How to Be a Better Crewmate on the Boat

How to Be a Better Crewmate on the Boat

Spring is fast approaching, and with it warmer weather and the perfect conditions for sailing. Unless you’re planning to sail single-handedly, chances are you’ll be sailing with a crew. Whether you’re new to sailing or a seasoned professional, being a good crewmate is always something to work on. So how do you become a better crewmate? By being prepared, proactive, and using proper communication with crewmembers.

Be Prepared for Ever-Changing Conditions on the Water

When you're getting ready to sail, it's important to expect the unexpected. What does that mean?

  1. Sailing Clothes: Layers, layers, layers! If you want to stay dry, warm, and comfortable on the water you need to outfit yourself with the proper sailing apparel. Check out our Quick Guide to Layering for Sailors to learn the basics on what type of clothing you need before setting out for adventure.
  2. Sailing Gear: Make sure you have the right supplies. A good basic checklist should include: SPF, a knife, salopettes, boots, shoes with non-marking soles, sunglasses, plenty of water, a water resistant bag, and a change of clothes in case you fall in.😉

Be Proactive & Do What Is Expected, Don't Wait to Be Reminded

While you might want to arrive on time and leave as soon as sailing is through, we have some better suggestions for you:

  1. Arrive Early to Help Rig the Sailing Boat: Arrive EARLY, don't be late to the dock. Showing up to rig the boat is important not only to pitching in, it can also help you understand the order of operations for when you’re racing.
  2. Stay After Sailing to De-Rig the Sailing Boat: While you may be inclined to skip out on the after sailing clean-up processDON'T. Leaving the rest of your crew to de-rig alone will leave a bad impression. Helping de-rig the boat is a great way to show respect for your crew and be a part of any after sailing debriefing conversations. 

Use a Clear and Open Communication Style

Sailing can be stressful, explained best by Olympic Sailor Nikki Barnes, "Sailing is like playing chess on the water with multiple players while getting sprayed in the face with a fire hose." Here are some useful tips on how to communicate to avoid confusion & frustration on the water:

  1. Understand Your Role on the Boat: Every sailing crew has their own defined roles for each member. Roles are critical to the smooth running of the boat. They establish a structure for who each member will be in communication with. Examples of roles include: Tactician, Trimmer, Mast, Bow, Pit, Driver, and Skipper. 
  2. Use Concise Dialogue: Changes happen fast while sailing, so your way of speaking needs to be clear and succinct. To ensure everyone is on the same page, have a conversation before setting sail about what words/phrases to use in common situations.
  3. Be Alert, Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: It is always important to be aware of what is happening around you for safety purposes. In racing, this is especially important. While it is the Driver's role to maintain as fast of a speed as possible, it is the surrounding crewmembers' role to keep a lookout on what is taking place in the race course. The fewer distractions a Driver has, the faster your boat will sail.

For more information on how to communicate with your crew check out US Sailing's Crewing: Raising Your Game With Soft Skills article.

Final Thoughts

Sailing is a mental game as much as it is physical. When racing, try to stay calm as much as possible and do your best not to argue on the water.

  1. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions if you aren't sure of how something works. If non-urgent issues arise while sailing, try to save them for discussion after.
  2. Don't expect to know everything all at once or to always say the right thing even as a seasoned sailor. Keep track of issues as they occur and continue to work on improving communication with your crew.
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