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On Crew Communications


Part of achieving success on the race course involves crew functioning to maximum effectiveness at critical moments during the race. That usually gets accomplished through meaningful communication of what is to happen when, and by whom. Now that sounds pretty stupidly straight-forward, if you ask me, but you’d be surprised how often results are negatively influenced, or worse, someone is hurt, because crew weren’t effectively communicating. The Deck Ape has, on occasion, been known to inadvertently try to hack-off perfectly innocent fellow-crew digits and limbs by less-than-thoughtful application of his superior strength and inferior brain; the road to the orthopod’s office is paved with good intentions gone wrong. Turning your intentions into useful crew work requires communication. Turning your communication into your boat’s success requires that all aboard attend to how race communication will occur. As the Wicked Witch said to Dorothy in Oz "..its how you do it" that counts, right? And having your ideas exchanged, sifted, revised, frequently rejected, and maybe only occasionally implemented goes a long way to making you and the other crew better competitors.

Consider the timing of what actions are needed, and when: are you talking through the stages of the next maneuver with more senior crew aboard well ahead of time? are you "roving" your position with a view to ensuring that everything is ready for the next unexpected tack? are you seeking the advice and the underlying "why" of what is taking place at appropriate moments in order to enhance the next leg, the next race, the next campaign? are you attending only your own responsibilities without awareness of the adjacent crew? Or are you actively seeking the input of everyone around you?

Be certain that you are taking maximum insight from each tactical scenario that arises on-board. Be certain you are bringing forward potential problems early enough, and at the right level, to have an impact before an IMPACT occurs. Get to know well how your shipmates like to have their information packaged, especially the Alpha-types sitting astern; remember, you are the future of the boat’s success, too, and a future Alpha-type in the making, eh? Even though your own credibility is a work in progress, everybody on that boat has had a turn at knowing next to nothing. Its been observed that effective boats are constantly active in sifting the "possible", that effective crew are non-stop abuzz with stream-of-consciousness musings about what’s going on. The tough job belongs to the Alpha-types at the back of the bus, making sense of it all, but good skippers seem to keep half an ear open to musings of the merely Beta…

As you work your way through each outing, list the events that had significance on the course that day: what did your competitors do in response to your boat’s maneuvers? what were you forced to consider as their opportunities and tactical decisions paid-off, and how was the communication effected on-board. Do you "debrief" after each race in order to enhance the level of communication that will be available to your crew next time out?

The creative process is part of manufacturing victory on the course. The creative exchange of information on-board is surely as much a part of that process as good tactics, solid boat preparation, or favorable conditions. You want to develop your on-board vocabulary particularly for each crew and boat situation you enjoy. Each boat and crew develop their own unique mannerisms, spoken, and body language to reflect what’s going on. You are building toward maximum effectiveness as a crew because you have spent the time essential to sifting, exchanging , and acting upon all the potential on-board the boat. The accomplishment is larger for the fact that its shared, and that’s what being crew is about; its being a part of something larger than you can create on your own…

The Deck Ape
Last month's column, Racing - Day One
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