Top ten tips for doing the bow

Published on March 24th, 2020

Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland gives his top tips on how to be the best bow crew.


Any bow crew worth his or her salt is fast on their feet, strong as an ox, and agile enough to climb the mast. The bowman is also the first to arrive at the boat and last to leave.

Consider this about the bowman’s role: there are very few changes or evolutions that happen during a race aft of the mast; they all happen forward in “bowman territory.” The person on the bow must be prepared to deal with any call that’s made from the afterguard and prepared to cope with any mishap that happens.

Here are some top tips for a bow crew spending the season on the pointy end.

1. Wear the right clothes
If you don’t go out suited and booted then you’re coming home wet. A smock/spray top with closures at the collar, wrists, and waist-worn over layers is the best option to you stay dry. It’s light and you can fit into any area without wearing a big offshore jacket. Non-adjustable trousers are a must as are shoes that stick to the deck. (Never consider going barefoot!). Test the shoes well before buying. A soft rubber sole is best, and boots with gaiters are the best option for offshore. Most of all, have dry socks if you’re wearing shoes or boots.

2. Must-have gear
The best harness in the business is a rock-climbing harness. Which you can get from Spinlock. These are light and simple to use. And excellent on the backs of your legs as they are wide. It’s also vital to have hanging from your harness:

• A Leatherman skeletool.
• An aluminum fid for spiking snap shackles.
• Soft shackles (different sizes).
• A roll of rigging tape.

Going offshore, I prefer to wear a drysuit rather than traditional foul weather gear. I unzip it when I am below, and I’m always dry on deck. It’s quick and straightforward and you can be on deck in seconds. A good quality suit means you can get out on the bow and now worry at all about being wet in any shape or form. They fit well with the latest life jackets.

3. Prep your boat
A good bowman will be first on the boat and last off, so he’s ready for the next day’s sailing. It’s a bowman’s job to check that all your luff tapes are stacked correctly and that the spinnakers are packed and prepared to go. Clean any furlers, check running rigging, and get it all prepped and ready before the rest of the crew arrives to a clear boat.

For the complete list, click here.

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