Get Ready for the Bell’s Beer Bayview to Mackinac-Watch Systems

By Wally Cross

Setting up a Watch System

We all tend to feel sleep is over rated and usually it is, but in a Mackinac race the well-rested teams sail the best near the finish. I highly recommend teams set up a watch system and begin using it four hours after the start of the race. Here are few ways to structure your system:

  • Buddy System-Pair off each crew member with another to make sure each are responsible for the other in bad weather. You can also have each pair agree to set up their own rest system separate from the rest of the crew (only in a short race).
  • Moving Two-Two crew changing every two hours. Based on size of team, have two, new crew come up each hour–or every other hour–to enable the entire team to sail together throughout the race.
  • Four On – Four Off-This is the system I use in a longer race. Split the crew into two teams and sail for four hours on and rest for four. If the race is only a day, I prefer changing it a bit to sail for four and rest for three.

Regardless of your approach, make sure it is systematic and consistent; do not allow it to break down. Also during the sailing time, make sure everyone sailing changes his or her role hourly. The helmsman should not steer, or crew members trim, for more than an hour at a stretch. Keep all the roles fresh and the boat will be sailed to its potential.

By this time, your to-do list should be getting shorter. With entry details and boat prep squared away, now is a good time—if you haven’t already—to schedule a meeting with your crew to talk about your approach to racing that will include:

  • Information (Internet, clouds, competition, crew)
  • Sail selection and trim
  • Safety gear and location
  • Sailing rotation
  • Rest rotation
  • Night sailing (light up sails and trim stripes)
  • Progress relative to competitors

Next time, I will cover decision-making and describe how to race based on real-time weather on the course.

Quantum’s Wally Cross is a 45-year veteran of the Bayview Mac Race. Over the coming weeks, Cross will provide information and tips to help teams prepare for a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Wally is available for in-person or phone consultations with interested boat owners. To review your program or for more information, contact Wally at or 586-776-1330.

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