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Tips for the Crew




How to Crew on a Y-Flyer

Essential Glossary

Beat—to go into the wind

Crew—one who assists the skipper or captain

Higher, Up, etc—Windward or upwind side

Hike—lean out over the side of the boat. Often there are “hiking straps” for your feet

Heel—tilt, or list

Jib—small sail in front

Jibe (also gybe)—The act of changing tacks while on a run. The boom will go from extreme left to extreme right (or vice versa) during a jibe. It is important to know when these are coming, as the boom packs a lot of energy about head-high.

Leeward (pronounced lewerd, rhymes with sewer)—downwind

Lower, Down, etc—Leeward or downwind side

Main—large sail in back (a.k.a. Mainsail (pronounced mainsl)

Mark—Turnpoint. A race course will have 2 or more “marks” around which you will race laps.


Reach—to go crosswind

Run—to go down wind (a.k.a. “off the wind”)

Sail-tails—Ribbons or string on each side of the jib indicating air flow. (They should both flow straight back when the sail is properly trimmed.)

Sheetn. rope or line

Sheet Inv. pull on rope or line (e.g. “Sheet it in.”)

Skipper—Captain or one who is responsible for the actions of the boat


Tackn. describes the wind relative to the boom (e.g. Starboard tack, means the wind is coming over the boat’s right side.)

Tackv. the act of swinging the bow through the eye of the wind. You tack to change tacks.

Trim—pull tight (e.g. “Trim the jib”)


Basic Information

1) Clothing is dependent on conditions, however it makes good sense to wear a swimsuit/shorts in the summer and maybe a t-shirt too. If it’s cool, say in the 60’s, a windbreaker is good to have. In the low 60’s and below wetsuits, drysuits, and polypropylene can be your friends, although wool next to the skin, while itchy, does a great job of keeping you warm. If you expect it to be windy (more than 10 mph) it’s helpful to have a pair of gloves. Sailing, work or garden gloves will suffice.2) Bring your own lifejacket if you have one. This way you know it fits.3) Shoes are helpful, as you will possibly use the hiking straps. Style isn’t important, as long as they have no-scuff soles. Cloth tops dries faster than leather.4) Keep a bag with a towel and a set of dry clothes in your car – just in case.5) Bring a hat that connects securely to your head. A chin strap is essential.6) Use sunscreen. Use the sweat proof kind.7) Wear sunglasses with a strap. The water reflects a lot of UV light, and your eyes will thank you.8) If you expect to do this on a regular basis, have a ready-to-go bag with all your accessories and extra clothes.9) Bring water. You won’t be sharp if you’re dehydrated, and you’ll be dehydrated if you don’t drink. There’ll be time before, between and after races to have a drink, and maybe a snack too.10) One of the real keys for success on the water is to plan ahead. As you approach each mark, mentally run through the things you’ll need to do. If you do get tripped up, stay relaxed and focused; fix the problem as quickly as possible. Don’t let one mistake become two.

Setup and Launch

1) Assist the skipper as needed.2) Once the Y is in the water, the crew can keep the boat under control near the dock by holding the bow painter and the sidestay while the skipper gets the rudder on and does other chores.3) The Y is pretty stable with the sails down, and it is an easy step from the dock to the deck. Generally, you’ll step onto the bow of the boat from the dock, although sometimes you’ll be able to step right into the cockpit. Once on the deck, you can hold onto the forestay if you need to and from there reach the mast, then step into the cockpit.4) The boom is kind of low, so stay forward and make sure you duck when going under it.5) Familiarize yourself with the location of all adjustments. (i.e. jib sheets, centerboard, barberhaulers, Cunningham, outhaul, jib luff tensioner, main halyard and jib halyard.)

Working the Start

1) Familiarize the yourself with the lay of the lake and the location of any marks that may be in the water.2) On the way to the starting line, you may practice tacking, jibing and some whisker pole work.3) Start lines generally have a committee boat at one end and a marker of some sort at the other. This marker might be a bouy, a flag, or even the end of a pier. The line almost always runs at right angles to the wind. You will probably make several runs back and forth along it, and you might notice the skipper looking at a watch and getting his timing down. (The start is a running start.) Throughout the race, if you are facing forward and the wind hits you from the left, you are on Port Tack, and approaching boats have the right of way. If you see incoming traffic ahead and you are on Port Tack, it might be ok to call it out: “Sail number 1234, at our 11 o’clock, 30 yards and closing.”4) You might tack or jibe a couple of times while getting ready for the start. Traditional skippers will call out “Ready about” as a prep signal, then “Helm’s alee” while starting the tack. Others will call “prepare to tack” followed by “tacking.” Soon you will be able to anticipate when you’re about to tack, and no words will be needed.5) While you’re running along the line, you’ll be on what’s called a reach, and the jib should be about half way out (perhaps 12 to 18 inches of line showing between the block (pulley) and the jib). As soon as the starting horn sounds you will go into a “beat” which is as hard upwind as you can go, because that’s where the first mark (or turnpoint) will be. Trim the jib in!6) During a tack, uncleat the jib sheet, but continue to hold it firm. As the jib starts to pass the centerline (the mast is a great reference), let the “old” jib line free, and begin to tighten (trim) the new jib sheet. With practice you’ll be able to do this in one act as you duck the boom, cross the centerboard trunk, and begin to climb up the new windward (or literally “high”) side. This is probably the most important job a crew will do.7) There will be times when you’ll want to luff the jib (let it flap) for the last few seconds before the start. This usually happens on a crowded starting line when you don’t want to go over early.


1) The Y is faster when heeled slightly. How much heel? The rubrail should be just out of the water. This is true for all points of sail.2) With few exceptions, for the beat, you’ll want the centerboard DOWN, Barber haulers OFF, outhaul TIGHT, and possibly the Jib Luff ON (snug) and the Cunningham ON (during heavy winds) and just maybe the Jib Halyard/Magic Box adjusted to a particular number. The Boom Vang will be tight only during reaches and runs. Note: The Centerboard must be down for a beat, half way up for a reach, and most of the way up for a run3) On the beat itself, the jib sheet should be pulled in so that about one fist’s width of rope is between the block and the sail. Once clear of traffic and “settled in” on the first tack, it’s not a bad thing to call out the positions of what’s just changed while simultaneously separating the jib sheets (they tend to tangle). For example, clearly and distinctly say: “Jib sheet: CLOSE HAULED, Jib Luff: ON, Centerboard DOWN,” etc.

Rounding the Windward Mark

1) Depending on the wind and the course, you’ll either go on a reach or a run after rounding the windward mark. Discuss with your skipper what adjustments to make as you round.2) You will need to let out the jib and pull on the barberhaulers, although you might need to raise the whisker pole.3) Raise the centerboard halfway (reach) or all the way (run).


1) Whether before the start or after rounding the weather mark the jib is looser than close-hauled (maybe 12 to 18” of line between the block and the jib).2) If you’re not using the whisker pole, constantly adjust the jib to keep the jib sail-tails flowing straight back. If the back one is fluttering, let the jib out. Conversely, if the windward one is fluttering, trim the jib in.


1) At the end of the reaching leg generally there is an aptly named “Jibe Mark.” This marks the beginning of another reach or a run. Before getting to the mark, mentally think through what you’ll do.2) As you go around the mark you’ll probably jibe, so get your head down, then it’s (probably in this order), Barberhaulers ON, Whisker Pole OUT, Jib sheet TIGHT, Jib Luff OFF, Centerboard UP, Again, once the pandemonium settles, call out the new positions of what has changed. This allows the skipper to know if you’ve forgotten something or might want a different adjustment.3) The whisker pole is your friend. Well, it isn’t the enemy it first seems. Here’s how to deal with it. One problem is how it barely fits in the boat. So when you first reach for it, grab it by the near end, and push the forked end toward the stern. Raise the clip end above the deck, clearing it of all lines (this is why we keep policing the lines after every tack) and slide it forward until you can clip the jib to it. (The closer your hands are together, the easier it is.) Continue sliding the pole forward until the fork reaches your hands. Make sure the clip end goes on the side of the jib OPPOSITE of the way the main sail is leaning. Brace the fork against the mast and trim the windward jib sheet. (That means pull it tight enough to keep a slight curve in the foot.)4) Jibing the pole isn’t so awful either. The trick is not to get in a rush. Think “smooth and efficient.” As the boom comes around, or slightly after, unhook the forked end from the mast and pull it straight back, making sure – and this is important – YOU DON’T CLOCK THE SKIPPER WITH THE POLE. Keep the forked end above boom height (i.e. keep it level) and you should be fine. When the clipped end just clears the forestay, push it straight forward on the other side of the fore stay and place the fork on the mast again. Do not try to push it out into the wind. Trim the jib sheet which is on the same side as the pole.5) Once you have this done police the lines again. Make sure no loose ends are dragging in the water.


1) Watch for traffic. Also, look back every once in a while to get an idea of what kind of wind you’ll have 30 seconds from now.2) Locate the leeward mark, which might be some distance off. The skipper’s view might be blocked by you, the main sail, or the jib3) Move around to balance the boat at the optimum angle of heel. This is a good time to look around and see if you notice any changes in weather patterns, or a particular bunching of boats you might want to avoid. Be attentive to the possibility of a jibe, and you might even have time to get a drink of water.4) On days with very light winds, boat balance is more important than ever. Try very hard not to make any abrupt movements, particularly fore and aft, and work very hard to keep the angle of heel correct.

Rounding the Leeward Mark

1) As you approach the leeward mark, mentally rehearse what you’ll have to do: drop the centerboard, drop the pole, uncleat the barber-haulers, adjust the sail controls for a beat, etc. You might ask the skipper if you will tack immediately after rounding, as this will affect where you want to be. Of course, any tactic or strategy talk should be as quiet as possible in order not to be overheard by nearby boats.2) The actual rounding of the mark is not a jibe, nor a tack, but a transition from a run (or very broad reach) to close-hauled. Of course, depending on other traffic and the wind, you may tack quite soon afterwards, so be prepared.3) The whisker pole has to come down shortly before you round the leeward mark. Let your skipper be your guide in when to take it down. The better you are, the longer you can keep it up. To take the pole down, simply reverse the process of setting it: unseat the fork from the mast, lower the fork to the floor as you slide it back, again making very sure NOT TO FORK THE SKIPPER’S NECK. Unclip the ring, and lay the pole flat on the floor. At some point look for an opportunity to stow it behind your feet an out of the way, but more importantly, tend to the jib sheet and barber-haulers first.4) And as always, watch for traffic.


1) The final leg of the race is usually a beat to the finish line. Keep the lines policed and out of the water. Tell the skipper when nearby boats tack, especially those just behind you. If you tack, concentrate on reacting smoothly and fluidly to keep the boat balanced and at the optimum angle of heel.2) Always keep the jib sheets untangled so you’ll always be ready to tack.

Returning to the Dock and Cleanup

1) When the sails come down, try to help keep the jib and main out of the water. Don’t step on either sail or you’ll slide off the deck.2) The Y is a pretty easy boat to paddle. The wide flat bow provides a nice place to sit and paddle.3) Control the boat at the dock using the bow line and the side stay as you did when the boat was launched.4) Once the boat is out of the water, help put the boat away, even if it’s just standing around holding bungees. It’s always appreciated.

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