2. Crew clothing
3. Boat set up
4. Practicing: a. by yourself or b. with skipper
5. Mental preparation: a. weather, b. race instructions, and c. sailing rules
Before we step on the boat, the two most important things you can do to improve yourself as a Starboat crew can be done off the water and away from the boat. As we all know, the Starboat can be a handful in a breeze. It requires us to use a lot of muscles. To prevent those muscles from being sore the next day, it is a good idea to have some sort of fitness program to exercise the muscles we use the most. I have found strong legs, abdominals and lower back are good places to start.
2. Crew Clothing
Being warm, and comfortable on the water is the other thing we can take care of before we show up and go sailing. Take the time to purchase your own hiking vest, wetsuit, drysuit, boots, sunglasses, gloves, watch, and sun cream. I know some of these things are very expensive. Properly taken care of, they can last over a long period of enjoyable sailing. Efficient clothing will also make it easier to get from one side of the boat to the other, thus improving your boat handling skills.
3. Boat Set-Up
It is still not time to go sailing yet. Setting up the front of the boat--so that it is consistent every time you go out to crew-- is extremely important. Some of the things that can change from boat to boat are: the location and length of your hiking strap adjustments, placement of jib sheet cleats, one
continuous jib sheet or two separate, 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 jib sheets, and crossed or uncrossed backstays. In the heat of battle, being able to make a move without wondering where something is located, can be the difference between rounding a mark in front or behind.
Another good exercise in becoming a better crew is to experience driving a boat yourself. The smaller the boat the better, i.e., sunfish or a laser. The smaller boat exaggerates the movement of the person sailing it. For better or for worse, you will see first hand which kinetic movement is fast and which is slow -- both upwind and downwind. Take this experience and apply it when you are on the Starboat. So often in a big breeze, the difference downwind is the legal kinetic activity of the crew.
As far as I can remember, I have been told, "practice makes perfect." Unfortunately, the Starboat is no different. Whether it is a weekend regatta, or a major championship, getting out and practicing is the key to becoming a good crew.
Practicing tacking and gybing requires time on the water with your skipper. It can be a weekend, a day before the regatta starts, or leaving the dock half an hour before the first race. Every little bit helps your coordination and teamwork.
5. Mental Preparation
The mental side of crewing is just as important as the physical. Being able to contribute to the decision making of a skipper could be one of the most valuable things a good crew can do. A good crew will have an understanding of weather and tide, know the race instructions, and have a good handle on the sailing rules.
I hope a few of these tips will improve your performance as a crew, and in turn, help you and your skipper win some races. The Starclass rewards its winning crews like no other. It is an honor I hope you achieve.
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