately lifted out upon reaching the hull.  The MOB cannot slide under the yacht.  Storm Trysail favors the Midline Lift if several criteria are met:

  1. Each yacht practices the Lift to ensure it works well on that yacht’s rig geometry and available crew/winch power.  (for short-handed crew consider an electric winch handle)
  2. The Lifesling polypropylene rope is replaced with 6 or 8 mil floating Spectra (Dyneema).  The Lift adds strain to the rope due to its 1:2 mechanical disadvantage.  Spectra is much stronger, slips better thru the halyard shackle, and has less stretch.
  3. Type 4 Throwing Device- depending on the applicable rules, a modification of the Lifesling with Spectra may require an additional Type 4 aboard such as a floating cushion, horseshoe, or life ring.

Midline Lift

Storm Trysail has two further safety observations from over 200 trials with the Lifesling:

  1. Polypropylene rope is satisfactory for normal use, but is subject to sun/salt/abrasion damage.  Many yachts utilized in our SAS program arrive with unsatisfactory rope.  Please inspect your Lifesling rope and for offshore use, consider Spectra.
  2. A Lifesling Light is required for most offshore races. However the Lifesling light pocket located on the head of the horseshoe faces away from the yacht and MOB.  Storm Trysail suggests adding two non-strobe white lights to the end of the horseshoe facing the yacht- one pointing up and one down since it is not certain which side the Lifesling will float.

In closing, Storm Trysail believes the Lifesling is one of the most important inventions for Safety at Sea.   The above recommendations are for your consideration.

For more details on MOB recovery and other SAS subjects, please visit stormtrysail.org/sas-resources. For MOB Midline Lift click onto “Advances in MOB Recovery” and MOB Pickup Example.