SailNet Community banner
1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is the first post in a series for people looking to get started crewing on racing sailboats. I assume you have little or no racing experience but may have some sailing experience. This guide has local details for Santa Monica Bay (SMB) but the general outline would be applicable most places in the North America. Just substitute your local yacht clubs for the ones I will name and your local community sailing center for UCLA.

Sailboat racing can be fast paced and exciting or it can be slow and deliberate. As a beginner stay quiet, watch and learn. You need to be paying attention to what you are told and what other crew are doing. Remember keep your head down and your weight low as you move about the boat. When the boat is going upwind, move across the boat to the high side during each tack. Watch what the rest of the crew is doing and copy them. If you don’t understand what you need to do ask, but mostly watch and listen. That is really all you need to know to get started.

You are going to be meeting people and asking them to let you crew on their boat. They might say yes, they might say no or they might say not today. In any case it is helpful to have your name, phone number, email, one sentence description of your sailing experience, and your physical characteristics on a strip of paper that you can hand to people, put on a table or bulletin board or even leave on a boat. Copy and paste the information ten times in a document, print it out and cut it into strips.
 

·
Freedom isn't free
Joined
·
3,133 Posts
Good primer... yeah even our tiny club can use crew. Many (including myself) will take on newbs for crew (that have never sailed)... but we're a pretty informal bunch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
96 Posts
Same at our club (Tammany YC in Slidell), people are always looking for crew and willing to introduce someone to the sport. I would venture to say that anyone who wants to learn and shows up at the dock on a Wednesday evening will get on a boat. I think the same over in New Orleans, too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
250 Posts
My husband and I crewed for the first time, we are new sailors, trying to figure out the spinnaker and spinnaker pole with a captain who screamed at us every time we did something incorrectly or every time we had to do something, come to think of it.

At first, I thought I enjoyed it, but looking back, I would never crew for him again. Which is good, as he hasn't asked us. :)

I would crew again, but I would ask around and see if the captain is a screamer. If so, NO WAY. I can't think when being screamed at, and really, it's a race, not a trip to the ER, there is no reason for such hysterics unless we are about to flip or sink. Would be much more careful about who we got on a boat with. He knew we were new.
Nancy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Show Up
There is no substitute for showing up. I will talk a little about the internet later but for now plan on doing everything face to face.

Sailboat racing happens on late afternoons in the Spring and Summer and on weekends throughout the year. For a beginner the week night racing is key. Races are short and skippers are more likely to take on new crew for a two hour weeknight race that for an all day or multi day weekend event. In Santa Monica Bay (SMB) there is weeknight racing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from April through September.

Most sailboat races are organized by yacht clubs. Most skippers of racing boats belong to yacht clubs. Some crew members are also belong to yacht clubs but many don’t. No one expects you to join a yacht club to crew on a boat. In SMB there are a variety of yacht clubs. I will mention three specific clubs which are very different from each other. Don’t visit one club and think all the other clubs are going to be the same. Explore as many of the yacht clubs in your area as possible to discover different atmospheres and different options.

Most adult racing in SMB is done on keel boats from 20’ to 40’ with crews from 2 to 10 people. I got starting in racing at King Harbor Yacht Club (KHYC) in Redondo Beach. KHYC runs races on Thursday nights and has a good system for getting people on boats. Show up about 4 pm and go to the race sign up table right inside the front door and tell them you want to crew. They will have a clipboard where you can put your name and number. As skippers come in to sign up for race they will ask them if they need crew and show them the clipboard to get names and numbers. You can hang out by the sign up table or cruise around outside and check out the boats and preparation. KHYC also has a crew sign up on their web site, but just showing up is really the better option. In Marina del Rey (MDR), California Yacht Club (CYC) organizes a lot of the racing. They run Wednesday night races in the spring and summer. They may have a similar setup to KHYC or you may have to approach people on the docks.

South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club (SCCYC) runs small boat races in MDR on Thursday nights. If you have small boat experience, show up early and check with whoever is signing people up for races and ask around.

Wherever you go, be prepared to leave your information. You may not get on a boat the first week but you may hear back later from someone. If you don’t have small boat experience, take a class at UCLA Marina Aquatic Center. You don’t have to be associated with the university to take a sailing class. UCLA has their own racing on Friday evenings during the summer but you probably have to take more advanced classes before participating in UCLA races. Many people who sail at UCLA also race on bigger boats and UCLA has an email list and facebook page which can sometimes connect you to other racing opportunities. UCLA is the closest thing to a community sailing center in SMB. If your area has a community sailing center it is great resources for classes and meeting people.

If there isn’t any organized crew sign up, you need to let people know you are looking to get on a boat. Walk around the docks and start with boats that seem to be short on crew. For example a 30’ boat with only 3 or 4 people onboard may need crew. The same size boat with 6 or 7 onboard probably doesn’t. If one person is obviously in charge start with that person, but if they are busy ask someone else “Do you need crew?”. They may say “No” but they may say “Well if Joe doesn’t show up we might”. This will be followed up by a question along the lines of “What can you do?” Be honest but tending toward humble. If a boat says “no” or “maybe” say “Thank you, if you need crew in the future let me know” and give the skipper a slip with your information and move on. If you have gone through all of the boats, wait a few minutes and then go back and check again with the “Maybes”. As the start of the race approaches and crew don’t show up a “maybe” may turn into a “yes”.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Now What?
Now you are on a boat, you will be asked again in more detail what you can do. Respond the same way as before. You may be able to give a little bit more detail, but downplay your experience. It is better to under promise and over deliver. Someone should now explain what is expected of you. If they don’t, ask. The first time on a boat do what is asked of you, pay attention watch and learn. If you see someone needs help or something that needs doing and you should help. For example if a crewmen is collecting the fenders on the port side you can grab the fenders on the starboard side, but watch carefully where and how they are stowing the fenders. If you are given a job make sure you understand what to do and when to do it. A lot goes on during a race and it won’t make much sense at first. Do your job, stay alert and observe. There will be time for questions later. After the race on the way back to the dock or as the boat is being put away you can ask questions.

Boats have different post race routines. Some will pack and go quickly, others will linger on the boat with snacks and drinks. Some will go to yacht club for food and drinks. After the boat is put away, thank the skipper for the opportunity, give him your information if you think you would like to sail with him again and excuse yourself. There will be opportunities for socializing later if you are asked to return.

Week night racing is a good opportunity to race on different boats until you find a boat that has a spot for you and that you feel comfortable with. It probably won’t happen the first night and it may take awhile. During your first season you will meet a lot of people and sail on different types of boats and see different skipper’s personalities. You will get a sense of what combination works best for you.
 

·
Advanced beginner
Joined
·
636 Posts
Thanks for this. So many people suggest racing as a means to learn how to sail, without mentioning that finding a boat to race on isn't as easy as putting your name and details on SpinSheet.

After about a year spent trying to figure out how to get into racing I discovered it's not easy for anyone with a full-time job. For anyone who doesn't get off work at 5 and doesn't live within a 30 minute drive of the yacht club (i.e. me, who also doesn't have a car) weeknight races (which seem to be where all the pick-up action is) are pretty impossible.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Alternatives

If you can’t participate in week night racing for some reason you still have a couple of option.

Take classes with a community sailing program. Small boat sailing will build the skills you will need to race. Some programs run their own races or enter boats in events sponsored by local yacht clubs.

Participate in events sponsored by organizations that are trying to increase participation in sailboat racing. These organizations may be yacht clubs, racing fleets, or other organizations. In Southern California the Women’s Sailing Association sponsors “How to Crew” seminars and events for skippers and crew to meet. These events are open to men.

Pay to sail. Sailing schools sometimes enter boats in local events with a paid skipper/instructor and crew that have paid to sail.

Show up for weekend “fun” races. Weekend races tend to be more serious than week night races but some clubs are now sponsoring “fun” or “club handicap” races. These races are shorter and oriented towards less experienced skippers and crews. Show up before the skippers meeting and ask the organizers if anyone is looking for crew.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top