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By Airwaves high school reporter/writer Abby Tindall
Working together with another person in high-stress situations is not easy, and when it comes to sailing, many skippers take the brunt of the pressure. A good crew can be a great foil, and needs to know how to handle the different reactions and attitudes their skippers display. There’s often the silently-brewing skipper, the temperamental skipper, the whiny skipper, etc. As a crew, dealing with your own stress AND the skipper’s stress (which is often taken out on the crews) is vital to success of both partners and the boat as a whole.
How Great Dinghy Crews Drive the Bus: Working Together to Win
While it looks like the skipper is about to attack the crew at a high stress moment, a closer look reveals great symmetry of teamwork.
I’ve been sailing in 420’s for 5 years now working together with many different skippers. I’ve sailed on the National Club 420 Racing Circuit for two years and 4 years on a top Varsity High School sailing team. After some time of awkwardly adjusting to different people and situations, I came up with a consistent strategy that has proved successful in my experiences.
Here’s what I do: When I get into a boat with a new skipper I try to get to know them as a person. Knowing who they are hints at what they care about, but also builds a foundation for your relationship. It is important to understand your teammate and especially when you get into tricky interactions, reminding yourself that they are human just like you helps. Talking amongst each other and explicating your role in the team is also a good start. Even if its a skipper you have sailed with before, make sure you clarify the jobs: who will call tactics, pressure, boats, etc. (hint- its probably a combination of both of you).
While formalities are nice, the real connection between you and a skipper comes on the water in close situations. It is then that the ideal of a dream skipper often comes crashing down.It is not uncommon for human beings to blame others when the chips are down. In my experience, many skippers become micro-managers when they feel pressure because they want everything to be perfect when in a tacking-duel or trying to make a mark. Instead of focusing on the task, they habitually focus on the crew.
Read on.