Racing - Crewing A 707

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707 Teamwork

Crewing - Written by Tom Davidson of Doh!.

Here is my description of how we do the corners when it all goes to plan. Not everybody will do the same, as tactics and size, shape, experience and strengths of crews vary enormously. Nevertheless this is how we do it and hopefully at least some points will be of use to people. Here are the 5 roles I will use to describe how we run the boat:

  • Bow
  • Pit
  • (Spinnaker) Sheet
  • (Spinnaker) Guy
  • Helm

General boat setup points

  • We launch the spinnaker from the hatchway, with the bag open in it. I have sailed 707s who do the whole big boat thing of unclipping, packing and clipping back on, but the spinnaker is just not big enough to warrant having the crewweight in the wrong place, and risk clipping on wrongly.
  • We also launch from behind the shrouds rather than between the shrouds and mast. We find behind is better for the drops, with only one person (pit) required where we used to have the pit and the bow down on the leeward rail helping us broach.
  • Mast cleat; we have fitted the optional mast cleat for the spinnaker halyard, and find this makes a big difference. The hoist is quicker and the workload is better distributed.
  • We usually have two trimmers on the spinnaker for the manoeuvres, particularly in strong winds. If you have one novice and an expert, the expert should be on the sheet, and swap to the guy before the gybe, ready to rotate the spinnaker and be on the new sheet.

Other crew-work tips

Communication Try and always use unambiguous language, for example we use "weight" frequently, and try never to use "wait". Use "visual / positional" instructions where possible, often it's quicker to get something done if you say "above your head", rather than repeatedly yelling "cleat! cleat! cleat!". Descriptions like "the blue rope" work well assuming you have only 1 blue rope. Also try to say the persons name before speaking, especially if they are deaf / thinking about the previous evening.

Labels and Marks Seems obvious but label the controls, and mark your settings. A slick crew will usually be able to put their hand on the right rope, but sometimes in a crisis situation a few vital seconds are saved especially if someone is adjusting an unfamiliar rope. This is even more so with new crew. We have recently swapped the outhaul and reef lines, and haven't yet got round to renaming them…. Doh!

Jib halyard This is such a vital control for the beat, and much easier to get right at the end of the run than struggling with it halfway up the beat once you've realised how slowly you're going. Practise getting it right, and if you need to hoist the jib 5 seconds early to get it right do so.

Problems Always have a mobile trouble shooter. If you are sailing 5-up either the guy / sheet should be able to run up onto the foredeck, grab a flailing spinnaker, pop onto the keel etc. The other sheet / guy will pick up her/his tasks when they run off.

Pit Our pit stands with his feet inside the hatch. He finds this helps keep the cockpit less crowded. He does have long arms though so it might not work for you. If it's breezy and weight position is important we have to compromise on this one.

Bowman After every hoist look up, it only takes a second and you can see if it's totally up or you need to help with a twist. I learned while parachuting to always look up after you pull the cord - to be honest of course, even I'm not blasé enough not to look up and check my parachute!

Anyway that's our story - you may well do something completely different. In fact we probably do - when I first ran this document past the team, I received a hail of comments, some of which contradicted each other! What follows is a detailed break-down of how we do each major crewing maneouvre.

Spinnaker hoists

In our ideal world we've previously worked out which side of the run we want to go, how soon we want to gybe and which side we'll be hoisting, so of course the spinnaker is on the correct side.

Bear-away hoist

This is the most intuitive and common hoist. Here's the sequence:

1. The pole goes on before you get to the windward mark. Bow
2. Pre-feed the guy. Get the clew hauled round to the forestay as you arrive at the mark. Guy (from the rail)
3. Rounding the mark, whole crew helps the helm bear away by keeping weight up, easing the vang, and easing the jib, especially in a breeze. All
4. Once you've born away cleat the jib back in tight to keep out of the way of the spinnaker. Keep it off the winch so you can use that for the spinnaker sheets. Sheet
5. Release the tweaker on the sheet. Pit
6. Hoist - these three tasks happen simultaneously:
i. Hoist halyard, and cleats into the mast. If tall enough also try to keep the pole forward with his shoulder. Bow
ii. Throw, and I mean throw, the spinnaker out of the bag and round the shrouds - if the hoist is quick enough it won't get wet. Pit
iii. Haul back on the guy - this needs to be done quickly. Guy
7. With a touch of sheet the kite will be flying. Sheet
8. Look up to check the kite is fully up, and not twisted. Bow
9. Drop the jib - only drop it if the kite is clear of the forestay otherwise it will get stuck, or ripped on the hanks. The bow calls the jib halyard to be dropped. If it's breezy and weight aft and on the rail is a priority, the bow may not drop the jib immediately or at all. Wait for a lull. Bow and pit
10. Tidy up, pull falls of spinnaker halyard back through spinlock and take out of mast cleat. Pit

If you get a twist it may come out easier if the jib is down and some breeze is in the kite, but wait until the spinnaker is fully hoisted before dropping the jib. Sometimes if the twist is towards the top it helps to ease the spinnaker halyard a metre. The bow can do this at the mast. If it's still not coming out, the guy man goes up to help. Still there? Shield it behind the main and just drop it on the foredeck and sort it.

A slight variation on this hoist is the pole-gybe-hoist, where the spinnaker pole is set up on the leeward side, poking out between the jib and main, with the pole downhaul slack. 707s can do this because we don't have an overlapping genoa. At the windward mark, you gybe immediately and go into the regular bear away hoist sequence from then on. You can also use it if you need to tack too close to the mark to have time to get the pole on.

Gybe-set

This is essentially hoisting the spinnaker without a pole as you gybe at the windward mark, and then putting the pole on. It can be done with the spinnaker set up for hoisting on either side, with a slight change in timings.

Gybe set with spinnaker set up on leeward (before the gybe) hoist

1. No pole.  
2. Pre-feed the guy. Get the clew hauled towards the forestay as you arrive at the mark. Guy (from the rail)
3. Rounding the mark, whole crew helps the helm bear away by keeping weight up, easing the vang, and easing the jib. The helm should then steer pretty much downwind. All
4. Once you've born away cleat the jib back in tight to keep out of the way of the spinnaker. Keep it off the winch so you can use that for the spinnaker sheets. Sheet
5. Both tweakers half on. Pit
6. Hoist, start as you bear away if the wind is not too strong - these three tasks happen simultaneously:
i. Hoist halyard, and cleats into the mast. Bow
ii. Throw the spinnaker out of the bag and round the shrouds. Pit
iii. Haul back on the guy. Guy
7. As soon as enough of the kite is up and round the forestay (about 80%), gybe. Helm
8. ASAP, get up on side deck and "human pole" the new guy out. Pit
9. The kite is nicely flying at this point.  
10. At your leisure get the pole on. Bow
11. Drop the jib. Bow and pit
12. Tidy up, pull falls of spinnaker halyard back through spinlock and take out of mast cleat. Pit

Gybe set with spinnaker set up on windward (before the gybe) hoist

As you might suspect, you need to gybe before much of the spinnaker is hoisted for this variation.

1. No pole.  
2. If possible you should also prefeed the guy, only as far as just forward of the shrouds. Guy (from the rail)
3. Rounding the mark, whole crew helps the helm bear away by keeping weight up, easing the vang, and easing the jib. The helm should then steer pretty much downwind. All
4. Gybe straight away. Helm
5. Once you've born away cleat the jib back in tight to keep out of the way of the spinnaker. Keep it off the winch so you can use that for the spinnaker sheets. Sheet
6. Both tweakers half on. Pit
7. Hoist, this starts just before the gybe - and three tasks happen simultaneously:
i. Hoist halyard, and cleats into the mast. Bow
ii. Throw the spinnaker out of the bag and round the shrouds. Pit
iii. Haul back on the guy. Guy
8. ASAP, get up on side deck and "human pole" the new guy out. Pit
9. The kite is nicely flying at this point. All bathe in success
10. At your leisure get the pole on. Bow
11. Drop the jib. Bow and pit
12. Tidy up, pull falls of spinnaker halyard back through spinlock and take out of mast cleat. Pit

Windward hoist

This is a very messy slow hoist, and should be avoided if at all possible by dropping on the correct side, or doing a gybe set or "pole-gybe-hoist". Sometimes however circumstances change and we are stuck with the windward hoist so here are the steps:

1. No pole.  
2. Rounding the mark, help the helm bear away by keeping the weight up, easing the vang, and easing the jib. All
3. Pick up the spinnaker out of the bag and pass round the outside of the shrouds and pass to the bowman. Pit
4. Take the horrible bundle of flapping sail and ropes and hold it out in front of the forestay. Bow
5. The trimmers are at this time tending the sheet and guy to prevent the bowman tripping over them and overboard. Sheet & guy
6. Both tweakers half on. Sheet & guy
7. Hoist - three tasks happen simultaneously:
i. Hoist halyard through the spinlock. Pit
ii. Bowman lets spinnaker hoist out of his arms (and briefly human guys). Bow
iii. Trim the sheet and guy. Sheet & guy
8. ASAP, get up on side deck and "human pole" the new guy out. Pit
9. The kite is finally flying at this point.  .
10. At your leisure get the pole on. Bow
11. Drop the jib. Bow and pit
12. Tidy up, pull falls of spinnaker halyard back through spinlock and take out of mast cleat. Pit

 

Gybes

Being able to gybe quickly and efficiently is a crucial skill, to allow you to clear your air, take advantage of windshifts, and position yourself for the leeward mark. I won't go into roll gybes as we have never managed to master them in a 707, the nearest to success was when I fell over the edge and snapped the tiller extension. I think if we went out and practised 200 roll gybes then it would be faster than a normal gybe, but we haven't yet so I can't vouch for it.

Light and medium airs

The most important thing here is to keep the spinnaker flying, this keeps the power on, and saves the owners wallet. To do this you need to:

  1. Rotate the spinnaker
  2. Keep some breeze in it
  3. Trim it effectively.

If it collapses during the gybe, it is usually the helm, or the trimmers who are the culprits. The bowman should calmly recover the situation and then offer constructive advice back along the boat.

Rotating the spinnaker This means getting the spinnaker largely on the windward side of the forestay before the gybe. This prevents it blowing back round the wrong side of the forestay, and makes getting the pole back on the mast easier. To rotate the spinnaker we do some, or all, of the following:

  1. Bring the pole back, remembering to ease the sheet. This is particularly important on a reach-to-reach gybe.
  2. Roll the boat to windward, gravity will then help you bring the spinnaker round, and will also help turn the boat into the gybe. You may need to hold the boom out.
  3. Trip the pole off the mast early and the bowman can help the rotation. Ensure slack in the downhaul.

Keeping breeze in the spinnaker This is essentially the helm's job, and it's controlled by the speed and angle of turning the boat. You will be able to see quite easily if the helm has not turned far enough, as the spinnaker will collapse through lack of breeze (the whole thing collapses) as it is shielded by the main. If the helm has turned too far, the spinnaker will collapse on the new luff. If you turn too quickly or slowly the spinnaker will often collapse in one of these styles.

Trimming effectively This involves watching the spinnaker at all times through the gybe, and continuing the spinnaker rotation through the gybe. The new sheet should be slowly brought in watching the curl on the new luff, and the new guy released, enough for the pole to be got on the mast

The best way to practise this is to fly the spinnaker without the pole, and do some gybes. Without the bowman using the pole to make the gybe look good, you will soon see what is and isn't working.

Our sequence of events is thus:

1. Rotate spinnaker (pole back, roll boat to windward). Guy
2. Trip pole off mast - the best place for the bowman to stand is with his back to the mast on what will become the new windward side, and pass the pole in front of him. Give some slack in the pole downhaul. Bow & pit
3. Tweakers on both sides to half on (in an ideal world). Pit
4. Trip pole off old guy (very important as you will collapse the spinnaker if you leave this on while you grab for the new guy). Bow
5. Main over (this is in fact the only time the helm is allowed to shout at the rest of the team - "heads""). Helm
6. Grab new guy - clip onto pole. Bow
7. Pole onto mast - pit needs to man the pole downhaul, guy and sheet to ease. Bow, pit, sheet, guy
8. Tweakers off on new sheet, and on for new guy. Pit
9. Bring pole back to correct setting & adjust height. Guy & pit

Heavy air

The most important thing to do here is gybe relatively quickly, while the boat is moving quickly forward through the water. You want to avoid the Chinese Gybe and the "broach-having-gybed". These happen because of the mainsail load. The faster the boat moves the less the wind pressure in the main, so the boom will come over easier, and with less rotation of the boat required. Less pressure in the main before the main gybes = no Chinese gybe, less pressure in the main after the gybe = no broach.

Other tips:

  • You have probably been easing the vang in the gusts up to this point. For the gybe the Pit should ensure it's on so that the top of the main isn't twisted in front of the mast, which can precipitate a Chinese gybe. Then release the vang immediately the main has gybed.
  • "Slalom" the helm - you will need to turn the boat sufficiently to get the main across, as soon as it does correct the boat by bearing away again to prevent the "broach-having-gybed". Not so much that you sail by the lee, but enough.
  • Go into the gybe with the boat steady. Do not be in a death roll as you approach the gybe which happens if you go in too slowly or dither, this is best corrected but hardening up a few degrees, and perhaps having the leeward tweaker about ¼ on. If possible wait for a smoothish patch of water, without any side waves from wake from ships.

Noticeably I have hardly mentioned the spinnaker up to this point. Getting the main over is the priority. The bowman and two trimmers (best to have 2 especially in a breeze) should gybe the spinnaker as smartly as possible, remembering to duck when appropriate. Getting the pole back as you go into the gybe should be sufficient rotation, and you won't have any trouble keeping the breeze in it. Trim the spinnaker to keep it filled, but don't over sheet. The main will be gybed earlier in the manoeuvre than the light airs description above, otherwise it is very similar. If the bowman struggles to get the pole back onto the mast give them some steroids - alternatively point the boat correctly (downwind) and ease out both the sheet and guy to let the whole spinnaker move forwards.

We practise (in any wind strength) by all hanging out over the back corner as if surfing down some big ones, and then calling "gybe" and everyone runs forward does their stuff and runs back to hanging out of the other back corner.

Spinnaker drops

The first thing to do is decide which side to drop it. Always use the words Port/Starboard (not windward/leeward) drop when you are talking about it so that if you gybe after the decision, everybody knows which side to work on. If you change your mind make sure everybody knows. It's quite slow tugging at both clews of the spinnaker trying to drop it on both sides. On a run you can easily choose which side to drop, based on where you want to hoist for your next downwind leg. You want to be able to do the right hoist, as we saw earlier a windward hoist should be avoided.

Leeward drop

Here's our sequence:

1. Preparation
a. Set main controls for beat (outhaul, halyard/cunningham, vang). Pit
b. Hoist jib, correct halyard tension, set up sheet on winch and cleat. Bow & pit
c. Sheet or guy has halyard in hand waiting, pit has sheet in hand ready (behind the shrouds). Sheet or guy, & pit
2. Drop
a. Helm calls the timing of drop (one of the few decisions you let the helm make). Helm
b. Totally release the guy. Guy
c. Release halyard under control. Sheet or guy
d. Bring spinnaker in behind shrouds straight into cockpit bag. Pit
e. Pole off (pit on pole controls). Bow & pit
3. Tidy up / final approach
a. Tweakers in, sheets cleated (wait or ensure enough slack to finish packing the spinnaker). Sheet & guy
b. Jib trim (if the spinnaker is on top of the winch, put your spare hand under the spinnaker, on top of the winch to keep it from getting wrapped in; remember to keep you fingers out. Sheet
c. Ready on mainsheet - the guy you can do this much quicker than the helm can. The helm should move the main track to the right position before you turn. Guy
4. Mark Rounding
a. Gybe if necessary. Helm
b. Heel the boat to help turn around the buoy. All
c. Trim in the main sharply - this also helps turn the boat upto the wind. The guy will be doing this, talking with the helm, and doing it slower if it's breezy. Guy
d. Trim the jib in a bit slower than the main to allow the turn. Sheet
e. Get weight to windward as soon as possible. All

Windward drop

This drop is excellent, it's quicker, you can sail right to the mark, and the crewweight can often be on the windward side tidying up. Having this in your armoury effectively helps your next hoist. If you approach the leeward mark on a tight reach in a breeze and it's not possible to do an effective windward drop, you may have to do a leeward one, and live with the consequences, or try and give yourself enough room to do a short bear away just before the mark to do a windward drop.

1. Preparation
a. Set main controls for beat (outhaul, halyard/cunningham, vang). Pit
b. Hoist jib, correct halyard tension, set up sheet on winch and cleat. Bow & pit
c. Pit comes up onto windward rail and holds out the guy, behind the shrouds facing forwards. Pit
d. Set both tweakers to about 60% released. Sheet & guy
e. Pole off and packed away - bowman has to do pole up/down as well Bow
f. Sheet or guy has halyard in hand waiting, pit has sheet in hand ready (behind the shrouds). Sheet or guy, & pit
g. Relax - you should now be sailing nicely on a run with the pole packed away, and the spinnaker pulling.  .
2. Drop
a. Helm calls the timing of drop (one of the few decisions you let the helm make). Helm
b. Release sheet. Sheet
c. Release halyard under control - Sheet or guy (depending on which gybe you are on). Sheet or guy
d. Bring spinnaker down. The pit at this point brings the kite down in front of him on the deck, and gathers it between his legs to control it. Then he picks it up and turns towards the pit to dump it in the bag. Pit
3. Tidy up / final approach
a. Tweakers in, sheets cleated (wait or ensure enough slack to finish packing the spinnaker). Sheet & guy
b. Jib trim. Sheet
c. Ready on mainsheet - the guy you can do this much quicker than the helm can. The helm should move the main track to the right position before you turn. Guy
4. Mark Rounding
a. Gybe if necessary (watch for pit who may be on cabin roof!). Helm
b. Heel the boat to help turn around the buoy. All
c. Trim in the main sharply - this also helps turn the boat upto the wind. The guy will be doing this, talking with the helm, and doing it slower if it's breezy. Guy
d. Trim the jib in a bit slower than the main to allow the turn. Sheet
e. Get weight to windward as soon as possible. All

It's worth practising flying the spinnaker without the pole - have both tweakers set to half. Try both with a human guy, and without one. This really helps you understand the way the spinnaker works, how best to set it, and how best to keep it flying during a gybe or a windward drop.

Variations

Once you have mastered these two basic drops you can try variations on them depending on the situation as you reach the leeward mark. Some examples include:

  • No pole gybe - worth doing if you want the spinnaker for a few more yards, but its not worth getting the pole on again, especially if you are then going into a windward drop.
  • Drop as you gybe, this allows you to drop the kite on either side.
  • White sail gybes, where you are a bit above the lay line & get the spinnaker down a bit early and do a short leg with no spinnaker on the other gybe; particularly useful in a breeze when the guy-man can help to gybe the mainsail.

...and finally

That's it, if you have any questions let me know. We answer for beer or peanuts.

Resources

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707s on FaceBook
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707s on FaceBook
Scottish 707 Facebook Group

2016 AGM Documents

2016 Minutes

Rachel Alvarado's
YouTube videos

Added March 2017 - A series of 3 winter talks from the guys at the front of the Scottish 707 fleet- Upwind, Downwind and Starts.

Talk 1
Talk 2
Talk 3

2012 Northerns
Spinnaker Rigging
Spinnaker Handling

Class Rules

The current class rules can be found here (pdf file)