We show you the best way to stop a boat quickly under downwind sails and remain close to the casualty so you can ensure a speedy and safe recovery

A man overboard on an ocean passage is probably one of the most terrifying emergencies for the skipper. This is because of the speed with which you can lose control of the situation. Though fortunately a very rare event, it could potentially happen at any time without warning. We once had someone fall in when catching water using a bucket – they forgot to tie it on.

Since you can’t be on deck 24/7 you need the fast action of the crew on deck to stop the yacht before you lose sight of the casualty – once this happens you are into a search regime and the painful realisation that locating the person at all is not a certainty. It is with this in mind that a prudent skipper briefs the crew beforehand about the real risks and adopts a sensible approach to lifejackets and clipping on.

But what if the worst happens? Last month we looked at the best way to stop the boat quickly under downwind sails and remain close to the casualty, but this is only half the job. Next you have to get them on board safely.

The biggest difficulty here is the sea state – even on a quiet day on the ocean there is significant swell, which will be pitching and rolling the boat when you are stopped.

A stern bathing platform and associated ladder is going to be completely useless in this situation. The risk of being hit by or swept under the transom is very real, and the physical agility needed to get out of the water would be challenge enough with everything in your favour; not a chance for the disoriented/shocked casualty – presumably clothed and probably in a lifejacket.

So you need equipment and a plan to recover the man overboard from amidships and in this video we demonstrate how we do this on board Skyelark, how to practice with your crew and what gear we have to hand specially in case we ever need it.