Rescue a capsized Dyer

Every MFA safety boat operator (and sailor) should learn the following step-by-step procedure! After the swimmer is out of the pool, it takes about five minutes under optimal conditions, but in real life 15 or more minutes, to get a dinghy ready to tow back to the Committee boat.

There are two main objectives:

  1. Get the swimmer out of the water into the safety boat
  2. Get the dinghy to the committee boat
  1. Step 1: Pull the swimmer out of the water

Approach the capsize craft from downwind. Be careful to avoid overrunning any lines, the sail, or the swimmer. Note the location of any floating gear, but don't pick it up until after you have the swimmer.

Bring them to the Committee Boat immediately only if they are in danger of hypothermia. Under normal conditions, they'll be okay and able to help retrieve the capsized boat. Retrieving the dyer is much easier with two people.

Step 2: Release the mast and boom

Place the engine in neutral and instruct the swimmer to do the following:

A capsized dyer should first be on its side with the mast upwind. (If upside-down, grab the bow gunwale and pull hard upwards until it's above water)

When in position, undo a shroud pin to release the mast and turn the dyer upright.

Undo the vang, shroud, and bow dodger. Secure the rudder to prevent it from floating away.

Step 3: Secure the mast and boom

Place the mast and boom down the centerline of the dyer. Take time to ensure the vang is undone and the sail is not full of water.

Tie the bottom end of the mast loosely to the forward thwart with any available line (e.g. halyard or main sheet) except the painter.

Step 4: Empty most of the water from the dyer

The swimmer may now rest and counterbalance the chase boat.

The chase boat operator should grab the bow of the dyer and pull slowly up. The water will run aft and out over the transom. As the water runs out, keep lifting the bow up and over the gunwale of the chase boat.

When 2/3rds of the water is drained, push the bow of the dyer QUICKLY SIDEWAYS off the crash boat, trying to avoid any scratches. The dinghy is now empty enough to tow.

Step 5: Prepare for towing

Check that the mast and boom are on top of the dinghy, bow and stern. Secure the sail if it looks like it will get loose and drag in the water.

Pull the centerboard all the way up (handle forward). Have the sailor double-check that the centerboard is all the way up, and have them keep an eye on it during the trip back to the committee. Some boards tend to slip down by themselves – very bad when under tow!

Step 6: Tow the dyer to the Committee boat

Tie the painter of the dyer to the chase boat. You can also hip tow the dinghy by holding it at the side of the crash boat. A hip tow is slower so don't do it if you have a long way to go. The sailor or others on the Committee Boat will take charge of the dinghy. You are now done with this rescue.

  1. This procedure is normally done by one crash boat. A second boat usually can't get in there to do any good, but use your judgment – no two incidents are exactly the same. Call for assistance if you need it. Offer assistance if you can help.

Communicating with the Race Committee: They tend to panic until they see that you are on the case. You can wave at them to acknowledge their hails, but you don't have to stop doing what you're doing to respond. They also tend to get distracted, so when you're on your way back to them (or whenever) you can radio them to tell them to get ready. If your sailor is OK, the committee may ask you to hold up until after a starting signal.

Note: The committee Boat should stay on station until all capsized dinghies are collected. If they start to leave after racing is over but you have a capsize in tow, hail them immediately and remind them that assistance is required.

Wind and tides: If you're about to wash up on a rock, throw out an anchor. This should be part of the equipment on every safety boat.