Man Overboard

A person falling overboard can be a worrying experience, especially in troubling conditions. It’s important to remember that it is possible to safely recover them, but practise is crucial.

Here we go through some of the manoeuvres in different types of craft where technique differences exist. Finally, we share the story of a MOB that occurred on one of the school’s yachts Jedi while competing privately in the 2018 Round Ireland Yacht Race.

Video Walk-through…

See it Demonstrated

RS Sailing demonstrate the Man Overboard Recovery as taught by Paddy above.

More Information…


Why can’t I just spin the boat around? Basically, you don’t want to miss the MOB and not get back to them, and equally you don’t want to get back to they and not be able to stop, therefore causing them injury. The manoeuvre outlined below will give you the best chance to get back to them, and means you’re more likely to only have to do the manoeuvre once!

Manoeuvre Overview

While you’re doing the MOB Recovery

  • Firstly, take it slow. You’ve already dropped someone out. There’s no advantage to rushing and getting into more trouble.
  • If there’s other crew on board, alert everyone by shouting Man Overboard! Assign them a role. The most important is to get someone to point at the MOB all the time. This will help the skipper as it will be tricky to keep their eyes on them all the time.
  • Immediately get the boat onto a reach. Sail at least 8-10 boat lengths away. Furl the jib / make the boat as controllable as possible.
  • Tack around, tacking is slower, you’re less likely to be hit by the boom, and its easier to control the boat and keep it upright.
  • Sail down wind on a Broad Reach. Once you can luff up (point up closer to the wind) so that you’ll be approaching the MOB on a close reach, do so,
  • Why a close reach? If  you’re pointing too low you can easily luff up further onto a beat/close hauled. You can’t do this if you’re already on a beat/close hauled. Equally, its still possible to “fill and spill” on a close reach, which you can’t do on a reach.
  • You should have your speed under control, so that you can come to a stop, lying to, beside the person in the water. For dinghies and keelboats, they should be on the windward side of the boat. Why?
    – The boom will be on the other side, meaning the boats less likely to tip over as you pull them aboard
    – Equally, the boom being on the other side keeps it out of your way.
  • Take Care not to tack, or end up head to wind. Keep them on the windward side.

Once you’ve got them back onboard…

First thing to do is to check they’re ok? Did they hurt themselves when they fell in, maybe they got a hit on the head from the boom.


They’re unlikely to be wearing a wetsuit, so now’s the time to head ashore. They will certainly start to get cold. Consider getting rescue services if required.


They’ll likely be in a wetsuit. Falling in and capsizing is par from the course. That said, its still worth keeping an eye on them in case they start to get cold.

Download this guide in printable format…


Chief Instructor and Yachtmaster Instructor Kenneth Rumball talks though Man Overboard Recovery on yachts. Not only does he discuss getting back to the casualty, but how you might actually get them back in the boat.

Video Briefing…

It was about 1 am off the coast of Kerry when John White came off the helm of Jedi, a J109, competing in the 2018 Round Ireland Yacht Race. Facing 30 knots on the nose and 3-4 metre seas, as John moved forward, a large wave crashed over the boat, knocking John overboard.

Jedi, one of the school’s yachts, was being skippered by chief instructor Kenneth Rumball. Hear from Kenneth and John about the experience from different perspectives

Kenneth stresses the importance of preparing, both safety kit, procedures and practise and general boat handling ability.

Key training courses that proved useful in this situation are listed here:

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