Like starting a new job, heading out for your first sail on a new yacht can be a bit daunting.
As well as all of the new people and new names to learn, every yacht has its own culture, procedures and set-ups, that may be different from anything you have encountered previously. Even if you’re a seasoned sailor, you should expect to encounter something new when sailing on a yacht for the first time.
Here are a few tips to help you fit right in when joining a new yacht:
1. Get a briefing before race day
To set yourself up for success, try and find out what to expect before you head down to the yacht on race day.
Most skippers will be more than happy to have a quick call to explain what you should bring and what to expect. You can also ask what position they plan to get you to do so you can have the appropriate gear and prepare yourself for that role. They may even have a yacht diagram detailing where everything is kept, or a position play book they can provide to help you prepare.
Check out the race organiser’s website to grab a copy of the SI’s (sailing instructions). These will help you understand the start sequence, race format and any special regulations for the race.
Arriving on race day with the right gear and feeling confident in what’s happening with the race means one less thing to think about on the day.
2. Arrive early
If it’s your first time on a new yacht, it’s a good idea to get down a bit earlier than you normally would.
This will give you more time to get yourself race-ready, meet the crew, and if you can, start to acquaint yourself with the yacht. You will also make a great first impression by arriving a bit early and being prepared to start with pre-race set-up right on time.
3. Ask questions
Pre-race set-up is the best time to familiarise yourself with how the yacht is set-up. This includes a general understanding of the entire yacht, as well as thorough view of your area.
If there’s anything you’re not familiar with, use this time to ask questions of the regular crew, to make sure you know where things are and how everything works. It’s much better to make sure you’re familiar with everything before the race starts, rather than trying to learn how to attach those weird jib shackles you’ve never seen before during an emergency jib change!
4. Get a briefing on procedures and your role before the start
Most skippers will provide a pre-race briefing as you’re heading out to the start, with crew roles and any specific instructions for the day.
Pay attention to this. It’s a great way to bring together everything you’ve already learned in the previous three steps, and to understand the plan and objectives for the race.
It’s also another opportunity to learn the names of your fellow crew members. If it’s a large crew it may be hard to remember everyone, but make sure you at least remember the names of the crew you’ll need to communicate with in your role.
5. Be open minded
Although the basic principles of sailing are always the same, yachts all have their own rules and procedures on how they operate during a race.
When sailing on a new yacht, you need to be open to learning and adapting to new ways of doing things. On the plus side, sailing on a new yacht is a great way to learn new things.
You may have also suggestions on how the team can improve their race procedures. During a race is usually not a good time to raise these, but if you do have suggestions you think would help, they would likely be very welcome during the post-race de-brief or chat with the skipper at the end of the day.
By following these tips, hopefully you will have an amazing experience every time you step on a new yacht.
However, if you don’t, take some time to think about why that was. Just like a job, not every yacht or sailing program will be a good fit for you. If you think you just had a bad day, or it was a bit stressful because everything was new, you may want to give it another try. Or, maybe the yacht or team is just not the right fit for you. That’s ok; just thank the skipper and crew for inviting you along, and you can all head off on amiable terms.
There are lots of opportunities to get involved in sailing, in lots of different fashions, so just keep getting out there and find your perfect crew position.
As always, happy sailing 🙂