Racing sailboats is not easy. There are so many moving pieces to the puzzle and even more variables thrown your way as you are playing the game. The sailors that are the most consistent are the ones that communicate clearly and often.
DRIVER – Depending on the type of racing you do, the driver is often times the leader of the team. The type of communication coming from the driver could be everything from instruction on certain tasks all the way through to verbalizing strategy and tactics. One of the most important things a driver can communicate, however, is how the boat feels in terms of balance and speed. Continual feedback on the feel of the boat keeps the team engaged and focused on making the boat go fast. Terms like “…we are struggling to hit our target speed…” or “…the boat is really tough to sail right now…” are indicators that something isn’t set up right. Conversely, “…we are flying…” or “…the helm really feels light and lively….” provide the type of feedback for trimmers to zero in on their settings and train their eye to remember the set up.
TACTICIAN – Outside of overall strategy and tactics, the tactician can provide great communication when it comes to boat-on-boat speed, positioning and ultimately help the trimmers set the boat up properly. For example, “…we are higher and slower than the boat to windward…let’s press a bit and try to go a bit lower and faster…” or “…we are above target speed, let’s try a slightly higher mode for better VMG…”. Both examples are directed to the trimmers and driver (and crew to hike, etc.) to make a change and ultimately get the boat going better/faster.
TRIMMERS – When the wind is variable in terms of strength and direction, it is really important that the trimmers help the driver find a groove that works best. Adjusting the sails is only part of the task. Relaying where you are trimmed to the driver and tactician help keep everyone in the loop and in sync. Simple reference such as, “….I’m 5 inches off the top spreader…” or “…I’ve got the main leech open for speed….” provide the necessary feedback to then see if adjustments are working or need to be tweaked.
CREW (Rail Meat!) – Hiking is only part of the fun for those on the rail. Joking aside, eyes outside the boat scanning the race course and providing relative feedback of wind direction (relative to other boats) and wind strength (darker water or boats more that have more pressure) is vital info for the tactician to make any adjustments to the plan, trimmers to make sail adjustments to keep the boat going fast, and the driver to ensure that he keeps the boat pointed in the right direction and not stalling. Dedicating one person to relay info, but having everyone tell that point person what they see is a good way to keep everyone engaged and eyes out of the boat.
When it comes to maneuvers, mapping out what you are going to do early and often is best for everyone. Nothing will cost you more points and time than trying to execute a maneuver without proper game planning. Sometimes you have to improvise, but most times talking through start strategy, sets/douses and any turns goes a long way in passing boats.