by Jan Irons, courtesy of Sailing Coach Ken Legler
Imitate, Imitate, Imitate, Innovate!!!
Anytime you are close to a top competitor’s boat, watch what the crew is doing! Observe basic boat handling techniques… where are they sitting, where is their jib sheeted, what do their telltales look like … what sequence do they jibe the whisker pole, etc.? If you feel slower than others, look to see what they might be doing differently – the crew should observe and provide info to the skipper … maybe your mainsail looks short on the boom compared to the other boats … the skipper might need to adjust the outhaul, it’s his/her call, but crew can make the observation. Try different techniques yourself until you find what’s comfortable & fast… there is NO right answer!
Run through in your head EXACTLY how you are going to perform certain basic boat handling skills. The more you just THINK about doing a tack right or where to sheet your jib when it’s windy, or for a drifter… or where your body should be at specific times… do you step across and then pull the pole back or stand up or pull the pole back & then step across … what’s the best sequence for you … what about boat balance … how do you keep it on an angle … THINK it through ahead of time! What sequence will you do things rounding the weather mark … what about the leeward mark … Ask your skipper for the sequence he/she prefers while you’re still off the water… write it down. Look at the paper & SEE yourself doing each adjustment/movement in your head before you ever get in the boat.
Things to Think About on the Windward Leg…
1) Immediately after the start, LOOK at the committee boat to see if there are no flags flying, indicating a clear start. If there IS a flag flying, it means someone was over early – TELL YOUR SKIPPER. Then LISTEN to hear any boats called over early (at race committee’s discretion).
2) Watch for other boats …are there port tack boats coming? Do you know how to tell if another boat is on a collision course? If not, find out! Will we tack or duck?
3) Are our telltails flying right? Are we in the groove on the wind … telltails both straight back? Or are we footing, outside jib telltail fluttering up?
4) Know where the marks are – around every mark, not just on the start … show the skipper. I generally just say “the mark is there” with my arm straight out pointing to it. Swivel heads on skippers can be slow!
5) Tell your skipper about puffs coming … you know, those dark ripply looking spots on the water that move down the course??? Yep, those spots! Practice looking for puffs onshore, while you’re around any water, even a fountain.The question is … where is the next good puff coming from, is it a lift or header and should we go for it?
BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS JIB TRIM, BOAT BALANCE AND BOAT HANDLING.
Start thinking about the above, but don’t lose track of the basics!
Things to Think About in General…
1) On a Y Flyer, keeping your weight together is even more important (sit cheek to cheek); the weight will make the boat pivot over one point and improve your speed!
2) In general, keep your weight forward and remind your skipper… the crew needs to be sitting as close as possible to the side stay and the skipper needs to be cheek to cheek with the crew. Keeping the weight forward gets the wide flat transom out of the water making for less wetted surface. Less wetted surface IS faster. This is the same rationale for keeping your boat heeled at all times! Long skinny Y Flyers go much faster than flat wide Y Flyer! NOTE: Windier conditions or chop may mean you may need to move back slightly in the boat, experiment!
3) If boat balance dictates one up and one down, the skipper should try moving even further forward … is it possible for both of you to sit close to a side stay? Sometimes the hiking stick length dictates this, but in general the skipper should set further forward than normal with one up and one down boat balance configuration.
4) Learn to work together to ease and trim your sheets along with the skipper—TEAMWORK! Both sails should always work together. Make sure you know what your telltails should be doing and watch them EVERY MINUTE! The minute you take your eye off or are distracted, the next boat has the advantage. I remember Jerry Callahan once telling my daughter, Aly, at Nationals in Stockton… “I can get us to the weather mark first, but once we round, it’s YOUR job to keep us there if we’re reaching” (i.e., trimming the jib is a VERY important part of going fast!)
5) Skippers should not be doing the VANG!!! The vang on a Y Flyer is at the bottom of the mast, making it the crew’s responsibility. If you don’t know how to adjust it, ask your skipper how his/her main looks & adjust accordingly. If the skipper always does this, the crew doesn’t learn what the sail SHOULD look like. Make him/her teach you!!! And as a crew, every time you adjust the vang, feel the tautness of the lines & remember how tight it feels and the type of breeze you’re in.
General Vang Rules:
Light air = loose
Medium air = just taut
Heavy air = tighter
If you have to ease in puffs to stay under control, the vang should have some tension. Different boats will be set up differently meaning this is not a one size fits all rule, learn on your boat with your skipper!
6) Lots of steering, i.e. constant wiggling the tiller back and forth, slows the boat down—the crew might politely mention too much wiggling to the skipper.
AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER ABOUT CREWING IS…HAVE FUN!!!