How To Keep Your Offshore Crew Alert At Night

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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 into the rhythm 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 from drifting off into other subjects which will move the team’s concentration away from the purpose of being on the racecourse.
  • 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 boat’s performance by keeping notes on your main competitor’s 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 until they are fully acclimatised to the setup and conditions.

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