By Airwaves Writer Mike Ingham
I am coaching in Japan right now and today’s discussion centered on roles at the start. It seems every team agrees with most of the roles, but there is also a surprising amount of gray area and overlap of who does what and even more inconsistencies on how people communicate. The following is how we do it with 5 people, then at the end we discuss how that changes with boats with different #’s of people.
Making a race plan (strategy)
- Tactician takes the lead
- But everyone can have a say
- Open discussion based on forecasts, local knowledge, observations
- There should be an in depth discussion just before the warning signal, but more casual conversations should lead up to that, such as on the way to the race course and during the pr-race routine
- But once the warning signal sounds, there should be almost no discussion, with defined roles and concise communication.
- Discussion with driver on area of line to start
- Help driver pick a hole for that final approach
- Pre final approach, help driver with roughly how long it will take to get to start line, and “time to kill”. For example, if there are 2 minutes left and it will take about 1 minute to get back to the line, then there is 1 minute to kill
- Pre final approach, help driver with laylines to the committee boat, pin, and where plan to start
- Once on final approach (usually between 30 sec and 1 min depending on the boat/ fleet), should say little as long things are going well
- During final approach, aggressively jumps in if something changes or things are off track. For example, if there is a big shift or lull and there is a need to change strategy, way early/ late, very exposed/ hidden. The tactician needs to be able to override if something is not going to plan.
- Before final approach, verbally calls traffic
- Before final approach communicates distance from line (as if on starboard close hauled) with fingers
- On final approach is totally focused on distance to the line and the speed of approach
- Distance is defined by boat lengths to the line close hauled on starboard (independent how far it is perpendicular to the line or on port)
- I like distance communicated by fingers. Each finger represents a boat length. A closed fist indicates 0 boat lengths
- Additional hand signals controls the speed of the approach. The bow person calls for slowing the approach by palms down and speeding the approach by waving forward. Communicate drastic moves like bow down by pointing to leeward or stopping with an open palm straight back.
- I don’t like verbal signals. They are too easy to get lost when the driver is talking with someone else, or if there is too much wind and luffing noise
- This is perhaps the most critical role on the boat for the start. Good command of knowing where the line is along with concise hand signals can easily make or break a start
- Simply call time every 10 seconds from warning until 30 seconds and then every 5 seconds after that
- Should not be involved or say anything else
- Speak loud and clear so both bow and driver can hear
- Before final approach, helps bow person call traffic
- Trimmer listens to driver on speed (“luff”,”1/4 speed”, “1/2 speed”, “3/4 speed”, “full speed”)
- On final approach, looks behind for boats taking hole. Looks behind and to windward for those boats reaching down the line below looking to swoop in. Looks behind and to leeward for those port tackers
- Communication from the trimmer is limited to talk about the boats from behind. The trimmer may have to get the driver’s attention with a tap on the shoulder because the driver is likely focused on the bow person and the immediate boats around
- Takes input from everyone and translates it to action. In the end, the driver controls the start
- Before final approach, talking to tactician about where to start and setting up for the final approach (when and where to make the final tack)
- Before final approach, taking input from bow and trimmer on traffic and avoiding collisions
- On final approach looking at input from the bow
- Listening to trimmer for people trying to steal hole
- Listening for tactician input when tactician chimes in because things are not going to plan
- Looking at boats around to make sure not too poked or too far behind
- Taking everything in to decide how fast to go and when to “pull the trigger”
- Communicate to trimmer on speed
- Filters out all other distractions to stay focused on what is important at that time
# of Team Members
- With 5, the roles are bow, timer, tactician, trimmer and driver as described above
- With 6 or more, only the 5 above should be in the commun ication path. Everyone else should stay quiet
- If there are instruments helping call the line, the tactician should assist the bow with time/ distance to the line or if there are more than 5 members, assign it to someone
- With 4 the tactician doubles as the timekeeper
- With 3 the tactician, timekeeper and trimmer roles are combined
- With 2 the tactician, timekeeper, trimmer and bow are combined, but the driver is in charge of looking behind for boats sneaking in
- 1 person of course does everything, but communication is no longer a probl
I find that there is so much going on that there needs to be minimum chatter. To keep talk down, everyone needs to stick to roles and only talk about what is import at the time. If it is important enough to say, it should be said clear and loud. Hand signals should be concise and where they can be easily seen. I find I soon recognize who’s voice is talking getting me on task right away, and I recognize the level of urgency in their tone or hand motions. An efficient team is a team gets used to their own roles, the other teammates roles, and how to communicate that information without overwhelming everyone with details.
Go get ’em!