This article was first published on SailNet in May of 2000.
Most skippers understand that statement intuitively, but it's rare if they take the time to express appreciation for their crew, much less keep them in the loop when it comes to on-the-course strategy and decision-making. Consider this important implication, which comes to light in almost every regatta report published (even some of those on this website):
|"The philosophy behind this is simplethe more informed the crew, the harder they'll work toward the collective goal of optimum performance."|
Apart from shortsighted regatta reports, there's additional evidence that supports this observation. Consider where you'd look to find the instrument readouts on almost any conventional sailboat. Most are mounted where the driver can clearly see them, but often so far aft that they're obscured from view for the rest of the crew. It may sound extremist, but if your instrument displays are mounted anywhere aft of the mast, then whoever made that placement decision didn't consider it important for the forward members of the crew to know what's going on. On the best racing sailboats, instrument faces are placed so that they're visible to all the crew, often with repeat displays set in various locations around the boat. The philosophy behind this is simplethe more informed the crew, the harder they'll work toward the collective goal of optimum performance.
I don't mean to deify the guy (anyone who knows Ken is aware that he doesn't require ego-padding), but he was definitely onto something because he knew how much better that boat could sail if everyone on board was truly involved. Essentially, getting any boat around the racecourse competitively requires a team effort. And fluid crewwork is more difficult to achieve if you encumber yourself with the attitude that the skipper/driver is somehow more integral to the program than the rest of the crew.
Sure, steering is critical on any leg of the course, and there's no denying the importance of the contributions made by the person who owns the boat. But the thing is, it's in every skipper's best interest to instill confidence in his or her crew. Keeping the crew in the loop when it comes to things like instrument feedback and tactical decision-making can help achieve that. I'm not suggesting that you take a poll on your maxi-boat every time you want to tack, but letting everyone in on the general game plan can only improve performance.
And it makes sense. If you watch the best trimmers or bow people, they don't wait for a command to make an adjustment or repack a kite, they do it when they think it's appropriate. Of course they don't do these things in a void; they communicate the fact that they're making a change or going below to repack the kite, or whatever it is, and they do it in concert with everything else that's going on at the time. You won't see these guys stop hiking and leave the rail to make an adjustment while there's a puff on or while another crew person is off the rail. And what makes it all work is that the skipper knows this because he or she respects their abilities.
So skippers, the next time you get a chance to address your crew, consider all that they do for you. Sure, you're the person who writes the checks and ultimately runs the risk of having your insurance premiums jacked up, but these other people are putting their hearts into it as well. Ultimately, an inclusive attitude and the respect it implies will add to your enjoyment of the game as well as that of your crew.
The Pre-Race Check List by Dan Dickison
Communicating on Board by Betsy Alison
Team-Building Basics by Betsy Alison
Buying Guide: Whisker Poles
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