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Start Yacht Racing

3: Finding a crewing position

Yacht racing takes place at clubs all around the coast of the UK, and it’s possible to find a crewing position just by going along to a club and offering your services. This is especially true if you make the effort to gain some basic skills first. If your local club runs an evening series during the summer, these are often relatively low-key and relaxed, which means you have more chance of being able to go along as a newcomer and build your skills and confidence without getting in the way of serious competition.

The UK's south coast, and particularly the Solent area, has numerous opportunities for yacht racing, with many people travelling considerable distances to sail there, although it’s arguably more difficult to make initial contact with owners as they’re less likely to sail within the structure of a single club.

One tactic is to hitch a lift by ‘dockwalking’ around marinas before the start of racing and offering your services. Another possibility is looking on event websites and the crew (sailors’ database) section of — a lot of people find crewing places in this way. It helps of course to have some solid experience behind you before taking this approach. Being able to say you’ve performed a particular role on a certain type of boat in a particular event — which you can do as part of a training package — will help to open doors.

Once you’ve gained a crewing position, it’s vital to understand how your role meshes with those of the others in the crew. Before the start, and when you’re on the rail on windward legs, ask the people around you what and when you’re expected to do in each manoeuvre — a well-drilled boat will often have everything planned down to almost the last hand movement. It’s always better to ask to be briefed in advance than it is to bumble along and make mistakes.

Of course, we’re all human and do get things wrong from time to time. When this happens, once everything has settled down and the boat is sailing fast again, discuss the problems and learn from them. If you understand what you did wrong each time, and what you should have done differently, then you’ll make fast progress up the learning curve. This approach also maximises the likelihood that the team you’re with will ask you back.

Whenever you sail in conditions in which you don’t have lots of experience, possibly super light or super windy, be upfront about it and tell your fellow crew members. They’ll be happy to give you hints and tips, rather than risk you making a mistake that could cost valuable time.

Not all crews are great to sail with — if you get the sense that the boat you’re on is sailing in a reactive (rather than proactive) fashion, with lots of shouting when things go wrong, then you may wish look for a ride on in different boat — one on which the crew practices more effective forms of communication.

Previous page:2 Training options

Those wanting to learn to race big boats need to be a little more resourceful in planning their training

Next page:4 Getting started

Here’s a suggestion for total novices wanting to get started in big boat racing from scratch

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