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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

How To Keep Your Offshore Crew Alert At Night

With the end of the year offshore race season almost upon us, (in the Southern Hemisphere anyway) I have set out below a few tips for crews.

Keeping the whole team alert at night can be tough especially on the first night of a long race when our internal body clocks have not gotten in to the rhythym of a watch system.

  • Before the race starts, make sure that you get at least two good nights sleep.
  • Have a couple of designated crew members who can operate the stove and make coffee or hot drinks for the change of watch or mid watch when attention can tend to sag.
  • Make night watches shorter than day watches.
  • Watches that are rotation style seem to work best, where only one or a small number of crew switch each time rather than a 50% crew changeover. 
  • Encourage communication amongst the on watch team as this ensures everyone keeps their head in the game and as a bonus, this helps prevent drowsiness.
  • Involve the on-watch team in tactical and trim discussion to stop talk drifting off into other subjects which will move the teams concentration away from the purpose of being on the race course.
  • If you are doing a job such as helming and you feel as though you are losing your edge, don’t be a hero, change positions with someone else, even if only for a short time to get refreshed.
  • Monitor your boats performance by keeping notes on your main competitors whereabouts, noting gains and losses and the reasons that these changes have happened.
  • When there is a change of watch, this is often the time when performance slips. Fully brief the oncoming crew about tactical and speed related issues before or as they come on deck
  • Have one or two crew stay with the new watch they are fully acclimatised to the setup and conditions.

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By Brett Bowden

Brett Bowden is an author, entrepreneur, business broker, and yachtsman. Brett is a competitive yachtsman and has competed in many races and championships around the world and still owns several boats.
Brett Bowden is the author of “Sailing To Win” and lives in Victoria, Australia.

One reply on “How To Keep Your Offshore Crew Alert At Night”

G’day Brett, enjoy reading your blogs.
A little story re-night sailing/racing.
Sailing the Portland race many years ago, came up on deck at midnight
“ always enjoyed the midnight to 4am watch, usually a peaceful quiet time and watching the fluorescent in water coming off bow wave”
Back to story, at the change over, it was a pitch black night and we on Port tack heading into the shore line around Port Campbell, I ask the owner/skipper who was now going off watch when should we go about?
His reply, and it still sends chills up my spine- go about when you hear the seagulls.

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