PS Advisor October 1, 2004 Issue

PS Advisor: 10/01/04

Quick-Stop Defined
[Re: "Safe and Sound" August 1, 2004] Dan Dickison's editorial mentions "the Quick-Stop." I thought I knew of most of the MOB-type products, but I haven't heard of this one. Can you explain?

-Ross Harris
Port Clyde, ME

The Quick-Stop is actually a technique and not a product, and we should have said so explicitly in our mention. That reference was scripted with the assumption that most sailors are now familiar with the Quick-Stop method of arresting a vesselís forward motion and returning to a person overboard in order to retrieve him or her. Obviously, that was an unsafe assumption.

The Quick-Stop came about through the collaborative efforts of the US SAILING Safety at Sea Committee, the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron, the Cruising Club of America Technical Committee and the Sailing Foundation of Seattle, WA. In the early 1980s, these groups conducted extensive research and sea trials to determine the optimum technique for recovering a person overboard. Though each organization had its own agenda, there was a strong shared emphasis on shorthanded recovery.

As defined by US SAILING's Safety at Sea Committee Chairman at the time, Dick McCurdy, the "Quick-Stop is a procedure in which boat speed is reduced at once by turning in a direction to windward and thereafter maneuvering at modest speed, remain-ing near the victim."

The Quick-Stop is intended to be performed under sail, hence the need to maintain modest speed so that the vessel can maneuver its way back to the COB (crew overboard). In The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, John Rousmaniere describes the maneuver and allows that "heavy, relatively unmaneuverable boats" may not be capable of performing the Quick-Stop."

In essence, this maneuver involves an immediate course correction in order to stay near the victim. However, if a throwable device is handy, safety experts advise throwing that to the COB first, assigning a spotter to keep a constant eye on the victim, and then steering the boat into the wind as the appropriate sequence of actions.

As the boat tacks, it is important not to release the old jib sheet. This way the jib will back-fill on the new tack and slow the boat down. Trimming the mainsail to centerline will also slow the boat and you can begin to circle the COB in this fashion while maintaining visual contact. The idea here is to stay in the vicinity of the victim until you can maneuver close enough so that someone on board can successfully throw a line to them.

The Quick-Stop can be performed while flying almost any complement of sails, even with a spinnaker up. Perhaps the most difficult situation is encountered when a vessel is running before the wind with its headsail poled out to weather. In this case, the headsail sheet must be released before the boat can come head-to-wind and begin to slow down.

This maneuver is described in many places on the Internet and in printed publications. We think it's pretty well summarized in US SAILINGís archive of safety information, which you can find on the web. (That particular page is located at

After studying the description and the diagrams of the Quick-Stop, it behooves every boatowner to practice this technique aboard his or her own boat, particularly if you're anticipating an offshore or open-ocean passage.

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