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How to Race Your Cruiser: The Crew

September 27, 2016

In part one, we discussed how to optimize your cruising boat for racing. Once that's set, you'll need to find a crew. Here are some tips and ideas to load your boat and start down the road to the podium.

Your boat is set and you're ready to hit the local performance cruising circuit; however, unless you have a very large family, chances are you will need to source some crew to help you get around the course in a safe and timely manner. Below are some tips and tricks to help you find the right team.

Other boat owners

Boat owners are the most all-purpose sailors and usually need the least training. They might not have made the jump yet to performance cruising, but that doesn't mean they don't have a competitive edge. You can meet them down on the dock or in the yacht club at the end of the day. 

The local yacht club

Depending on your location, evening beer can races at your local yacht club are a great way to meet and find with new crew in a low-pressure situation. Beer can racers are usually the die-hard sailing junkies that just can’t get enough, or newbies looking for boats to crew on. Look for the guy or gal wandering around on the dock with a PFD or ask around and plant the seed that you’re looking for crew, somebody always knows someone looking for a team.  Also, don’t forget yacht club bar tenders are a wealth of knowledge and know a lot about what’s going on and who’s looking for a ride.

Your local junior sailing program

That skinny 16-year-old may not know which way to put a line around a winch, but years of sailing small, responsive boats make them quick studies of sail trim, weight movement, timing, and tactics. And—they’re stronger than they look! A portion of your yacht club dues often goes to support the junior sailing team, so get your money’s worth and put some of these upcoming rock stars on your team!

Social media

Start a team page for your boat on Facebook—you’ll build crew morale while also attracting interested sailors. You might be able to drum up an extra set of hands with a last-minute post before a regatta or if you end up short handed.

Build a training program

If you're the patient type and are willing to accept ending up at the bottom of the fleet for a while, think about creating a training program on your boat. There are a number of significant others left at the yacht club during races, not to mention people in the community who would love to learn to sail. These folks might not have the skill, but they often have a great deal of dedication and enthusiasm for the sport. You'll want to make sure you're not the only one who knows how to sail and be ready for lots of mistakes, but also lots of fun. Get the group together for a few practices before racing and make sure everyone feels comfortable.

Your local loft

Call your local loft and see if they know anyone. Some lofts even have lists or crew programs and can help short-handed boats and boat-less crew find each other. The earlier you call in the season the better, that way you get first pick, not to mention, they will have your name and can give you a call if new crew comes looking for a ride.

Once you find them, train them and take care of them 

In addition to helping you find crew, your local loft is great for training, too. Call them and schedule a coaching session for your new team. The expert can help with how to sail the different positions and how to work together. This is especially helpful if you have a greener crew or folks who have never sailed together before.

Don't forget to make sure you let your crew know how much you appreciate them. Schedule team dinners and/or workouts in the off-season to keep in touch even when you’re not sailing every week. If your crew is having fun they will be your best recruiting resource to help you build your team and chances are they know more than a few good sailors that will increase your sailing network. You can reference this piece on keeping your crew happy and loyal.

You don’t necessarily need to find the sailors with the longest resumes; it’s more important to find people that you enjoy spending time with, and who enjoy your company too. Now get out there and go sailing! 

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