How to be a good skipper: ooze calm and confidence but don’t shout!

We become skippers by a number of different routes; many dinghy sailors will eventually become yacht owners after years of crewing on different yachts. Sea schools are well attended and boats are often keen to take on crew from schools, allowing students to gain experience and miles to help with qualification. There are also many people who come to sailing later in life; after buying a boat, these people tend to learn from the experience of sailing their own yacht. I think it is also fair to say that, along with the many ways of getting into sailing and becoming a skipper, good skippers will have different leadership styles – no two are the same. Over the years, having sailed with many different skippers, I have noticed a number of common traits in a good skipper. By melding together the points I like in a skipper this has hopefully made me a better skipper, both for when I was working commercially running yachts, and now aboard my own. I find that a skipper who is calm and confident goes a long way to maintaining a nice feel to a boat. Easily said, but it is a fine balance between confidence and arrogance; and being too laidback can give an impression of laziness, extending to preparations and maintenance. Staying calm and in control during a crisis rubs off on the whole crew and the boat becomes much quieter and under control. Don’t shout There is plenty of time for a please and thank you, along with an explanation of what needs doing and how it should be done. It also gives time to work on a solution to any problems and avoids panicked decisions. This is communication in a way that is effective and also pleasant. People dislike being shouted at (I certainly do); it inhibits crew doing their job as they are afraid of getting it wrong, so they wait until told to do something. This can be very frustrating for a skipper, particularly when racing and the pressure is on, which in turn leads to more shouting. Article continues below… I equate the amount of noise on board to be in inverse proportion to the sum of knowledge. I do find that being on a boat with a skipper who stands behind the wheel shouting at the crew is not much fun and, if asked back, will generally decline the invitation. There is something great about helming your own boat in a race, but if you are also trying to run all aspects of the boat from behind the helm you can get stressed. Then your helming declines as your concentration jumps from one task to another. It is much better to have a crew boss or mate who controls the running of the boat, managing manoeuvring instructions and allowing the skipper to concentrate on helming. The alternative is for the skipper to manage the running of the boat and have a different helmsman. Large racing boats will often … Continue reading How to be a good skipper: ooze calm and confidence but don’t shout!