Man Overboard Race




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bulletInvolves joining ropes, bowline, coiling and throwing a line 
bullet Patrols compete
bulletNo advance preparation whatsoever - a surprise
bulletOne piece of rope for each player


Assemble Patrols behind a line and call out the Patrol Leaders on the double. Hurry! Hurry! Gather them into a compact huddle in front of the Troop.

Whisper the instructions in a tone of mystery and suspense, thus: "We are going to have a Man Overboard Race. The instant I give the signal 'Go', you make believe you are drowning. Call out 'Help! Help!' Notice that I have marked short chalk lines in front of each Patrol. Your Patrol will tie pieces of rope together and throw you a line. Grasp it only if you can reach it without moving either foot over your chalk line. If you get the line, give it a short jerk. If the Scout on the other end isn't alert and holding tightly, you'll get the line and then, of course, you'll drown. Work against your Patrol by making it difficult for them to rescue you. Struggle and resist while they haul you in. If there is a granny or an incorrect sheetbend in the line, it will probably become untied and you'll drown."

It should not be necessary to repeat the instruction or answer questions, but do give the reminder - "Don't move your feet. Yell 'Help! Help!' when I say `Go'."

The Race

Run to the spot where you have previously hidden the ropes - one bundle for each Patrol, one rope for each man. As you throw the ropes, yell out, "Look! Look! Your Patrol Leaders are drowning. Save them, but not a man of you shall cross that line or leave that ship. Go!"


The Patrol Leaders yell, "Help! Help!" and the race is on. Without leaders or instructions, Patrols will be slow in joining their ropes. No one will inspect the knots, someone will undoubtedly tie a granny. If ropes are of unequal size, someone may put the loop in the smaller rope. No one will tie a small bowline in the end of the line. The men who coil and throw the lines will have plenty of trouble. Finally one of the Patrols may haul its leader onto the ship, and then you yell, "Time's up! Too bad the rest of the PL's have drowned."


Be sure to time the winning Patrol, but do not announce it. Save that for next week when you play the game under very different circumstances.

At the next PLC, tell the Patrol Leaders you will run the race again at the next meeting and they will then be leaders, not drowning men. They will take charge of their Patrols and give specific orders the instant you say "Go." Let them know you want them to show what "Be Prepared" means. Tell them how long it took to rescue the winner last week, and that you will time it again next week.

Tell them to inspect every knot and then make a small bowline in each end of the line, one for the drowning man to grasp, and the other for the thrower to slip over his wrist. Show them how to coil and throw the knotted line, and let them practice while you coach. Coil into the hand from which you throw. Lay up the line carefully, coil on coil.

Finally, let the Patrol Leaders know they will have to decide whether they will throw the life line themselves, or let another member do it. They will also have to figure out what instructions they will give their Patrols. Encourage them to meet their Patrols and practice.

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Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Patrol Knot-Chief Contest ] Bowline Pull Over ] [ Man Overboard Race ] Life-Line Throwing Contest ] Bowline Centipede Race ] Clove Hitch Pony Express Race ] Two Half-Hitches Race ] Lashing Contests Against Time ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
How to Use This Book ] Scout Ways ] Tenderfoot Requirements ] Scout Knots ] 2nd Class Knife Axe Fire ] 2nd Class Wildlife ] Compass Treasure Hunts ] First Class Wood Love ] First Aid Games ] Signaling Games ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.