December 7th, 2016

Really Useful Sailing Tips – Crew Work

Posted in Article
General Sail Training


Really Useful Sailing Tips – Crew Work

Crew co-ordination and harmonious team work is imperative to successful and enjoyable sailing.

Tip 1 – Crew training

Make sure each crew member is assigned a task and is ready and prepared in position in the right part of the yacht before each manoeuvre. Talk through each manoeuvre before it happens to check everyone knows what they are doing. Even if you are just gentle cruising, each crew member must know which part of the boat they are responsible for, and should keep an eye on it at all times.

Tip 2 – Crew safety

Stay safe on the boat while crewing. Always keep heads low, especially during a gybe or when there is a chance of gybing, ie. when sailing dead downwind. Always sit on the high side of the boat and not next to the kicking strap or vang, nor in the path of the mainsheet or track. Watch out for flogging sheets such as jib sheets during a tack and don’t get your feet tangled up in them.

Tip 3 – Winch handling

When handling winches always make sure there are sufficient turns around the winch to take the load of the sail that you are handling. A spinnaker in light winds may need just one or no turns around the winch whereas a powered up No. 1 Genoa will probably need three or four. When easing a sheet out, keep hands at least 12” from the winch. When winding in, watch out for riding turns (when the rope snags across itself) and make sure you have someone tailing and secure the sheet firmly once it is pulled in.

Tip 4 – Mainsheet trimming

Notwithstanding the finer points of mainsail trim, the mainsheet trimmer should remember to ease sheets in sudden and violent gusts so that the helmsman is not overpowered, at which point control of the steering is lost and the boat will round up out of control. An alternative is to ease the sail down the track for more fine tuning in gusts. The most important thing to remember is that the helmsman cannot bear away unless the mainsheet is eased and if a sudden bear away is required, (ie. to avoid another yacht or obstacle) the mainsheet trimmer must be ready to react quickly to ensure that the sheet can be easily let off under load. Never leave the mainsheet in a difficult to release cleat, eg. spinlock cleat. Have it released and held by hand, or with a couple of turns around a winch, depending on the size and set up of the boat’s deck layout.

Tip 5 – Short tacking
When short tacking, ie. tacking frequently to make to windward, ensure that after completion of each tack the windward winch is loaded up again with the right number of turns and the slack is pulled out of the lazy genoa sheet, so the boat is ready to go into the next tack. This means that if it has to tack in a hurry (perhaps to avoid another boat) you are ready.

Making sure your crew knows what is expected of them, in a clear and calm manner, means that they will keep coming back and you will never be short of someone to sail with!
Happy sailing!