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 6


Retired anatomy professor Noel Dilly has been cruising for over 70 years. He now sails Whisper, a Rustler 36, with his wife Sandie

MOB: overboard on a tether


If you’re being towed by your tether with a quick release clip at your end, you can unclip from your tether and avoid drowning

It is impossible to release most tether clips when they are under load. Many people think this is how it should be, but I would challenge that asumption.

Myth 18: Clips on tethers should be difficult to release

If you are being towed, sailing knives and other cutting devices may take too long to deploy before disorientation, anoxia and drowning supervene. I believe it must be possible to release the tether’s attachment to the harness when the tether is under load. My solution is a simple spinnaker clip attached to the lifejacket or harness end of the tether, with a substantial tab on the release pin. Modifying a harness tether contravenes World Sailing’s Offshore Special Regulations and violates vessel coding requirements, but I believe that a quick-release clip is essential for escape from a loaded tether. An MOB attached to a jackstay by a tether that is over-length is in imminent danger. This is a major emergency and the victim could be towed to death in very few minutes, several people have been. Ideally a strop should be about 20cm shorter than the distance from the padeyes or jackstays over the guardrails and down to the waterline, when the boat is upright. This way the MOB can be saved from immediate drowning by tacking to get them on the windward side.


Additional webbing loops allow lifting gear to be attached before the clip is released from the jackstay

Recovery of an MOB who is still tethered to the boat will tax a weak crew. It is simply not practiced and I believe some response should be taught. I favour turning the boat head to wind at any cost, then dropping all sail and deploying a drogue from the stern. During the few moments that the boat is stopped, it may be possible to recover the MOB. This will be harder if they are wearing an inflated lifejacket or the tether is too long. A ladder is needed, and quickly, to exploit the opportunity for the MOB to start climbing back on board during the few moments that the boat is stopped.
Recovery is easier if there is a webbing loop attached to the tether near the jackstay end. Then it is possible to clip the lifting gear into this loop, then unclip the tether from the jackstay. Otherwise, you may have to cut the MOB adrift before he drowns and attempt the orthodox recovery.