How to be a Great Crewmember

Published on April 11th, 2016

by Chris Museler, Sailing Magazine
Will crew for beer!” scrawled on a piece of cardboard is one way to get a ride on a sailboat race. This at least will attract a fun-loving skipper willing to take a chance on someone bold and silly enough to comically advertise themselves for hire.

Finding an opportunity to go racing, whether it be on a Hunter 336 for a weekly beer can series or a professionally crewed TP52, can be daunting. All the way through the ranks, most sailboat teams are tight little units with core groups of regulars. Standing on the dock with a sign, or registering with an online crewfinder are ways to get a spot on a boat. Word-of-mouth helps too. But it’s what you make of those opportunities that will determine your racing career trajectory, no matter how small your aspirations.

The best crews on any boat all share a few common attributes. If you want to be a good crewmember, or even raise your level in hopes of jumping on more successful programs, ask the best sailors for advice.

“A person’s attitude is the most important skill they can have,” said Dave Perry, who is known widely as a racing rules expert but is considered one of the best team builders in the sport. “The attitude is, ‘How can I help the driver and team meet their goals?’”

Perry is a match racing champion who recently won his fifth national title. One misstep in crew work during a match race, or even the slightest argument, can cost a team a race or even a championship. Stakes are high and even though the average crewmember racing in a local PHRF fleet isn’t subjected to such lofty standards, there are many non-sailing approaches that make for an excellent crewmember at any end of the racing spectrum.

The attitude Perry mentions means knowing when to speak up and when to keep your mouth shut. This begins with a simple conversation before ever stepping foot on the boat.

“You need to know what’s expected of you,” he said. “Have that conversation and make sure you can do what is expected.” Perry said that once roles are clear, it’s time to “blend and bend.” – Full story

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