There was a Safety of Life at Sea report on recreational boats published some years ago that captured hundreds of real incidents and what went wrong. Time after time in the flurry of events, starting the engine resulted in wrapping a line around the prop. Now there is crew in the water "over there" and a stuck boat. It's easy to say "make sure all lines are clear" but the reality is that doesn't happen. Sailing back to the MOB should be the first course of action.
I have no reason to question the report you recall. I am confused however. If you are on a sailboat, you start the engine and wrap the dinghy painter, aren't you still on a sailboat? Why are you stuck? You still have sails and a rudder and a dinghy that can be cut free which in our fleet, is a very fast rescue vessel.
I perhaps didn't make my point well late last night when I posted. Referring back to my post: If what you are doing is not working, try something else. First putting the boat in irons and then ending up hove to is not an indication of sailing skill with a MOB +200yds behind the boat. If you are a skilled sailor with a good crew on the boat you find yourself on, sail back. But doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of something.
As I clearly stated he did try to sail back to the MOB first and did a very poor job of it. Can we agree that it does come down to skills? If you can't sail well enough to get back to a MOB in a reasonable amount of time but are very good at handling a boat under power, why not fire up the main engine(s)? On charter catamarans, that would seem even more obvious. In our fleet of cats all dinghies are in davits, no lines are in the water. I end up doing a fair number of unplanned MOBs every month with crew I've only met an hour or two prior. Lost hats, flip flops and fenders (which are really hard to grab) fall overboard all the time. Some I sail to. Some I motor to. Some I use a combination of both. One must be very fast to get most hats before they sink! I think people should do whatever they need to do to get to a person in the water and safely retrieve them as fast as possible, period, no rules, just get it done. If that means turning all the sheets loose and flogging the sails while motoring back, do it!
When I am skipper during my safety briefing I give a standing order to all on board. That is, "No one is allowed into the water until the boat is moored or anchored, the engine(s) are off and you have asked me for permission". That directive alone should be enough to prevent a MOB and the rest of this becomes fodder for endless debate.
What do you think the best anchor is for a MOB?