Most boats returning from a major ocean race do so without incident, however, in some years, there are as many problems - damage, injury, etc. – encountered by boats returning as on the race itself. This need not be.
Issues: Typically, the delivery back has fewer crew. They may not know the boat as well as the race crew. The boat may have been well-prepared before the race, but now the stores and supplies may have been consumed, and need to be re-filled. And, of course the stretch of ocean to be crossed can have significant effects – a combination that can cause real issues.
Thousands have made the trip back safely, but there are a few tricks and aids to do so. Importantly, the delivery back is not a race, so your mental approach needs to change to the more measured pace of a delivery.
Crew and Boat Preparation before leaving:
Notes for a Delivery Crew - The boat may be prepared, but is the crew? Any skipper or crew going for an offshore passage or delivering a boat after an offshore race should read these Notes for a Delivery Crew before stepping aboard
A Checklist in Preparation for an Offshore Passage After a Major Ocean Race provides you with a handy list to review before stepping on the boat for a return trip. Read it now, as you may want to integrate some points with other crew.
Seasickness can be a problem. One incapacitated crew person can be a big burden for the rest of the crew. Everyone aboard should have seasickness medications aboard that they have tried and know works for them.
The skipper and the entire crew should study and understand the route home, and the forecasted weather.
Returning Race Boats Recommendations.
Delivery -- Mentality & Execution:
To Deliver Your Boat Back Safely, Stop Racing, Sail Slow. Larry Glenn's The Art of Sailing Slow
Articles you may want to share with your crew, even if they do have extensive offshore experience:
Calling for Help: the DSC Distress Communications Form tells you how to use your radio to call for aid in an emergency
Crew Overboard – Prevention
Crew Overboard – Recovery: One of the best instruction guides is the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations Appendix D.
LifeSling Demonstration Video - A must-view
Overboard Victim Tips - If you are the one overboard, these are tips to help you be recovered safely
MOB Devices - New electronic devices come to market to help recover a Crew Overboard. This article covers the current state of the art in MOB Devices
Lifejacket Recommendations for Sailboats
- and Tethers for Sailboats. Making sense of all those offerings.
With a Caution when Fitting Safety Harnesses
Hypothermia – One of the best write-ups for sailors is found at the ISAF site, in the Offshore Special Regulations, Appendix E
Fire In The Boat - Prevention is Key
Abandoning Ship to your Life Raft takes pre-thinking; here a very experienced skipper shares his planning and organization.
Helicopter Pickup - No one wants to be in this circumstance, but the Coast Guard shows how it is done
You and your crew may also want to peruse other Safety-at-Sea articles on the CCA’s website