Steps To Building A Loyal Crew
Steps To Building A Loyal Crew
Major professional sports teams have the luxury of a healthy payroll and a director of player personnel to recruit, develop, and retain top athletes; and building a competitive team is still a significant challenge. Most sailors don't (or can't) race for the money, which makes the task of building and retaining a competitive amateur big-boat crew less expensive and much more challenging. Regardless, leading a team still comes down to careful planning and management.
I've learned through many different experiences, as well as from watching others, that this part of sailing takes considerable effort. The challenge is often underestimated. For this summer's racing season on the NYYC Swan 42 I co-own, I've been spending time almost every day working on our campaign. Like most of you, I don't have the luxury of an open checkbook to pay everyone on the boat, so an amateur-based program is the only viable option.
As I was putting my own pieces into place, I kept being reminded of the difficulty of scheduling crewmembers around work and family commitments. I was curious how other successful owners deal with these and other issues, so I asked a handful.
Chuck Bayer races his Beneteau 36.7, Grizzly, on the Great Lakes. His son, Chas, a recent collegiate sailor at Boston College, is heavily involved in the Grizzly program, and brings a youthful element (as well as his friends) to the team. One competitor described the Grizzly crew as a "good team with a competitive soul."
Bayer says he looks for compatible crew that will sail well together. "On windward-leeward courses, positions are specialized so athleticism and focus are requirements," he says. Bayer makes logistics easy for his crew for out-of-town regattas. "I generally pay for hotel rooms and wrist bands for the food at the regatta," he says. "I never pay for airfare."
He also provides good crew uniforms and gear with team logos. "Being part of a team and a band of closely knit friends is a reward in and of itself," he says.
Dennis and Sharon Case have been successful J/105 sailors in San Diego for many years. Dennis explained that, for he and Sharon, commitment is key. "I look for a crew who can commit for a season because I think it is important to work together as a team. My wife has been with me for 25 years, and two other sailors for more than 16 years."
Secondly, he says, he looks for desire and energy, "people who want to win and become the best sailors they can be." As for incentives, he says, his routine has evolved over the years. "In the early days we had the crew work on the boat. Sanding the bottom, and taking turns delivering the boat to out-of-town regattas. Now we rely more on paid yard help, and paid deliveries-we are getting older. We rent rooms for the crew and pick up dinners. Crew gear that clearly identifies them to our boat is important for pride and team building."
For Phil and Wendy Lotz, based in Newport, R.I., racing was a family affair in their J/105, but with the switch to a larger Club Swan 42, more crewmembers are required nowadays. When I asked what attributes he looked for in an amateur crew, he told me the individual must be competent. "A good crew attracts good crew," he says. They need to be enthusiastic and get along with the rest of the team, on and off the water.