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  #1  
Old 05-16-2011
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Crewing Advice Needed

I have been given a spot to be a crew member for a race on a Pearson 26. I have been sailing for about 15+ years but have never been part of a race.

The races are Wednesday nights out of a local yacht club on Lake Ontario.

What should I expect? What gear should I bring? Any other advice?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 05-16-2011
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I've got lots of experience of being the "new guy" onboard as I've just spent the last 5 summers trying out different crews and boats while on my quest to finding what works for me. You'll need to be more specific in your questions or I could talk to you for hours.
Q1. What should you expect?
A1. Perhaps too vague a question. Club racing can be as casual or as competitive as those around you want to make it. I've sailed on crews where my FIRST task as a crew member was to go buy ice for the warm beer they handed me as I stepped on deck. My typical crew is very competitive and alcohol isn't permitted until back in the club-house; for regatta's we restrict all excess weight onboard - we're not even allowed to stow shore-shoes onboard. Your expectations vary widely within a fleet; the type of boat, the skipper and crew variations are huge.

Q2. What gear should you bring?
A2. A new crew member should bring their own...
- Must have: Personal gear; Gloves, Shoes, foulies, rigging knife (Should have blade and ideally has shackle key and lanyard), losable hat, polarized sunglasses with neckstrap
- Skipper dependent: Life jacket and watch. (some skippers don't want the extra weight of duplicate life jackets for everyone, and a watch is typically expected so the whole crew counts down stars as well as times split times on competitors)
- Handy: Small pen, Small pad of paper. (Use these to jot down info on angles and shifts, info for protests. I like "Rite in the Rain" products because they are waterproof)
- Optional (regattas): GPS, Binoculars, drinking water, sunscreen, towel, harness, tether ... most of these things are not useful for weekday club racing.

The best thing to bring along to be accepted into a crew... cookies! Everyone loves cookies after a race. :-) Maybe a bottle of rum to thank the skipper for paying your way to go sailing.

Q3. Any other advice?
A3. Lots... But where do you want me to start?
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Old 05-16-2011
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Advice...
Communicate effectively. Some skippers want a constant stream of information being fed to them about puffs, waves, distance and angle to the mark, sail trim, tactical suggestions (when to tack, when to stand on), info on competitors; When they tack, how they are pointing, their relative speed, do they have better wind etc. Some skippers want you to just be quiet.

Don't wander around the deck. Keep movements to a minimum and keep your weight in the "right" spot. Heel the boat according to conditions, move weight fore and aft as directed by the helmsman. Hike HARD. Basically, make all your movements pre-calculated and mak them efficient.

With the above in mind, be especially careful about the foredeck. Adding weight upfront kills speed in a hurry. If you must step on the foredeck, have a thought out plan in your mind. For example, don't stomp out on the foredeck to adjust the spin gear and then realize you've forgotten to give yourself enough slack, forcing you to stomp back to release it.

When hoisting, hoist for all you're worth. No matter how fast you hoist it, you could still do it faster. Don't worry, the cockpit crew will remind you.

When dousing, douse for all you're worth. Get the foot of the spinnaker onboard and pull it in as fast as humanly possible. It still won't be fast enough. Don't worry, the cockpit crew will remind you.

If you're on foredeck, run your tapes on the spinnaker. Don't trust it was done correctly by the last guy. Run your own spinnaker lines/sheets. Don't trust they were rigged properly by the last guy. Be very loud and clear when you need slack on the sheets and particularly when the pole is made. Even though you are foredeck crew, stay off the foredeck. Don't worry though, if you've made any mistakes, the cockpit crew will remind you. Make sure you help out your helmsman at the start; Be sure to work out the signals ahead of time, but you likely want to give them signals for how many boat lengths you are away from the line as well as if there are any boats underneath you that could force you up or over early.

If you're in the cockpit, talk to the skipper. Give them feedback on windstrength, trim constantly.

Jib trimmer? Be quick on the jib, but not too soon. On a 26', you should be able to get it trimmed fast enough to not need the winch. Communicate well with the skipper, on my main crew, the ready symbol is given by the helmsman, but the timing of the actual tack is based off the jib trimmers action of removing the winch handle. As soon as they are out, we are going. Keep the spare jibsheet wrapped loosely on the windward winch and keep the slack out of the windward line. At the start of a race, keep the winch handles out of the winches and have one person do both sides of the cockpit... this may not be necessary if you don't spin on a dime, but it helps if you're dicing it up at the start. Don't forget to remind the foredeck crew about their mistakes, they need all the advice and backseat driving you can give them.

Main? Follow the helmsman, don't wait for him to tell you. Look up. Wear sunscreen - your ball cap doesn't protect your face while you're constantly staring straight up at the tell tales, camber, twist etc. Hike out! I don't know if the helmsman also does main on your boat, but lots of main trimmers don't bother hiking after they have the sails set. Also, once you hear the helmsman or jib trimmer remind the foredeck crew about their mistakes, be sure to chime in. A second or third voice really helps the situation.

I'm not qualified to give advice as a helmsman... so take the following for what it's worth.
Don't hit anything. Sail to your target speeds. If you don't have target speeds, find them. Counter-intuitively, if the wind drops head up to bleed off speed as your target speed is lower now - this gains you a bit to windward. If the wind increases, bear-off a touch to pick up speed to meet your targets - you will be faster to your target speed and then able to get back up onto your angle faster. Watch for waves, they stop you dead. Listen to your crew. Talk to your crew. Don't bang the corners unless you need a hail-mary. Take the long tack first. ok, so much more, but since you won't be at the helm, just remember, to remind your foredeck crew of their mistakes, you're the helmsman, it's your job.

Lastly, bring cookies. They make up for any mistakes.
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Old 05-16-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JordanH View Post
Counter-intuitively, if the wind drops head up to bleed off speed as your target speed is lower now - this gains you a bit to windward. If the wind increases, bear-off a touch to pick up speed to meet your targets - you will be faster to your target speed and then able to get back up onto your angle faster.
Lifetimes ago when I raced the wind was always variable, both in direction and strength. In typical weather which would have puffs then lulls, the idea was to bear up in the lull and bear off in in a puff. The rational that I always had was that you stayed in the puff longer by bearing off and caught the next puff sooner by bearing up. Now, my rational could have been completely off-base...

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Old 05-16-2011
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Hi Dave, You just said what I did. If the wind drops (or in your case a lull), you head up, and an increase in windspeed (or in your case a puff) you bear off. We just had different rationale's.

I will have a difficult time explaining mine, but this article does it quite nicely ( Up Wind Strategies ).
I believe in sailing to your target speeds, so with that requirement in mind you can imagine that you should have a faster VMG for an increase in windspeed and that should be a faster boatspeed as well. When the true wind increases, it will result in the apparent wind moving aft and appear to pull you up. If you head-up in this apparent shift, you will not increase your boat speed and your VMG will creep up slowly. If you give a little, you will quickly speed up to your new target for the true wind speed and then you can edge back up to your true wind angle and keep your speed which is a lot faster.

Sorry, I digress from the OP questions. But hey, maybe he'll consider that advice if he's the tactician.
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Old 05-16-2011
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Hey Jordan,

I read that link. Very interesting. My racing predates integrated electronics, (heck, even most electronics) and most of my racing was done in dinghy's and boats up to 24 ft. You and I were NOT saying the same thing, as I only referred to downwind or reaching legs, not upwind. It appears that in either case, my rational and practice were wrong!

Thanks for pointing me to that info. I don't race anymore, but it is nice to learn something new. Of course, I think I would find it very difficult to overcome the reflexive reactions that were ingrained into me. :-)

Dave
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Old 05-16-2011
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Hello i raced all my life on inland lakes, i would say talk to the captain before going! As a first timer let them know that, then most of the time you will see how serious they are! If your not serious racer which most of it is silly anyways becasue of the commitie rules and peole running them! Half of them dont even go sailing some sail just in races, but to me thats not sailing!

Dont be worried go once see if u like it, then you can get as serious as you want! But really all its for is braging rights and a Image!
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Old 05-16-2011
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d'oh. I thought you were talking upwind.
Well, your dinghy training should have included, "ease, hike, and trim" (as per the article) which is essentially the same thing. It is rather counter-intuitive isn't it?

Just to get back on topic... More simple club racing tips.
When you are preparing to tack, don't start fidgeting and moving around to alert your competitors. Otherwise they will tack right on top of you. Just sit tight and spring into action when they call helms-a-lee.

When you are hoisting, make sure to double-check that the halyard is ALL the way up before calling "made!" or it will be a difficult grind to get there.
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Old 05-16-2011
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Guys, the OP is going on a Pearson 26 on a wednesday night buoy race. It's his first race, ever... probably a beer can. Highly doubtful if he/she's going to be in charge of headsail trim on a boat the first time out unless they have a track record as competent crew on other boats that are raced, or the boat he's jumping on is hopelessly short of crew.

To the OP, you're probably only on the water until dusk at the most. Bring appropriate clothing for the day, no more, no less... well, err on the side of 'more' if the weather's in transition, the water's still cold, etc... You've sailed for 15 years, so I'd guess you know what you need on a given day.
On top of appropriate clothing, bring a knife and your pfd.

On the 'how to be crew' front, as a first timer, when you get on the boat, go through things visually to see where all the lines are lead. Look for things that you're unfamiliar with and ask how they work. Chances are you're going to be on the rail for race one, so make yourself valuable not by trying to call tactics, etc..., but by looking up the course, noticing, and pointing out 'changes'. Wind, other boats getting lifted or headed, clear lanes, and the like. The skip and 'tactician' if they aren't one and the same on a small boat will greatly appreciate this, but not someone new on the rail trying really really hard to 'make it happen'. Never never NEVER yell or give right of way instructions to other boats EVER. That's the skipper's job.

This advice: Hi Dave, You just said what I did. If the wind drops (or in your case a lull), you head up, and an increase in windspeed (or in your case a puff) you bear off. We just had different rationale's.

... important exceptions abound here. Here's one for very light conditions up wind: you get a lift, you ease the jib so the boat accelerates, then if there's enough speed, head up and re-trim. Headed? Trim in just a bit and tell the driver to head down a bit so you can return to the original trim configuration. Boat speed is everything in light air. The point being here, there are critical exceptions to the standard 'trim' rules, and even these are probably not doing to be in the purview of someone racing a boat for the first time.

To the OP, watch, listen, and learn. Have a beer if it's allowed. Have fun! That's what it's about. If the boat is full of yellers, don't repeat. No good boat is loud on the race course.

Last edited by puddinlegs; 05-16-2011 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 05-16-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puddinlegs View Post
This advice: Hi Dave, You just said what I did. If the wind drops (or in your case a lull), you head up, and an increase in windspeed (or in your case a puff) you bear off. We just had different rationale's.

... important exceptions abound here. Here's one for very light conditions up wind: you get a lift, you ease the jib so the boat accelerates, then if there's enough speed, head up and re-trim. Headed? Trim in just a bit and tell the driver to head down a bit so you can return to the original trim configuration
Hi PuddinLegs, Just to be clear, these are different topics. We were discussing wind SPEED changes and you are talking about wind ANGLE changes. Although wind speed can appear to be a lift or a knock, a racer needs to identify which is which and take the appropriate action.

As for cracking open or trimming in, that is exactly what we've said above. You say to not chase the lift, meaning you are increasing the apparent wind angle - in essence this *IS* bearing off, even if you do not move the tiller and just crack the jib to trim for the wider angle.

I agree with all of your advice above. Although, I will point out that some Wednesday night club racing can be taken seriously by some folks for whatever reason; some of them use it for training for larger races, others are just more serious in their attitudes. Some people's "serious" is not as serious as other people's "serious"... and some skippers have fun by being serious. I thoroughly agree with your recommendation to not be on a shouty boat.
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