Join Date: May 2012
Location: North Vancouver, BC
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Re: Why do skippers yell?
I think non-racers hear the yelling and screaming on a race course, (usually the starts and mark roundings) and are shocked by it because to them is is all meaningless. To the people involved most of it makes sense when you put it in the context of the race. That's not to say there aren't screamers of the worst kind out there, but I have only encountered a few in the many years I have been racing.
Even on boats with highly competent crew there can be a lot of yelling. The fact of the matter is that on a busy mark rounding where all the boats are in close proximity and they are all executing complicated maneuvers, changing sails AND battling for position yelling is a necessity. The skipper and tactician may be yelling at the boats around them to make sure they are given the room they are entitled to, the foredeck might be yelling back to the pit for what they need done, the trimmer might be yelling to make foredeck aware of a problem that they need to resolve etc etc. And all of that communication has to be done over the din of flogging racing sails. You have no idea how loud a new crinkly headsail or spinnaker can be! Yes the yelling can also escalate into screaming when things go wrong; usually proportional to the potential damage or injury that may be about to occur.
When it comes to the true screamers, I can sort of understand how it comes about. Most of my years of racing have been as crew, usually foredeck, and I know exactly what needs to happen and when at a mark rounding. When I am at the helm of my own boat I feel helpless and frustrated when things go wrong elsewhere on the boat because usually it is obvious to me what needs to happen. One has to be VERY patient when training crew, and it is difficult to be patient when you feel helpless because you are holding the tiller. That is why I believe the helmsman should NOT be the one training. If you want to run the boat handling, get someone else to take the helm. A helmsman that is trying to tell everyone else what to do probably isn't doing their own job properly either!
Fortunately I have many skilled sailor friends that I can call on if I want crew for a race, including much better helmsmen, so I am happy to give the tiller to one of them so I can pull strings! Most of the time I prefer to race on other people's boats anyway!
1979 Santana 30 Tall Rig