Crew To Win

We take a look at the new book published by the RYA and written by 470 silver medalist Joe Glanfield

Tuesday April 25th 2006, Author: Toby Heppell, Location: United Kingdom
There are a number of books on the market for the sailor who wants to improve his or her racing technique and eventually their results. Lots of these books get dropped by the wayside as people realise they are overly complex or too patronising or any of a number of issues often associated with the sailing technique book. There are however a small number of books that do not get lost in the mists of time and become essential reading for the small boat racer - one being ‘Crew To Win’.

‘Crew To Win’ is the first in a new series of books to be published by the RYA. It is written by Joe Glanfield, Athens Olympic silver medallist and 470 superstar, and attempts to readdress the age old myth that the helm is the most important person in the boat. Describing the book properly it should perhaps be called 'teamwork to win' or something similar as, although it is written primarily with the crew in mind, the emphasis is very much on building a strong team approach to racing.

As one might imagine of a book designed to be read by sailors of various ability, the first few chapters offer little for the already experienced sailor. This is not to say they should be discounted entirely and there are some useful insights, like the fitness for sailing sections and golden rules for teamwork, but largely the first three or four chapters are more a skim reading exercise. Skipping these sections or skimming through them does not leave the reader feeling like they have missed out; in fact the book seems to be written in such a way as to encourage the reader to jump around within the chapters to get the most of it. Often the book will suggest looking at another chapter that is relevant to a piece of text or flicking to the exercise section to find a related training exercise.

For the racing sailor, the book begins to come into its own in the fifth chapter ‘goal setting’ where the reader is able to gain some knowledge on the inside workings of Joe Glanfield and helm Nick Rogers’ campaign strategy. The chapter is broken up and subcategorised onto a variety of different sections. It also offers some helpful images such as hypothetical goal setting sheets and evaluation sheets which present a good idea of how to go about managing a campaign of any level. In addition to the ‘goal setting’ chapter being the first of real significance to the racing sailor it, not coincidently, marks the end of the 'off the water' chapters and the start of the on the water technique chapters.

The 'technique chapters' are broken down into ten sections. The first of the 'on the water' chapters is ‘boat balance, hiking and trapezing.’ Although hiking is mentioned in the chapter title there is only some brief information about techniques. Obviously, as Glanfield is a 470 sailor, there is significantly more about trapezing, but some of what is said about boat balance is applicable to the hiking boat sailor. The trapezing section offers a thorough look at how to trapeze from beginner level up to advanced trapezing techniques. It also covers the usual wind range techniques of light, medium and windy weather. Also on the physical technique side there are chapters on tacking, using the spinnaker- including gybing and downwind technique. These are all well set out and offer a comprehensive step by step guide to a variety of different skills and techniques. The ‘using the spinnaker’ chapter specifically is particularly detailed and covers everything that anyone could possibly need to know about reaching, running, hoisting and dropping techniques, amongst other things.

Often in ‘Crew To Win’ the chapters are surprisingly short but on close inspection exceptionally detailed. This is achieved through a frank, to the point and easy to read style that Glanfield has perfected, presumably through the coaching that he regularly does. This is particularly the case in the chapter entitled ‘sail settings.’ Having recently read an entire (particularly disappointing) book on the subject it was interesting to note that Glanfield manages to get over more directly relevant information on the subject in just five pages than the entire aforementioned book did. Although this chapter by no means covers everything to do with sail set up it picks up on key concepts and techniques that would be of use to all but the top end racing sailor. Glanfield’s to the point style is again prominent in the section of the book dedicated to starting technique. By breaking the whole pre-start process down into four sections he manages to get over the key points in a short space of time without confusing or patronising the reader. Again in this chapter as in many of the others the emphasis is on team work and dividing up the roles equally between helm and crew.

The ‘tactics and strategy’ section is one of the longer sections in the book and feels like it offers the most insight into how the Rogers / Glanfield team works it is also still reasonably short compared to chapters in many other books. It has examples of conversations, bullet pointed sections for easy viewing and suggestions about the sort of responsibilities taken on by each member of the team. Although it is longer it is not essential to read the entire chapter in one go, even though this would not be difficult to do, because it is set out in such a way as to offer bite size chunks of interesting information.

A potentially useful section comes in the form of a chapter dedicated to rule 42. This has been a contentious issue for a long time and recent rule changes mean that many sailors are unsure of exactly what they are and are not allowed to do. We were hoping that this would clear up exactly what was allowed and when, but this is one of the very few times we were left feeling a little disappointed. Glanfield seems to have chosen to stick more to a technique guide style, telling the reader how too ooch and pump as opposed to clearing up the real issue. Although he does go a long way to explaining the differences between the old system and the new one we were not sure how many people would finish the chapter still a little unsure of what they should and could do. Having said this the book is largely a crewing technique guide so he has not failed in his aim it just seems a shame to have gone to the trouble of putting a chapter about rule 42 in and to go away feeling like we did not have all the required information.

The ‘rule 42’ chapter aside the writing never left us feeling like we had missed out on any information, in fact it always offered concise, accurate and well thought out suggestions and tips throughout. In addition to the sections that we have commented on there are sections on high performance sailing, mark rounding technique and event preparation, among others. These are all equally as good as the rest of the book and are only not commented on in detail here because we could not particularly fault them nor could we praise them without covering previous ground.

The layout of the book is well thought out with lots of useful illustrations and many pictures demonstrating techniques discussed. The series photos of tacking and other manoeuvres are particularly good as are the one off boat set up images. At the end of the book the diagrams for training exercises are simple to follow bright and interesting and the whole thing is broken up with some excellent double page photos.

Aside from some of the insight into how Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield work together this book probably does not give any new or unpublished information to the reader. However, it does take all the information that a sailor might want to know and compile it in a very easy to read way. This in addition to Glanfield’s Olympian status gives the book a genuine edge over much that we have read. There is, most likely, a place for this book in almost every dinghy sailors home and it would not be surprising to still be able to find a well thumbed copy in most of them in years to come.

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