Crew Overboard - "Quick Return"
Crew Overboard - "Quick Return"
Through the years I have had numerous prior sailing students request information on the "Quick Return" Crew Overboard technique that we use at the Santa Barbara Sailing Center. It is such an effective technique that I feel that it is worth publishing here. Here is the procedure:

1. When a crew member falls overboard everyone yells, “Crew Overboard!” Immediately throw over a life ring as the skipper assigns a “pointer,” whose job is to keep visual contact with the person while pointing at them.
2. Continue on the same course for about 2 to 3 boat lengths and then bring the boat about.
3. Leave the jib backed and you can either ease the main out, or leave it in when in windy conditions. Leaving it in prevents the boat from picking up too much speed.
4. Head directly back towards the overboard person pointing the bow at them. When close to the person, head up quickly into the wind and ease the main if you have left it sheeted in. The backed jib will bring the boat to a stop, in a “Hove to” position, windward of the overboard person. At this point you will drift down on to them at which time you can get them out of the water.
I have found that using the “Figure Eight” technique is difficult for many novice sailors. It is easy for them to lose track of their position in relation to the wind and more important they can loose track of the overboard crew. It takes a lot of practice to be able to use the "Figure Eight" technique effectively.
The "Quick Stop" technique at first glance appears to be the same methodology, but it is quite different. In the "Quick Stop" technique you sail a big loop which requires jibing the boat (a potentially dangerous move in high winds) and requires managing your boat speed so that you successfully reach the overboard crew from downwind.
The strengths of the "Quick Return" are;
Your first maneuver is to bring your boat about, heading directly back towards your overboard person. This makes keeping track of the person a much simpler process and is key to rescue.
At no time do you jibe your boat. You bring it about, through the wind, leave the jib backed, and then control your speed by adjusting your main sail.
When you reach your overboard crew you immediately head up towards the wind and because the jib is already backed the boat comes to a quick stop "Hove to." This allows you to drift down on the overboard crew.
Because the boat is in a "Hove to" position, this maneuver can be accomplished with only one person. I have had many of my students do this by themselves with great success.
I have found this to be a very effective technique and have always include it as part of my instructions. You can download the basic instructions and diagram here.