Just like tossing a rope to a person floating downstream, you need to time your entry so the two of you arrive at the meeting point at the exactly the same time.  The ideal position is within an arms length - just like tossing a throw rope.  Favor a tad downstream of the victim rather than upstream since you can backstroke to slow your progress and let them come to you.  Avoid arriving too far upstream as it can be difficult to chase the victim downstream.  This is a decent exercise to practice to get the timing right. The belay person needs to give you plenty of slack to maneuver.  Set aside a good 20' of line prior to the jump and be ready to quickly feed more.

There are several types of victims you may encounter in this type of contact rescue:

  • Normal - This is ideal.  You can give them instructions and they will work with you.  A simple rope toss may be a more suitable rescue alternative unless they are injured and can't grab a line.
  • Panicked - Whoa, watch out!  Remember your rescue priorities, your safety comes first.  A panicked swimmer may pull you under and you may get entangled in the throw rope.  Splash and back off ASAP!  Talk to them from a safe distance and try to calm them down.
  • Near panic and then they freak out - Treat in a similar manner to the panicked victim.  This may be a more serious problem since you are probably in their grasp already.  One approach is to begin diving immediately if the water is deep enough.  They want to stay on the surface so they probably will not follow you underwater.
  • Unresponsive - This is where a live-bait exercise makes the most sense. Unfortunately, they may have a C-Spine injury and that means you need to do what you can to immobilize their head and perhaps get them face up.  You are going to need some serious help getting to shore and evacuating them.

The escape valve for a live-bait rescue is pulling the quick release buckle.  At that point, the rescuer and swimmer will be free floating downstream and will need help making it safely and quickly to shore.  It can be very difficult swimming a person to shore in rough water.  A throw rope and safety boater downstream are necessary for safety.

I also recommend sending someone upstream to warn off other boaters from entering rescue scene.  This is always a wise precaution when working with rope based rescues.

When you attach the line to your rescue vest, your first choice is a tether, then a continuous ring designed for that jacket, and finally a locking carabineer.  Don't use a non-locking carabineer since the gate may open and snag on your PFD and hinder the belt release.  Set a strong belay position and add a second person to assist the belayer by pressing down on them.  They will need to pull in two persons instead of the usual one.  Someone else can assist by grabbing the taught line and moving their grip down the line in a vector pull.  This lightens the load for the belay person and brings the rescuer and swimmer to shore much faster.  It always helps to have extra landing zone help.  This technique is often used for rescuing and unconscious swimmer.  Unconscious swimmers may have a C-Spine injury.  These types of injuries require multiple persons to immobilize the head and safely evacuate.  Here is a video example of a live-bait rescue: Live Bait Rescue.