Crew Loyalty

Loyalty among the crew is prized above all say many boat owners, but loyalty among crew doesn’t come without a little effort on the part of the poor old boat owner again. Even a beginning sailor has plenty of opportunity to boat hop if they’re not having fun. Here are 5 simple ways to keep your crew happy on and off the water:

1. Keep them fed and watered: Of all the expenses an owner can incur with boat ownership, skimping on lunch is not the place to save a dime. Bring enough food to the boat to keep them (and yourself) going all day, including quick snacks like cookies, nuts, or chips. You don’t have to spend hundreds per regatta on gourmet sandwiches either—talk to your crew to find out what they like and keep it simple. Whether or not you carry beer on the boat is your prerogative, but at the end of the day, a cold beer or shouting a jug at the bar goes a long way to letting your crew know you appreciate their hard work.

2. Order team gear: Nothing says team like a uniform! Custom crew gear that looks sharp and clearly identifies a crew to a boat is a great way to build pride. And a proud crew is a crew that will prioritize going sailing with you. The best part is, you don’t even have to pay for it all. If you have a smaller budget, offer your crew caps, and let them know that technical shirts are also available—don’t be surprised if they all want to order one, even if they have to pay for it themselves.

3. Don’t micromanage: We all make mistakes, but nobody likes to feel like they’re under a microscope all the time. One of the most common complaints made among the crew about their boat owner and helmsman is, “He’s a great driver, if only he’d focus on that.” If your crew is new and needs some extra training, schedule a practice session. Once you’re out on the race course, let your crew do their jobs. If mistakes are made, address them constructively between races or back at the dock in a de-brief session, preferably with a round of beer.

4. Draw from your crew’s talents: Weekend sailing crews come from all walks of life and bring all kinds of experience to your boat. Talk to your crew and find out what they’re good at! Do you have a graphic designer in your midst? Ask them to design a new team t-shirt! Maybe your bowman is particularly good at splicing lines, or you’ve got a trimmer who spends their weekdays working as a nutritionist. Getting your crew more involved in boat management and maintenance off the water, gives them a greater stake in the success of the boat on the water.

5. Organise onshore events: The onshore social element is a huge part of why many sailors join racing and regatta boats. Taking your crew out for a team dinner at the end of a big regatta is a great way to say thanks. Season end prize givings, book a table supports the club and motivates the crew. These all help your crew get to know each other better, which often leads to less chatter on the rail and more focus on the race!

Hey crews! This isn’t a one-way street! There are a lot things you can do to let your boat owner know you appreciate the opportunity to go sailing and show them you’re an invaluable member of the team. Doing a boat delivery, bringing homemade cookies to a regatta, or offering to provide the sandwiches or beer for a race is always appreciated. And at the end of the season when your skipper takes you out for a nice dinner? Make sure you’ve organised a nice year-end gift in return.

At the end of the day, racing together is a huge commitment for the owner, crew, and their family and friends. Making everyone feel like a valued member of the team goes a long way to creating a successful program.

– David Burt

David heads up our YOTI Race division.