Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Skippers and Crews

So Ericsson has announced its crew for the next offshore leg and their thinking is getting clearer. There's a new crewman Ross Halcrow - who sailed on illbruck with John Kostecki who says he's "one of the best trimmers I know". And he also knows about sails.

And that could be where Ericsson has been weak. Looking back at Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean race it was clear that at times - such as at the start - they were matching the likes of Pirates for boat speed. It was just later on that they fell back.

That suggests not a hull problem but a sail and trimming problem.

But there is something else. To keep trimming over thousands of miles requires motivation, something that is probably lacking on boats where winch handles are raised in anger. If I was Steve Hayles I'd have not just second but third thoughts about this leg.

For the one thing you can't do mid leg is get off. Mid ARC we were a thousand miles and a week's sail from anywhere, and stuck with our ship mates. The biggest factor in crew moral is the skipper that sets the informal rules of what is acceptable and what isn't.

We were lucky. For example one night when the spinnaker guy broke we were woken by the skipper's cry of "all hands on deck, please". The use of that last word is one reason I'd be happy to sail again with her and her sail company Blue Spirit Yachting.

Conversely a bully can demoralise the crew, splintering it into groups.

Kostecki better make it clear to Guillermo Altadill that winch handles are only acceptable for one purpose. Because Leg 5 is another long one, and you've got to concentrate on trimming not for days, but weeks.

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