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INDEX - cruiser, dinghy, certification, ASA Sailing Tips.


CELESTIAL NAVIGATION COURSE (Aug & Sep 2015) - Click here for registration and information about the upcoming Celestial Navigation Course. Go ahead, you'll like it.

CRUISER SAIL INSTRUCTION - We are fortunate to have four qualified instructors on Wabamun Lake who offer cruiser sail instruction and certification through either the:
  • Canadian Yachting Association (CYA). 
  • the International Sail or Power Association (ISPA). 
  • the Power Squadron. 

Each instructor listed here is authorized to issue the CCG exam so you can receive your Pleasure Craft Operator's Certificate.

The Canadian Coast Guard has an informative web site that includes the Safe Boating Guide.
Please read this important notice from the CCG regarding the Pleasure Craft Operator's Certificate (PCOC). 


Charlie Patching offers cruiser instruction with the Power Squadron and has held both a CYA and an ISPA Instructor's rating.

Charlie bases his cruiser instruction from his mooring in Sunshine Bay.

1(780) 436-0009. 

Paul Kantor is a qualified ISPA instructor and owns and operates Sinbad School of Sailing listing all his services.   He bases his cruiser instruction from the EYC.

Paul may be contacted at 1(780) 451-5174. 

Ronald Van Amsterdam is a qualified CYA Cruising Instructor who has sailed since 1984 and achieved CYA Intermediate and ISPA Advanced Cruising Standards.  Ronald teaches the Pleasure Craft Operator Card, Basic & Intermediate Cruising, Coastal Navigation and Marine VHF courses. 

Canadian Power Squadron
The Edmonton Power Squadron teaches basic to advanced boating theory.  Their courses are as follows:
  • Boatpro (CCG Pleasure Craft Operator's Certificate).
  • Boating, Piloting, Advanced Piloting.
  • Seamanship Sail, Seamanship Power.
  • Marine Electronics, Marine Maintenance.
  • Celestial Navigation.
  • Marine VHF Radio. (NOTE)

NOTE - If you have a VHF radio installed on your boat and you don't have a Restricted Operator Radio Certificate, the RCMP could fine you.  The first part of the course is understanding the protocol of voice communications via a simplex radio.  The second part deals with DSC which is what all new radios sold today are equipped with.  You can either take a course (usually during the winter in Edmonton) or study RIC-23 (at your leisure) and pay a nominal fee to write the exam. 

For more information, send an email to the appropriate contact person on the Edmonton Power Squadron's Web site.

Calgary Power Squadron

There is much more to our squadron than taking courses.  We are also very much a social and networking group of cruisers.  Our members cruise all over the world, not just the BC west coast.  We have monthly socials from September to April. 


You may also acquire your Pleasure Craft Operator Card via web access or CBT.  This particular site includes training material, home study, final examination and payment. It is Coast Guard approved. 
I'm not sure that you can learn as much from CBT type of training as opposed to interactive conversation generated in an instructor led group discussion. Most people are better auditory and visual learners than learning from reading.  However, for those who like to review the material CBT is an excellent technique. So
click on you choose to go this route, please let me know what you think of it in a quick email.


Dinghy Sail Instruction - There are two local clubs and one business that offer excellent (CYA) dinghy sail instruction.

The Cooking Lake Sailing Club (CLSC) teaches CYA White Sail I, II and III courses. Lessons are taught by a CYA certified instructor and are open to anyone interested in learning to sail or wanting to improve their skills.

For more information contact Judy Wallace.

The Northern Alberta Sailing College teaches Canadian Yachting Association CYA White Sail I to Bronze Sail IV using the Wabamun Sailing Club's 420s, Mistrals, Laser I and II dinghies. The club facilities are regularly made available for teaching and racing clinics and the club hosts many national and international regattas. During the latter half of the summer the training is moved to EYC.

For more information contact the chairman of the Northern Alberta Sailing College.



Govt. of Canada
Revenue Canada, Customs

Suite M6, Metropolitan Place
10303 Jasper Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta


Boat & Engine - All vessels e/w engines >10 HP must be registered. Vessels e/w engines <10 HP engine may be registered.  The primary purpose of registering a vessel in Canada is to trace the owner during an emergency sinking, etc or theft or for law enforcement (another person operating your boat in an illegal manner). 
- registration in Canada is the only means of proving ownership if you trailer or sail your boat back to Canada.  There is no charge for registration.

To register your vessel, request the "Application for Vessel License" form.  You require proof of purchase, serial number, personal identification, the TC plate info & the serial number of the engine. Label your vessel with 3" high characters on the port & starboard bows, so it's in clear view for another boat.


Govt. of Canada
Industry Canada
Spectrum Management

7th Floor, Canada Place
Edmonton, Alberta


Restricted Radio Operator's Certificate - The Coast Guard requires every vessel, that is equipped with a two way radio, to carry a person who holds the appropriate certificate for the type of equipment fitted.  Generally speaking, a ship fitted with a VHF radiotelephone must carry a person who holds a Restricted Operator's Certificate.

The pass mark for the exam is 80%, multiple choice.  The oral part is 100%.  A free study guide is available; publication RIC-23, Issue 3, March 1997.  There is no charge for the certificate that is issued for life.  All spectrum publications are available at 


The chances of the average person passing without studying is low in my opinion.  In any case, the objective is not to pass an examination, but to have mastered all of the material.  The exam is typical in that it covers about 25% of the material, but you don't know which one of numerous exams will be given to you.

Q - Is an instructor led course or CBT (Computer Based Training) needed? 

A1 - It depends on the candidate.  Some people can't learn unless it is in a structured instructor led class with practice exams, quizzes, and radio procedure exercises.  Three Thumbs Up.

A2 - Next are students who can learn well from college CBT courses where you can redo practice exams, review material, have GMDSS simulators and so forth.  This self-paced learning is great for anyone that needs unlimited review and practice that even instructor led classes lack.  It's excellent for fast or slow learners.  It doesn't hold you back and bore you if you assimilate quickly and retain well and gives infinite tries for any difficult section.  Three Thumbs Up.

A3 - Those with a communications background such as military or police and have no learning disability could get the manual and CD from the Canadian Power Squadron in English or French, study it well and challenge the exam.  One Thumb Up.


VHF Station License

May 31, 2004

TO: District and Squadron Commanders, Training Officers and VHF Registered Examiners.

R/C Keith Roberts, SN, Course Director, Maritime Radio Seminar, has asked the following information regarding radio licenses be forwarded at the request of Industry Canada.

"In 1999 we de-licensed marine and aeronautical and entered into negotiations with the United States for a reciprocal agreement for aircraft and boaters crossing the border into the USA, the idea being that we would not require a license in either country. Recently, in post 9/11 USA, other issues have taken the forefront and this issue was relegated to the back burner for the time being and an agreement was not reached.

As you are all aware, our exemption only applies in Canadian and International waters. When a vessel or aircraft is operating in the sovereign territory of any foreign administration, the provisions of the ITU apply, which requires that all stations be licensed unless there is a treaty between the administrations involved.

Since we do not have a treaty at this point in time, from this day forward, we should advise our clients enquiring about travel into the USA (air or marine) that they will require a license to fully comply with international law. It may save someone's holiday by explaining that in these post 9/11 days of increasing uncertainty, you never know when zero tolerance attitudes may surface and cause travelers grief if their paper work is not all in order. It is fairly inexpensive to obtain and maintain your Canadian licensing, and these days licensing, operators certificates and passports are all considered very good things to have."

If you have a question please contact Jim Laursen or Michael Krenz at Industry Canada.

R/C Catherine McLeod P.
Chair National Communications Committee



Govt. of Canada
Canadian Coast Guard

9021 - 46 St.
Edmonton, Alberta

Navigable Waters Protection and Marine Programs - This is an educational office not enforcement.  The primary function is to educate the boating public on the prairies.  The office is open during regular business hours. Click here for an html version of The Safe Boating Guide.  The CCG may also be contacted at

CANADIAN COAST GUARD (CCG) NOTICE - New regulations are designed to “clean up” the Pleasure Craft Operator's Card (PCOC) business. Attached are 2 Interpretation Bulletins, A policy Decision and a News Release from the Coast Guard, describing how the new CCG regulations are fixing the PCOC process. Listed below is a brief summary of each issue and the key requirments.  Please email me if you want the detailed copy from the CCG

Interpretation Bulletin #0012 issued on December 17th 2001. This deals with “Proctoring” examinations. The key requirements to note are:

  • Clarifies our obligations in “Proctoring” and procedures.
  • All conditions outlined must be met.
  • Test supervisor's sole duty is to supervise – no marking while supervising.
  • People writing tests must be in clear sight at all times.
  • The boat safety course must include all 149 knowledge points.
  • Pay If You Pass is an unacceptable practice”.
  • Individuals taking a test must show one piece of photo ID or two other pieces of ID.

Interpretation Bulletin #0013 also issued on December 17th 2001.  This deals with “Monitoring Policy”.  The key requirements to note are:

  • Coast Guard “Monitors” announced or unannounced, can randomly join the session.
  • If they observe an instance of “non-compliance” they can report the instance and recommend suspension of accreditation.

The third Coast Guard document is a “Policy Decision on Training”, Ref #0009, again issued on December 17th 2001.  The key requirements to note are:

  • CCG did not identify any time frame for course delivery (teaching duration).
  • All 149 knowledge points must be covered.

Finally, there is a News Release, with an official issue date of July 2, 2002.  The key points to note here are:

  • “The three years old regulations were in need of amendments to make them stronger and easier to enforce," said the Honourable Robert G. Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. 
  • Parents bear responsibility for their children’s compliance.
  • Greater “monitoring” will improve standards.

This notification has been placed here to for sail instructors as they may not have read the Bulletins and Policy Decisions from December 17th.  The Coast Guard has put the new, more rigid requirements in place and has given the industry sufficient time to react and adjust so that enforcement of these new standards can now commence. 

“Pay If You Pass” and Internet services where there is no control over “Proctoring” has greatly undermined the PCOC program. The government realized this and further decisions and bulletins will be issued soon, again to give more rigid control, clearly intended to bring a higher level of professionalism to the PCOC program and very important to us, to require education.

Watch for other important announcements, new CYA Operator’s Card materials and marketing assistance, coming this summer.


Andrew A.W. (Andy) Adams
Marketing Communications
Canadian Yachting Association
Cell: 416-574-7313
Kingston: 613-574-7313

(end of notice)


Fisheries and Oceans Canada

 News Release


July 2, 2002



OTTAWA -- Advice from the Canadian boating community has prompted amendments to the boating safety regulations that were introduced in 1999. 

“Now three years old, the regulations were in need of amendments to make them stronger and easier to enforce,” said the Honourable Robert G. Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “Canadian boaters worked with the Canadian Coast Guard to identify where those improvements were needed.”

A first set of amendments, introduced earlier this year and now in effect, strengthened the regulations by providing the peace officers with more effective means to enforce the regulations. 

The Canadian Coast Guard is now able to intervene when it is believed that a boating safety course, accredited by the Canadian Coast Guard, is not being delivered according to criteria set out in the regulations. In addition, changes mean that parents will now bear the responsibility of compliance should their children violate the regulations. 

A second set of amendments, now being developed in consultation with stakeholders, will also provide the Coast Guard with a greater monitoring role over the delivery of courses and exams, and improve the standards used by the Canadian Coast Guard to accredit boating safety courses and exams.  The proposed amendments would also help the Coast Guard build and manage a boating safety database required for enforcement agencies.

The proposed amendments are expected to be in place next year.

The safe boating regulations, in effect since April 1, 1999, establish a phase-in period for recreational boaters to obtain proof of competency, which demonstrates that they have the basic knowledge to operate a motorized pleasure craft safely. The first phase made it mandatory for boaters born after April 1, 1983 to carry proof of competency. 

Phase II, in effect on September 15, 2002 requires that all operators of motorized recreational vessels under 4 meters carry a proof of competency. By September 15, 2009, all boaters will be required to carry proof of competency.  

Proof of competency can mean one of three things: that an operator competency card has been acquired after successfully passing a test given by an accredited course provider; that a safe boating course was successfully completed prior to April 1, 1999; or that a safety checklist was completed for a rented motorized boat strictly for that rental period. 

Boating safety regulations were introduced in 1999 in response to pressure from the boating community for stricter safety measures on the water. 

To obtain more information about taking a Canadian Coast Guard accredited boating safety course and obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, visit or call 1-800-267-6687.



Sophie Galarneau
Manager, Media Relations

Fisheries and Oceans Canada


(613) 998-1530

Jennifer Savoy
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

(613) 996-0076

Web site:





  1. Downwind Sailing by Ed Adams.

  2. You will Always Improve if you Learn to Coach Yourself by Kevin Hall.

  3. Painting the Tactical Picture by Moose McClintok.

Downwind Sailing Technique by Ed Adams

Ever wondered how to create a passing lane for yourself downwind? Read on to find out how to.......Zig Zag your way from top to the bottom.

Sailing more distance can get you there faster. Olympian Nick Adamson demonstrates the newest way to get downhill.

I've been skiing for as long as I've been sailing. But I didn't see the connection between the two sports until I stepped back into a Laser after a 15-year hiatus. Now I realize that powerful turns are required in both sports, and that a good turn often begins with a near-spill. In skiing, this tight-wire defiance of gravity is done to ride the mountain; in sailing it's done to ride waves.

The Laser regatta that opened my eyes began in a moderate sea breeze. I rounded the first mark in good shape, just ahead of a tight pack of five boats. The next leg was a broad reach on starboard, so being a seasoned, mature sailor, I stayed high after the rounding to protect my clear air on the long jibe.

The gangly teenager who rounded a few boats behind had a different idea. He immediately rolled into a jibe and took off on port at a hot angle, reaching away from the rhumbline. That's the last we'll see of him, I thought. Wrong!

The rest of our pack lined up on starboard, in nice, neat tactical formation. After reaching out of our peripheral vision, the kid then bore off sharply, sailing 30 degrees by the lee, "railed-up" in near-capsize. Riding the knife edge, he surfed a wave directly back through everyone's dirty air, crossing inches in front of the pack. Oblivious to his gains and his new weathermost position, he carved a radical 60-degree turn up to reach away from us again, searching for yet another wave.

This radical zigzagging continued the whole leg. He never jibed. He never looked back. He never pointed at the mark. He didn't care about clear air or the old folks astern. And by the leeward mark, he was 100 yards ahead of everyone. I felt like Rip Van Winkle.

Since that Laser regatta, I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to coach Nick Adamson, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials with downwind abilities that far exceed those of the gangly teenager. Before we look at his advanced skills, let's examine some of the basic skills first.

Basic skills - The first skill you need to master is sailing by the lee. To find out why, take a look at the illustration on the opposite page. But realize that mainsheet trim by the lee varies with the wind strength. In light air, it pays to ease the boom well past perpendicular. As the wind builds, the sheet should be eased less and less, and trimmed well aft of perpendicular in heavy air (over 15 knots). Over easing the sheet in more wind will often cause a capsize.

The second skill to master is knowing when to make wave riding the priority. In light air, or when the wind is offshore, waves travel slowly. You should ignore them and sail straight at the mark.

As the wind speed or fetch increases, so does the speed of the waves. In most moderate, onshore breeze conditions the waves will be traveling faster than your flat water boat speed. Then it will pay to zigzag, hunting, catching and riding waves. Don't hunt unless you see something worth catching.

Once the wind builds to the point where you are planing all the time, your speed can exceed that of the waves. Then your goal is to sail toward the mark as directly as possible, avoiding the steepest waves.

When hunting for waves to ride in moderate air, speed makes the job easier. By reaching up as a wave approaches, you build the speed required to jump onto the wave face. When the wave lifts your transom, bear off to grab the ride. Don't sail directly down the wave. If you can sail across the wave face like a surfer, you can attain higher speeds while still making the same progress dead downwind, toward the mark. That extra speed comes in handy when it's time to turn off that wave and hunt for your next ride.

In a boat with an unstayed rig, you can sail across the wave face two ways: on a reach or by the lee, as there are no shrouds to restrict how far you can ease the mainsheet. This two-directional ability gives you twice as much territory in which to hunt waves. The turn down to by the lee is called a top turn, because it is done at the top of a wave, as it lifts your transom. The turn up is called a bottom turn, because it is usually done just before you reach the trough of the wave you are riding.

Tactical position - While most gangly teenagers are, by nature, tactically oblivious, there are some strategic principles involved in going fast while zigzagging. First, consider the wind strength. If it is out-of-control windy, approach the run as you would in a keelboat: get on the long jibe that takes you on a broad reach toward the leeward mark. Reaching provides you a wider choice of angles to avoid slow-moving waves. Sailing by the lee is too angle-critical; you're likely to plow into a wave and capsize.

However, in any other wind strength, do the opposite of what the sailing books say: Get on the lifted jibe. If you come into the weather mark in a left-hand shift, jibe onto port so you can be by the lee immediately, while pointing most directly at the mark. If you're not sure which shift you're on, don't worry about it - you'll go just about as fast whether you reach or sail by the lee. Pressure and waves are far more important.

Clear air does matter, as better pressure always means better speed. But lateral freedom is just as important. In wave-riding conditions, you need to have at least 100 feet of space on either side of you, so your bottom and top turns can be made without restriction from other boats. So pick a course that gets you away from the crowd early.

Finally, get out on the water and put in your practice time. Wave riding is a high-wire act. Like skiing, the only way to negotiate a mogul field is with perfect, fearless balance - with confidence born of many hours and countless capsizes.

Ed Adams is a past Laser national champion, and US Sailing Team coach.


The Dynamics of Sailing By the Lee 

A loose vang allows the leech to pump automatically in chop. Every little pump propels the boat. It also throws a pressure vortex off the leech that circulates downwind and is recaptured as the boat sails across the wind.

The leech provides a clean leading edge for attachment of leech-to-luff airflow at shallow angles past dead downwind. Watch the telltales.

Heeling to weather raises the center of effort into stronger wind aloft. It also positions the effort over the boat for a more balanced helm, which reduces rudder drag.

In light air, easing the boom past perpendicular boosts sheet pressure and feedback, as mechanical advantage is decreased. It also lays the sail forward when heeled to weather, so gravity works to keep the sail pressurized.

Wetted surface is reduced when heeled to weather.          Photo credit: Daniel Forster.

You Will Always Improve, If You Learn To Coach Yourself by Kevin Hall

Sample Practice Drills

Goal: Improve ability to hold position on starting line
Drill: Approach a buoy on starboard, from its leeward side. Stop your bow right at the buoy, and try to keep the bow as close to the buoy as possible. After a set amount of time, accelerate on a beat, bearing off as little as possible.

Goal: Improve foot and handwork
Drill: 720s. Start by breaking each 360 in half: tack and bear away as smoothly as possible, then jibe and head up. Gradually connect the two halves of the turn as hand and footwork improve.

Goal: Improve feel
Drill: Close your eyes while sailing.

Goal: Improve balance and sail handling
Drill: Start with the board down and the tiller tied on centerline. Then remove the rudder and raise the board halfway.

Goal: Improve endurance
Drill: Hike as hard as you can for 15 seconds, then rest 15 seconds, increasing each set by 15-second increments until your muscles fail, then decrease by the same increment until back to 15. Always maintain good form.

Wouldn't it be great to have a coach watch every move you make, in every race? Unfortunately, if you think of a "coach" as an outside observer, this is expensive or impractical. There is only one person in the world who can always be there to help you improve your sailing: you.

Self-coaching can be learned and improved like any other skill. I have found that there are four major aspects:

  1. The ability to recognize weaknesses,

  2. The ability to identify the cause and design ways to address those weaknesses,

  3. The ability to efficiently manage time on the water for maximum productivity in practice,

  4. The ability to recall practices and races to examine what went right and wrong.

You have to be careful with step No. 1, weakness identification, to avoid being overwhelmed or discouraged. Better speed would be nice, but so would flawless boat handling, consistent starts and smooth mark roundings. You need to prioritize. I look for the one thing that will most likely yield the largest improvement in my race. If my starts are poor but I'm still rounding the weather mark in the top five, and subsequently getting passed by 15 boats downwind, chances are a better start won't do as much for me as improving my downwind speed.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect is No. 2, identifying the cause or root of a weakness, and addressing it. When I got back into the Laser after a few years off, it was obvious that I was slow dead downwind. It was difficult to see why. The tendency is to be too broad in your analysis. "I'm slow downwind, especially in waves" doesn't help much. Instead, I focused in: "Guys are sailing bigger angles than I am. I know I stop my turns with the tiller at the top of the wave. Is this causing me to lose speed down the wave? My turn at the bottom of the wave also seems to lack power."

I kept asking why and continued to analyze each step in the process of sailing down a wave. Was I stopping my turns with the tiller because I was afraid to capsize, or was I simply turning too hard? That led me to wonder if I was relying too much on the tiller instead of steering with the sails and my weight. Was I easing too much main or not getting back to the middle of the boat as it accelerated down the wave? Or maybe it was just a bad habit. With these concrete questions in mind, I had somewhere to start when I went out on the water to practice.

Here's what I did to improve my downwind speed. On a warm day, I tried letting the turn go as far as it wanted, without using the tiller, with the goal of finding the threshold beyond which capsize was imminent. The next day I brought a piece of shock cord to tie around my tiller downwind, which only allowed me to use 10 or 20 degrees of rudder. This required me to move in to stop the turn, and to begin experimenting with the effect of the mainsheet on both the beginning and the end of the turn. I aimed to work on one thing at a time, and after several practice sessions my turns on waves were dramatically improved.

Let's talk about step No. 3, time management on the water. Paul Elvström is said to be focused from the time he leaves his house for a day of sailing until he has finished thinking about the day's races. This may be a bit much -- it is for me -- but considering how little time we get to practice and race, if improvement is our goal, we need to get the most out of our time on the water. Before even leaving for the race, we could discuss our goals for the day, the weather forecast, and sail choices. On the way to the start, we could look at our jib leads, begin taking compass numbers, and discuss the sea conditions.

On the way out to practice, my college crew and I would often sail rudderless. Not only was it fun and challenging, it was great for our balance. On the other hand, if the concentration wasn't there, or if our legs were really tired when sailing in, it was far better to take it easy or do something fun than to worsen bad habits by sailing poorly.

That leaves No. 4, analyzing the race. I am usually guilty of getting right into the discussions after a race or practice -- "we could've tried. . .what if. . .should we?" -- but I think it's best to debrief on shore, or at least well after the smoke has cleared and the boat is tidied up. In a team situation, start with some positives -- many more things went right than wrong. I find, after a race, that narrating through the whole race works best for me, as it offers more chance of locating the actual beginning of a situation. For instance, if all we remember is lee bowing a boat and then not laying the weather mark, it may seem like we simply misjudged a lay line.

But by backing up, we may find the tactician did say the starboard boat was shy of the lay line, the skipper felt he was probably crossing, and the bowman called for a lull on the left. Now the decision that should have been made is obvious, and the discussion can turn toward planning farther ahead or improving communication.

I recommend the same narration method in a personal notebook. Only after going all the way through the day's races will I begin to think about what they mean. The more you use a notebook, the faster you will learn in a lasting way from your experiences.

There are a few things I would like to mention in closing which can really help your sailing. Few people take the time to do these, but they can be very useful tools. The first involves taking a day off from racing your boat -- to watch everyone else race theirs! There is a tremendous amount to be learned from watching a day's racing or even a whole regatta. Afterward, ask the fast sailors why they set up the way they did, or what the wind seemed to be doing that day. The next possibility is to get some model boats and create tactical situations on a table top, going through the permutations and the discussions that might occur on the boat. Finally, there is a book I strongly recommend: Eric Twiname's Sail, Race, and Win. He was a consummate self-coach, and a very successful sailor. As your ability to coach yourself improves, your learning curve will, too. And there is more than enough to learn to last a lifetime.

Kevin Hall finished fourth at the Laser Olympic Trials in 1996, and competed aboard the 18-foot skiff Moore with Morgan Larson and Adam Beashel.

Painting the Tactical Picture
by Moose McClintock

SO YOU'VE GOT A TACTICIAN SAILING ON your boat. Great! You can just sit back and make sure the sails go up and down, and they'll do all the thinking, right? If your tactician is standing behind the helmsman, the answer may be yes; but when the boat is small enough to need the tactician hiking forward in the cockpit, input from the rest of the crew can have a major impact on the quality of the tactician's decisions.

When drooping over the side of a Soling, the tactician can't see what's happening to weather. When the tactician sits legs-out on a J/24, Olson 30, etc., the genoa blocks the tactician's view to leeward. Instead of asking the tactician to lean in or go to leeward, sapping boat speed, other crew should be feeding him information. Does this mean you have to act as the tactician? Of course not. It means that you need to learn to give accurate information so the tactician can use it to make good decisions.

The two people most likely to see into the tactician's blind spots are those at either end of the boat - the skipper and the foredeck crew. The image they provide for the tactician should be like an aerial view of the racecourse.

The main source of information should be the skipper. The skipper can describe how many boats are to leeward and how many of them are should also find a range n the boat (die front or back of the mainsail window, or the leech of the genoa) and use this range to keep track of your position relative to the boats.

If there's a window in your genoa, then the foredeck crew can also keep tabs on the boats to leeward. On the J/24, the window provides an accurate gauge. If they appear in the front of the window, they'll cross; in the back, we'll cross; in the middle, it's close. The foredeck can also talk with the tactician about how many boat lengths to leeward the boats are, while keeping an eye on any change of course. If any boats tack, the foredeck will need to say how many boat lengths away they are, and gauge whether you'll cross or not.

The tactician should then articulate a game plan, something like "We're in a good lane; there's nobody to leeward pinching or driving over us from above. We're about fifth or sixth. The boats to weather are consistent on heading; there doesn't seem to be any shift or current affecting us, so we'll continue, since this is the long tack. Let's work on boat speed.

Try Not to Panic - The worst thing that can happen is to provide "emotional" or inaccurate information. "They're killing us to leeward," moans the skipper. "That guy in the corner is way ahead." It's been my experience that usually nothing has changed, but the skipper has tightened up, and boatspeed drops. The tactician might decide to tack, but when he gets a look at the old leeward side, he realizes (too late) that you've made a mistake when you should have kept going.

Instead of supplying inaccurate or emotional commentary, the skipper needs to analyze why someone looks good or bad. The tactician can help by asking questions: "Was there a big shift? Is there more current? Is that the fastest guy in the fleet? How is he compared to the boats around him?" Input on what's happening to weather can also help the driver put things in perspective. "The weather boats are all falling into us.' And the skipper responds, "The same thing is happening to us compared to the guys to leeward . Aha! A persistent shift. Unless the whole pack of boats to leeward is showing the same shift or speed, the observation of one boat is usually anomalous. As tactician, I'd hold on a little and see if this is a trend or a one-shot deal. The driver should concentrate on keeping the boat at speed, giving periodic updates.

The foredeck also needs to concentrate on accuracy. Without the added task of driving, this person can give the best input as to what's going on ahead and to leeward. The most important points to cover are pressure and the angles of boats.

If a boat to leeward is pointing higher, this information should be supplemented with the conditions. The foredeck might report, "The lead leeward boat is up about five degrees. He has all the crew up and hiking, so they're probably in more pressure. We'd have to foot to get the pressure. ' Or, "The boats to leeward are down and slow with crew in; they're probably in a hole. We have to tack to avoid the hole." This type of information gives the tactician not just the picture of what's happening, but why and whether or not you need to take action to avoid trouble or gain an advantage. In combination with what's happening to weather, the tactician can plot your course as you move up the leg.

OK, Time to Panic - Just kidding. Things do get dicey, however, the closer you get to the weather mark or a layline. As the boats converge, the lanes of free sailing get narrower and eventually disappear. A constant feed of information will help the tactician keep the boat in a dear lane. A minimum lane would put you either two boat lengths abeam and to leeward of a weather boat, or two lengths to weather and aft of a leeward boat (just high enough to stay out of its wake).

If you're approaching the starboard layline on port tack with lots of company to leeward, the tactician will need to know how many boats are in the pack, how far ahead or behind they are, and how much room there is between the boats. The closer you are to the mark, the more critical this information becomes to finding the right place to tack. At the same time, the tactician needs to tell the skipper what's happening to weather, so there are no surprises when you tack for the mark.

This is the time that the foredeck is most helpful. For the most part, finding a lane means concentrating on the boats that are ahead. The communication from the bow should sound like this: "There are two boats coming; judging by my angle through the window, the first will cross and the second is about one and a half lengths behind him. We'll need to make a small duck. The next group of three is about four lengths beyond the second boat; the leader of that pack will cross, and we'd have to dip the rest. The weather most boat has the others pinned." From this, the tactician and skipper both know there is a small lane just to weather of the second boat. They can dip the second boat and sail two lengths before tacking, or they can dip the whole pack and then tack, pinning the group.

None of the information that the tactician has received is necessarily tactical; it's just an accurate depiction of what's happening on the course.  As crew, you can be constantly gauging how far away boats are, how their angles compare to yours, and why they're different.  If you can see these things, you'll be a great help to the tactician.  It also helps to practice in everyday life. I once sailed with a golfer, who asked me how far away I thought another boat was.  When I answered in boat lengths, he started to do the math.  "Let's see, that's about 300 feet, or 100 yards, that'd be a seven iron.  I think you're right!"  So, with the length of your boat in mind, practice gauging that distance in traffic, at a football game, or wherever it might be appropriate.  Either that, or take up golf.