Index: How to sail
Three methods to retrieve a person that has gone overboard are the “reach and reach” or “figure eight”, the “quick stop”, and the “quick stall”. The size of the boat, wind conditions, and sea conditions will determine which method is best used at any particular time. Occupants of the boat should also know what to do if they go overboard as it will increase the chances of an easy and successful retrieval. Prevention is always a preferred option in this scenario and there are measures a crew can take to avoid a MOB situation. These preventative measures are discussed at the end of this article.
My personal preference is to use the engine wherever feasible (see under sail with engine below). These methods are good in theory but they largely depend on the competence of your crew and the weather conditions. If you have a reliable engine that starts easily and runs consistently, it can be quicker and safer to simply start the engine and drop the headsail. I would start the engine irrespective of whether you use the engine method or are using sails as this gives the opportunity for more control. Of course care needs to be taken not to allow the propeller near the MOB or for any sheets or lines to get caught in the propeller.
The figure of eight method is the most commonly taught and best used in heavy seas when strong wind conditions are present. It is also best used when there are crew members available to help with the retrieval. Figure eight also seems to be the most commonly taught method. If you are only going to learn one method this would typically be it.
This method can be used when there are limited crew members to assist with the retrieval as nothing has to be done to the jib sheets and only the mainsail needs to be centered. It is also the best method for keeping the MOB in sight. This is not the best maneuver during heavy winds as the boat will catch a lot of wind at the top of the tack.
This method is not sanctioned by any official sailing body. However, in reality it can be useful and practical if you are close to the MOB and the skipper reacts quickly.
Stay as close to the man overboard as possible.