System Sailing 1.2 - The Crew

April 24, 2020

Everything about sailing can be viewed with numbers. All the numbers we discuss in System Sailing are filed in the left side of the brain. Once this data is applied and we use the right side of the brain, the learning process is completed. The goal with System Sailing is to improve your system with every race.

However, before you can put the sailing-with-numbers approach to work on the water, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation. The first three parts will help you take an organized and systematic approach to your boat, team, plans, and goals. With a solid foundation, your performance and experience on the water will be an accurate reflection of your skills and growth. It’s truly the key to success and enjoyment on the water.

Use the playbook, the video, and the below deep dive to create a plan for your foundation that works for your program and goals. And never hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. Also, don't miss out on our interviews with different programs about how the handle their teams and crews.


Now it’s time to talk about the people that make it all happen – the crew! No matter how many people are onboard, who is onboard, or what kind of sailing you’re doing, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a fun and stress-free sail. One big way to ensure your success is through clear communication.

Crew Job Descriptions

The first step is to define crew roles on the boat and create job descriptions outlining each position’s responsibilities. This is critical so everyone knows what is expected of them during boat set-up, docking, maneuvers, etc. Even if your job is just to make the drinks and snacks, communicating your role leads to smooth sailing. It can also be especially helpful to define roles for any newcomers on the boat so they are able to fit into your system and learn something new!

In the System Sailing Playbook, we’ve provided you with a section to document the different roles on your boat and tailor it to your own needs. 


Often times, maneuvers can be higher-stress because they need to be executed right on the first try. Making sure the whole crew knows what their job is when you go into a maneuver will help ease the tension and lead to greater success. 

Here are some maneuvers we suggest you think through and document your process for:

  • Anchoring 
  • Depowering
  • Docking
  • Jibing
  • Mark Roundings
  • OCS
  • Penalty Turns
  • Rigging and de-rigging
  • Spinnaker sets and douses
  • Starts 
  • Tacking

Choosing Your Crew

Attitude and talent are both important when selecting crew, but ultimately, you should choose a group of people who work well together on the boat. Communication between crew members is just as important as their skill level. Other important attributes to a good crew are commitment and dedication. Having a person who shows they want to be a part of your crew based on their attitude and effort should never be discounted. In order to really enjoy your cruising trip or your regatta you need to create a crew that enjoys being together, works well together, and is willing to put in the time. Help foster open crew communication by holding regular crew meetings. Whether you take this time to go over the roles and responsibilities, maneuvers, or just debrief your day on the water, crew meetings give everyone an opportunity to voice questions, comments, or concerns. 

For racers, I like to use a method of crew communication onboard called the “Circle”. It is a constant stream of information amongst the crew using three core types of data, speed and performance, observational course data, and mechanical issues. Here is an example conversation you might hear during a race using the “Circle” method:

Tactician: “We are up 10 degrees, lets sail 2 tenths over target speed.” 
Main Trimmer: “Backstay at setting 6, vang to blue marker, sheet on to green marker.” 
Jib Trimmer: “Inhaul off 1, sheet at setting 3 and halyard at setting 5.” 
Helm: “Steering lower, telltales even.”
Rail: “Same height, faster (referencing angle and speed to boats around you). Breeze increase in 3,2,1. Flatter water in 3,2,1. Boats on the right are bow down.” 
Tactician: “We are up 10 degrees but should come back left soon.”  
Pit: “If the wind stays right we need to think about jibing right away or a jibe-set.” 

If you're interested in learning more, please contact Wally Cross.

Mike Fisher

This interview is with the legendary Mike Fisher from Leland, Michigan. I have known Mike for fifty years and he has always sailed a high-profile boat. In the mid-seventies and eighties, he competed on a global level that few people in our area could only dream of doing. He is seasoned and knows what he likes in a team. He is thankful for meeting and enjoying so many people over his sixty plus years of sailing.

George Golder

It was my pleasure to interview George Golder about sailing on his new J/111.  He clearly has a passion for sailing and has purchased a high-performance boat to race locally in Northern Michigan, with a big goal to sail the Ugotta Regatta in Harbor Springs this summer.  His challenge is assembling a team that has the talent and attitude to compete at a high level and ultimately enjoy sailing together and become good friends throughout the season. Based on his determination it sounds like George is going to have a great season of sailing!

Kimberli Binschatel

In this interview I speak with Kimberli Bindschatel. Kimberli and her husband cruise a Hunter 40 and have many systems to make sure their sailing is enjoyable. I was impressed not only with her skills in docking the boat but the systems they have for safety and making new people feel comfortable when sailing on their boat. The most impressive system they have is how the two know when to let the other take control without having the typical marital spats. They both love sailing for what the sport offers and will continue to cruise for many years.

 Watch our full collection on Youtube

The Discussion