#sb20 – Stephen Lee (SB20 - 3484) went overboard at the SB20 sportsboat Eastern championships in Howth at the weekend. Here he describes the lessons learnt from his early season 'salt water bath' on Saturday.
Firstly, let me make it absolutely clear, I don't think anyone did anything wrong, there are no ill feelings toward anyone involved and the only purpose of this is to learn from the incident and hopefully do things better in the future. I love our sport and I don't want to wrap it up in cotton wool or discourage clubs from hosting events due to some perceived safety risks at the end of the day it is always the sailors decision to take to the water.
On the first downwind leg of Race 1 on Saturday (decent waves and strong wind), heading down on Starboard gybe and approaching the gybe line, we were surfing pretty fast down the backs of the waves. We setup for the gybe and I steer into it (still at full speed on the back of a nice wave), three quarters of the way through the gybe, I've gybed the main and I'm sitting on the new side. When I start to straighten up we get hit by a smaller wave and it throws me off-balance and I go over the side. I managed to grab the end of the granny rail as I go over but have to let go after a few seconds because I'm now being dragged alongside underwater. At that point I'm now floating in the water, free of the boat and watching it sail away. I did try to swim towards the boat for a little while but it was moving far too quickly. My next concern was to make sure any other boats coming downwind could see me and avoid sailing over me. Thankfully there was only one boat coming down my line and I manage to get their attention and they keep well clear and avoid me. After their gybe they call back to me if I'm ok, to which I reply that I'm fine (more on this later) and continue on their run. Meanwhile Dad and Michael are recovering a trawled spinnaker and making their way back up wind to me. At this stage I've been in the water for 6-8 minutes and the rest of the fleet have disappeared off to the leeward gate. Dad and Michael very successfully get back to me and help me back onboard and we head for shore.
1) As soon as you know that you have a man overboard situation, get on the radio and alert the race committee.
- In our situation we didn't do this and the first thing the race committee knew of the situation was when we radioed our retirement. They can't do anything if they don't know about it!
2) Any other boats that see what's happened should get on the radio and alert the race committee. What if the radio goes overboard with the crew member....
3) Any boats that see crew in the water should abandon their race to recover the person in the water. Remember, you will get the position back by redress.
- In this situation Dad and Michael were well capable of coming back to get me, but it may not be the case with if the spinnaker had wrapped around the keel or there had been two less experienced crew aboard.
Having been on the wet side of this I will definitely be practicing all of the above in all of my future sailing.
Thanks to everyone involved for a great Easterns and I look forward to see you all in a few weeks at the Royal St George.