- The Class
- Design Info
Leading an Elliott 7 Crew
by Neil Primrose
An E7 owner needs leadership and management skills of a reasonably high order. These don’t just “happen”. They have to be learned somehow.
They may be adapted from the owner’s professional life; otherwise they will have to be acquired n order to campaign the boat. If they have to be acquired for this purpose, they will likely also be of benefit in the owner’s professional and/or personal life.
Sailing with a crew of four or five requires quite different management and leadership skills than the usual dinghy configuration of two people, or the usual trailable configuration of two or three. This is a team combination, as distinct from a close personal partnership. The group dynamics of a five person team need to be studied and understood.
The team needs to be carefully developed and constantly supported.
The following comments are designed to provoke further thinking and study. They’re not the complete answer to crewing an E7. Most owners probably do many of the things suggested below already without thinking too much about them. However, the quality of team work and enjoyment could possibly do it better if they thought more explicitly about the management techniques that should be employed on their boat.
Putting a crew of five people together to sail for a season requires planning and persistence.
The obvious start point is family and friends. This can be very rewarding. However, at some stage the owner will need to go beyond people who are personally close. This requires making contacts and actively seeking knowledge of who may be looking for a sail and who is available.
It pays to get to know your club‘s office bearers, especially the Secretary who will usually be the person who knows most about who is around and looking for a sail, or who may be moving into the area and intending to join the club. If your club has a sailing school, establish a relationship with the instructors and offer to take the graduates out sailing a few times, especially in a twilight event. This allows you to assess who you may want to invite to join your crew and allows you to develop a reputation for welcoming people into the sport.
As you become known as a “skipper of choice”, people will start to seek you out.
Becoming a “skipper of choice” is particularly important in attracting the increasing number of capable women who are taking up the sport of sailing.
For a crew of five people on the boat, you’ll need to have one or more reserves for those occasions when the regular crew can’t make it. And, given that people come and go from the sport, this means recruitment is an on-going business.
Be careful that being a part of your team isn’t a burden to people in your team – they need to feel able to come and go when they have other commitments.
Everyone is important
Sailing is our game. Although some people get far more serious about it than others, for happy club-level sailing people need to enjoy it. And it’s voluntary. We do it because we have fun. If you don’t provide an enjoyable and rewarding experience, people will go elsewhere.
Central to people enjoying their sailing with you is for them to feel valued and their skills used to achieve best performance. Mutual respect and liking are essential.
If someone is damaging the good spirit of the team, or of individual members of the team, they need to be counselled by the owner. If that isn’t effective, they may have to be “moved on”.
Everyone’s skills are different – as are peoples’ level of commitment. Most people want to contribute in some way to the common effort. Few enjoy being dictated to and treated as if they have no ideas to contribute. This means the owner needs to be perceptive about what input the people in the crew want to make to how the team operates and to give constant attention to giving them opportunity to contribute.
The contributions that members of the team can make will vary from ideas shared over a drink about how to support one another better or do things more quickly / efficiently, to providing information about wind, waves or what other boats are doing on the race course. All contributions should be encouraged, but there also needs to be understandings developed about the appropriate times and places for that information.
Different leadership styles
Leadership styles on a boat vary constantly from servant leadership to extremely directive, depending on the circumstances. The skipper and the crew need to have talked about this well before the warning signal for the race.
People want to spend their leisure time in a well organised and a carefully structured environment.
Individual preferences vary enormously, but every leader needs to be wise enough to apply the right style at the right time. Likewise, there is a skill of “followership” that needs to be built up among the crew to know what style is appropriate to different situations and how to respond to it. For further information see the section “Leadership Styles” at www.primrosesolutions.com.au.
Agreeing the work flow
Most people want a well organised work place and an effective structure to work within. Few people enjoy chaos. Even fewer want to waste time in confusion.
A relaxed and effective crew combination requires a lot of thought about how four or five people can work effectively in the relatively confined space of an E7 without falling over one another and getting frustrated. This needs input from all the crew. It’s then important to write it down. This makes it easy to teach to newcomers and is also the basis for continuing to improve it with experience.
The work flow used on Huntress for setting, gybing and dropping spinnakers is attached at the end of this article to give an idea of what should be a normal part of team management.
The race is not a good place for learning. With all its focus on doing well and the stress of achieving, this is not the right place for pulling a manoeuvre apart into its component elements and experimenting with different ways of how to do it. Nor is it a sufficiently relaxing environment to try new ideas.
Owners who understand the importance of their crews feeling confident and fulfilled know that time for training is critical to people enjoying their sport. “Mucking about in boats” can be very enjoyable, as well as a good place to learn.
Most people get a kick out of improving. So leading a team includes setting goals and intermediate improvement points that people can feel good about.
The owner needs to be careful to set small increments for improvement on a week by week basis, so every member of the team can see progress. Race results will be the primary measure, but be careful to emphasise long term improvement, not impatient about the results of any one event.
The bad things are easier to believe than the good things. Ten good things get lost in the consideration of one bad thing. So, in a context where we are constantly evaluating what needs to be improved, we need to keep a clear overall perspective of the progress of that improvement. Celebrate it.
We’re not generally good at celebrating people’s successes. A good leader gives careful thought to including celebration in with the teaching and encouragement to continuous improvement.
Where to from here ?
There is a huge industry teaching management and leadership. Some clubs run courses in management and leadership of crews. Beyond the club scene there are training organisations like the Australian Institute of Management which runs courses ranging from the most basic management techniques to advanced leadership. The various TAFE Colleges also run relevant training courses. Use the internet to work our which is the best way to develop your management and leadership skills.
Setting, gybing and dropping the kite on a 3/4 run
FH = Forrard Hand
Sequence for standard leeward set/drop.
Problems/Issues to be resolved
50 metres before the windward mark
Rounding the mark – early part
Rounding the mark – latter stage
Settling down on the new course
When setting shy, use same procedure, except that:
Problems/Issues to be resolved
At the gybe
Problems to be resolved
Coming into the leeward mark
Turning around the mark
After the rounding
When dropping on a shy reach, same procedure applies, except that:
Version – 01 February 2012
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