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Communicate Clearly

For the first decade of my adult life, I sailed a two-man trapeze boat (the Laser 2 – remember that?), but then children came along and I stopped sailing for about 15 years. I returned in a single-hander as the easiest option.

About 15 years later the possibility of sailing a two-man trapeze boat came up with a member of my Club who owned and crewed a Fireball. It was my first time in a Fireball and rather a long time since I had to worry about another person in the boat. Lack of communication on my part was an issue but, fortunately, at the same time, we were working on Saskia Clark’s excellent Crewing To Win. I found that invaluable and realised it wasn’t a book about crewing, it was a book about sailing two-man boats – equally applicable to helm and crew.

I found it useful but obviously my crew (and skipper) felt something more was needed. During the first lockdown, I had arranged for Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to give a Zoom talk to our sailing club. In the Q&A at the end, my crew asked Robin what he thought was the single most important thing when sailing with other people. Without hesitation Robin answered “communication”.

The subject came up again after a very windy pursuit race. A father and daughter were sailing their RS400 very impressively. They rounded a windward mark and bore away onto a reach. The crew positioned herself to hoist the kite and her father said “up”. So up the kite went just as they were hit by an enormous gust and capsized.

It transpired afterwards that “up” was a request for her to join him on the side deck and keep the boat upright in the approaching gust. We discussed the alternative calls. “Weight” might be confused with “wait” and would have probably also resulted in a capsize in this instance. So we settled on “lard”, although the young lady in question didn’t find it very flattering.


For more information about communication in a two-man dinghy, check out Saskia Clarks’ Crewing to Win.