Edi­tor’s let­ter

Yachting Monthly - - VIEW FROM THE HELM -

‘A bit of heresy can be help­ful when it comes to man over­board’

It’s be­come a tra­di­tion at Yacht­ing

Monthly, once a year, to throw the edi­tor into the sea and fish him out. I'm fine with that, in fact I en­cour­age it, be­cause I al­ways learn a great deal on these man over­board (MOB) re­cov­ery ex­er­cises. Last month I went over­board in a gale, gust­ing up to 54 knots (p16) and once again, a lot of what I thought I knew turned out to be wrong.

I knew that in a gale, it’s im­pos­si­ble for a man in the wa­ter to breathe if he’s fac­ing up­wind, but I didn’t know that it’s al­most as dif­fi­cult fac­ing down­wind. Nor had I re­alised how hard it can be to de­ploy the spray­hood of an un­fa­mil­iar life­jacket, and I was alarmed at how quickly a life­jacket spray­hood fogs up – I had to choose be­tween be­ing able to see or breathe.

I found that an in­flated life­jacket can con­strict your breath­ing alarm­ingly if its crotch strap isn’t done up tight, which is hard to do once you’re in the wa­ter. And I was very sur­prised to learn that a sim­ple tech­nique makes climb­ing a rope lad­der much eas­ier: if you wrap your legs around the ver­ti­cal ropes be­fore putting your feet on the rungs, it hangs away from the hull and doesn’t crush your toes against it.

The big­gest wake-up call for me is that a crash tack doesn’t stop the boat. It’s often taught on sail­ing cour­ses as a way to calm the boat's mo­tion while the crew sorts out a prob­lem, and like many sailors I’d imag­ined us­ing it for man over­board: crash tack to wind­ward of the ca­su­alty and drift down onto them. It sim­ply doesn’t work, not even on a long-keeled boat. We were us­ing a Twis­ter, which is renowned for its abil­ity to heave to, but the ex­pert crew on board could not make her go any slower than 2½ knots – and they very nearly ran me over.

The point of all this was to in­ves­ti­gate some con­tro­ver­sial ideas from Noel Dilly. I have great re­spect for Noel, who sur­vived the 1979 Fast­net and weath­ered a di­rect hit by a hur­ri­cane on a 28ft yacht, but I was scep­ti­cal be­cause his ideas are heresy. Noel wouldn’t want you to take them as Gospel but to con­sider them crit­i­cally, to chal­lenge them – please write in if you dis­agree with him – to make your own plan and, while the wa­ter’s warm, to go out there and prac­tice.

My own man over­board strat­egy was to crash-tack just up­wind of the MOB. The boat didn't stop and I was nearly run over

Kieran Flatt, edi­tor kieran.flatt@timeinc.com

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