Sailing around the world or even around the lake has inherent dangers. There is the possibility of falling off the boat, being hit in the head with the boom, jamming your feet on the toe jammers that decorate the deck, getting your fingers caught in a cleat. While no one goes to sea wishing for an accident, sailing like all sports must be approached with a bail out plan.

Taking on the challenge of skippering a 28 foot monohull in our local women's series is a job I take seriously. With safety as the number #1 concern, it seemed logical that every crew member would need to learn every job on the boat. Then, once familiar with all aspects of what makes a sailboat move and the tactics involved with starts, mark roundings, and choosing the right side of the course crewmembers could be assigned based on the best person for the job.

After a year and a half of racing with the same five crew the time for a rotation came. Looking back changing three positions at the same time may not have been the best decision. However, as a veteran educator I know that sooner or later people have to be given independent practice, without assistance to secure their knowledge and skill. Taking a chance that the crew would exceed my expectation, I was disappointed with our dismal finishes.

Our coach said what he could to make me feel like changing positions was a stupid decision. Another competitor and reigning club champion tried to put salt on my wounds when she proclaimed, "My crew doesn't want to make any changes." Processing that statement made me realize that while on her boat people prefer the autistic never change the routine approach to racing, I contend that until my crew are familiar with all aspects of racing we will never rise to the level I envision.

In retrospect only two positions should have been changed at one time. With that water under the bridge, I look forward our next race with a renewed spirit and with at least three crew who have achieved a level of proficiency that will get us around the race course in record time. What do you think? Do you want your crew to learn all that they can, or do you prefer to limit their expertise to just one job? I'm curious , , , let me know your thoughts.

Capt. Sass,

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Comment by Frank Balcer on February 11, 2010 at 11:00am
One thing i always do is wear shoes while im sailing. Nothing worse than to screw up a sailing trip is to start off with a broken toe..........
Comment by PCarrico on February 9, 2010 at 9:13pm
Marlene, I'm impressed that you have a coach, but I'm not impressed with your coach. The race you made the crew changes in was probably not a championship race. You did something that probably improved your crew in the long run. If you want a successful crew, that's exactly the thing you need to do.
Your crew probably have more appreciation for each other and their specialties, and if that was the least beneficial result of your experiment, then you've succeeded.
Comment by Marlene A. Sassaman on February 1, 2010 at 9:05pm
Melissa's response makes me want to cry. How I would love to get an on the water practice 4 - 5 days a week! With our crew we are fortunate to have one inside chalk/talk or one dockside drill each week with only some of the crew participating. We can sometimes get out on the water on a Saturday and a Sunday. Changing positions at the first race of a new season was the only way to start improving overall performance by learning how what one person does impacts another. We also have the challenge of not having the same crew members show up for our monthly races which reinforces the need for cross training. Every one of our crew is fortunate to be able to handle every single task. More importantly, our goal is to be sure everyone knows every job in case of an emergency. As the weather warms up and daylight lasts longer we will be able to increase our practice sessions.

Here's another question. How helpful do you think it is to have your big boat crew learn to sail a small boat such as a sunfish or other single handed boat?

Your feedback is appreciated. Where do you race and on what type of boat?
Comment by Melissa Renee on January 31, 2010 at 8:45pm
That is a tough question. I think it depends on each individual crew members abilities, attitude, learning skills and bringing it all together as a team. No one person makes a racing boat. It is a team effort, everyone doing the task at hand in concert. I personally won't change 3 positions during the race without tons of practice. By tons, at least 3 weeks out on the water, 4-5 days a week.
I think everyone should be familiar enough with all positions. In some respects be good at them all too. This sets up the team thinking ahead, knowing what each person is going to do when and how. It is that unspoken communication that can take a team to the next level.

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