What is MOB?

An MOB, or Man Over Board is when someone falls off a boat at sea. One of the major risks of sailing, it is important that every skipper and crew knows how to respond. There are lots of ways to fall off a boat; tripping over ropes, slipping on wet decks, an unexpected wave, or a mistake during a manoeuvre.

We’re lucky enough that in Melbourne conditions are rarely bad enough to make falling into the water life threatening. In fact, in summer, it is usually a bit of a laugh and not uncommon for crew members to jump off for a swim before or after racing. However, it is important that everyone knows what to do in the rare occurrence of a MOB in poor conditions.

RMYS has a detailed MOB policy designed to ensure every skipper and crew has participated in enough training and practice drills to ensure that they can recover a person in the water as quickly as possible. RMYS provides annual training lectures to club members and has a life size weighted dummy that boats can borrow to practice with.

What the person in the water should do?

If you are the one to fall off, the most important thing is to activate your life jacket. Every time you put on a lifejacket, make sure you know how to fit it correctly and that you know how to inflate it if necessary. You might not be tired when you first fall in, but you need to conserve your energy for getting back aboard when the boat returns to you – you won’t realise how far out of the water the sides are until you’re in the water next to it. The lifejacket will also make it much easier to see.

The next thing to do is attract attention. If you wave and shout, the crew will not waste time preparing for an unconscious MOB and will probably get back to you quicker. They may even be able to throw you a line, and you present a much bigger target with your hands in the air.

Don’t worry if the boat doesn’t manage to pick you up on the first try. It’s very common, and it’s better to sit in the water for another five minutes than to get dragged behind a boat that hasn’t managed to come to a complete stop.

What the skipper and crew should do?

Every boat is different, and every skipper and crew need to consider how best to react on their boat, considering its weaknesses and strengths. Some boats will react well to simply going head to the wind and allowing yourself to drift back down to the man. Often, higher-performance boats will require a more complex set of manoeuvres because they’ll cover a lot more ground before coming to a stop.

However, no matter the boat, the most important part is that the MOB is kept in sight. It can be easy to lose a small person in the waves, so point with your whole arm (make sure to hold on with your other! Nothing worse than two MOBs because the pointer was too busy pointing to concentrate on staying aboard).

Often, the situation will remain very fluid so be ready to take instructions from your skipper. They may ask you to take down sails or prepare equipment to help get the MOB back aboard once you’re next to them in the water.

RMYS Man Overboard “MOB” policy

Background- drowning deaths from watercraft in Australia

In Australia, about 49 people (10 in Victoria) a year drowned while participating in sailing for the 16 years ending 30 June 2018* . This represents 8.7% of all boating related drowning deaths. In sailing, the greatest risk of downing comes from falling off the boat- man overboard “MOB”.

According to the report cited above, in that period, there are no cases recorded of lifejackets being worn. More widely for all boating related drownings, 92% of people who drowned were not wearing a lifejacket. In Victoria, lifejackets are legally required to be warn in cases of heightened risk. The Race Officer can also enforce life jacket wearing during racing by flying code flag Y.

RMYS offers free MOB training periodically.


Man Overboard: falling in the water from a vessel unintentionally.

Regular skipper: The person who is listed as the skipper for a racing series and/ or the person who regularly helms the boat. This can be different from the owner. A person who skippers more than 6 times a year is considered regular


The policy covers sailing vessels on the RMYS register who participate in racing. It does not cover

  • Motor vessels
  • Yachts that do not race
  • Yachts that are on another sailing club’s register

Note to above:

There is no legal instrument that can comply these vessels to conduct MOB training. The club can enforce the requirement for training for those boats who race through the Notice Of Race.


The MOB policy is that the person who most commonly skippers the boat is required complete man overboard training at least annually. This could be

  • Attend a man overboard training session and / or
  • Practice a man overboard, ideally with the man overboard dummy

Where there are multiple regular skippers (for example, one on Wednesday, the other on Saturday) both need to complete the declaration.

An additional form will be added to the annual safety declaration confirming that this has been done. This will be in place for the 2022-2023 annual safety declaration

New boats to RMYS will have the lessor of six months or the first available training session to complete the MOB requirements.

Crew members are strongly encouraged to attend and participate in training, but they are not compelled to do so. Doing so would prevent crew members from other clubs, or guests, from participating. This needs to be considered in light of the low risk. Skippers should brief their crew members and/ or practice their man overboard procedure

Policy start date:

30 September 2022.

* “Drowning data has been provided by the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia from the Royal Life Saving National Fatal Drowning Database”