First time crewing/racing this weekend - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 50 Old 04-09-2014 Thread Starter
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First time crewing/racing this weekend

Well, a friend of mine just found me a crew position this Sunday on a boat I've never sailed before with a skipper I've never met before. First time racing, first time on a Lightning. But everyone says it's one of the best ways to improve your skills so I'm jumping in. I'm excited and nervous.

Of course, I'm googling everything about racing right now but I'm a little overwhelmed. I don't want to be dead weight; I'd like to at least contribute something to the team. If you could prioritize the top three things I should know for Sunday so that I don't come across like a complete n00b, what would they be?

Thank you!
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post #2 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

As a three-crew boat, you're not going to be 'rail meat' like you might be on a larger boat for the first time...

I'd be up front about your experience (or lack of it) and express your willingness to learn and to 'do as you're told'. Expect to be told where to sit/move to at various times -observe, remember and learn as you go. Don't ask TOO many questions on the water, save them for later as a debrief over a beer or two (bring some for later)

Agility will be helpful on these boats, and a basic level of fitness will help too.

Hopefully you haven't been set up with a 'screamer' and you'll have a good experience. Ideally you'll be invited back - but if you don't have a good time don't write off racing altogether. The people/person you hook up with can make all the difference.


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post #3 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

With all due respect, you ARE a n00b, and I'm sure the captain knows it. Embrace it. Yes, read all you can, learn as much as you can beforehand. But the first several times you're out, it's all going to go out of your mind. Don't stress it. We all face a learning curve, and we all make mistakes. I'm sure the captain isn't expecting you to be perfect on day 1. Ask lots of questions.

Edited to add: as Ron points out, it might be wise to hold some of the "lots" of questions until after the race!

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post #4 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

Helps to have a basic vocabulary of sailing terms
Be dressed for the occasion
Bring a healthy sense of adventure
Have fun!

The rest will come in time--racing is the best way to learn how to sail!

Folie a Deux
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post #5 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

Ditto all the above - great advice! Here are some other things: Be on time; don't bring too much extra gear so you might want to ask what's best; be prepared to be wet so bring dry cloths for afterwards; listen and respond quickly and calmly, but don't ask why until you get back to the dock unless you don't understand the instructions or there's a safety issue; and keep chatter to a minimum, it's distracting. If you can, pay attention to the race flags the race committee is raising and lowering; notice how the buoys are placed and how they're being rounded; help the skipper to spot other boats; and learn the basic racing rules before you go out -- being attentive to these things will help in your future races. Small boat racing is just a dance. The choreography has to be tight or things get unbalanced quickly. This takes time to learn, so don't over-analyze it too much your first time out. Just enjoy and hope you have a competent skipper who doesn't scream. They make or break the day.
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post #6 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

You've got good advice to this point - but you asked for the top 3 things you should here's my list (as a racing skipper).

- understand that 'ease', 'out', 'loose', 'deep' and a half dozen other words might all mean doing the same thing to a sail - just like 'trim' 'grind' 'in' 'tight' 'sheet' listen, and ask before the race how the skipper will communicate with you. Learn how to trim/grind FAST and properly.
- Ask him/her what his expectations are of you. What tasks will you be responsible for on the boat? Then do all of them to the best of your ability, and ask for feedback (when the skipper appears to have the time) on whether it's done to his liking.
- Don't, under any circumstances, panic. Watch for things that look abnormal to you, or that might be helpful to him/her, and communicate them in a quiet, calm voice.

Don't worry for a single minute about strategy, tactics, or even 'racing' just yet. Try hard, listen carefully, and have a good time. Laugh at your mistakes, and admit to them. You'll be invited back to any boat you want to be on in the first place.


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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

Thank you all! this is helpful.

I just spoke to the skipper. He seems very nice and understands that I'm new to this. He did not strike me as a screamer, and I don't think my friend would have recommended me to him if she knew he was. But my skin is almost as thick as my skull, so that wouldn't bother me much if he was.

He said I would be in middle position and to wear gloves. Can I get away with a pair of weight lifting gloves with the fingers cut out? or should I invest in a pair specific to sailing?

Thank you again!
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post #8 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

As someone who has raced before with a variety of skippers, here is my two cents:

1) Arrive early and prepared. Ask now for the things you'll need to bring/have with you.

2) Hopefully the skipper will get out on the course early so you can practice a bit. Make sure you get your role defined early and know what's expected of you. Be upfront and honest about your skills and understanding.

3) Have fun! Racing, whether you win or lose is a fantastic skill builder and way to meet all sorts of people who can teach you just about anything you want to know.

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post #9 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

Sailing specific gloves honestly often suck. I like rubberized fleece lined garden gloves, they are warm and give good dexterity. I use "Ninja Ice" ones which are about $8/pair on Amazon.

My other piece of advice is to ask general questions afterwords. There is a lot to learn, but during the heat of the race the skipper needs to concentrate. Observe the skipper and other crew, try to keep track of a few questions, then ask them as you are sailing back to the dock.

Ask the skipper to go out early and do some practice spin launches, tacks and jybes so you can learn your job and get to practice each manuever at least once. On a dinghy you need to know how you are getting from one side to the other during tacks and jybes.

It should be a lot of fun, I love racing on my boats and crewing for others. Every skipper and boat is a little different, so I do it their way (instead of trying to do it my way) when I race on someone else's boat.

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post #10 of 50 Old 04-09-2014
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Re: First time crewing/racing this weekend

You can try the weight lifting gloves but most of the time they cut off too much of the finger. Go with the rubberized loves from home depot or lowes for less than $10 pr and just cut off a little of the thumb and index finger.

Google PVC dipped gloves. If you like the sport, start a new thread with additional gear or ask others in the fleet what they use. The lightening is a weight sensitive boat and your bodyweight placement will be important. Just search for lightening sailboat racing images on google and you'll see what I mean. Sit where they tell you too, it's actually very important.

Merit 25 # 764 "Audrey"
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