MOB is such a big concern that many of us ignore it. In this series Noel Dilly shares some thought-provoking and controversial ideas about MOB recovery
MOB myths busted – Part 2
MOB: the crash stop
If you’re sailing close-hauled, a crash tack – putting the helm over but leaving the sheets where they are – can give the crew a useful pause for thought. Many sailors imagine that they can use this method to stay near an MOB, but they should think again.
Myth 5: A crash tack will stop the boat
If there is any reasonable sailing wind, the boat certainly will not stop. It will take over a minute before she even slows down. The crash stop might just work on a traditional yacht with a full long keel, but it is unlikely to work for modern cruisers. Some yachts are very difficult to heave to, ruling out the crash stop and most other ways of trying to stop the boat in the water. Deploying a drogue on a bridle from the stern will sometimes help, if it’s already set up.
The trouble with a crash stop (aside from the fact that it won’t work with a self-tacking headsail) is that unless you’re already close-hauled, it creates chaos, which takes time to sort out. Your sail configuration is unlikely to be ideal for heaving to. All a crash stop is likely to achieve is to cause damage, flog sheets and sails and throw people scrambling to help across the boat. Try a crash stop some time. In any wind it will probably be a once-only event. When we tried it, the boat most definitely did not stop and we very nearly ran over Kieran. In the panic we didn’t ease the main. Had we done so, the boat would have slowed more but even a hove to boat still fore reaches at 1-3 knots, depending on her underwater profile.
Even if by some good fortune the boat slows to just two knots, she will still be moving 30m (100ft) every 30 seconds. No one wearing an inflated lifejacket can swim at that speed. It is unlikely that any retrieval device can be thrown that distance, either.
I believe it is far better to keep the boat moving and stay in control. Gybing or using the figure-of-eight manoeuvre to get back to the victim is my personal choice, depending upon the circumstances. Do things that are familiar. Consider the MOB as a mooring buoy you wish to pick up and sail or motor accordingly. Sort out the sails first and then motorsail back to the MOB. Resist the temptation to dump the sails until it is certain that the boat can make headway towards the MOB. When you’re to windward of the MOB, stow the sails whilst motoring gently to windward.