Trimmer, Driver or Both?

  • Written on:
Vor17278

Looking at the roster of an ocean racing team, you'll notice the crew includes a heavy dose of trimmer/driver combinations.  Which led us to ponder the question; are there any sailors onboard who are only trimmers or drivers?

Not on a Volvo team we're told.

Looking at the roster of an ocean racing team, you'll notice the crew includes a heavy dose of trimmer/driver combinations.  Which led us to ponder the question; are there any sailors onboard who are only trimmers or drivers?

Not on a Volvo team we're told.  Because the crew of a Volvo Ocean Race team is essentially sailing around the world short-handed (total of 10 sailors) the trimmers and drivers do not have the luxury of specializing in one skill.  This is the biggest crew difference between America's Cup sailing and distance ocean racing.  Because the crew of an AC team a total of 17 crew, sailors tend to migrate to their speciality.  According to our skipper, "The America's Cup is the king of specialization within our sport."  The best part of the Volvo Ocean Race, according to Ryan Godfrey is "the Volvo requires everyone on the boat to participate and be competent in all the crewing roles.  For me, this has a lot of appeal as it keeps your job far more varied and interesting."  For those of you numbers people out there, the PUMA team has four full-time trimmer/driver combinations onboard, plus the skipper, plus the watch captains.  

When the PUMA team is offshore, our trimmer/drivers such as Jono, Rome, Kelvin and Ryan will have to fill both roles.  When he takes the wheel, the driver of the moment becomes the de facto person in charge of making the boat sail fast.  Communication between the driver and his trimmers on deck becomes essential for speed as well as safety.  A trimmer will adjust the sails to what looks right then it is up to the driver to instruct the crew on the final touches.  For example, when sailing at high speeds (as these boats tend to!), mainsheet trim has a huge affect on how much load and control there is on the rudders.  A good driver has the intuition as to how far they can push their boat.  The goal 95% of the time is to squeeze every ounce of speed out of the boat until the sea state forces you to back down.  

The unique (and challenging) part of the Volvo Ocean Race is that during in-port racing, sailors need to revert to their speciality and sail short course day races.  For Kelvin Harrap, who is coming back to ocean racing after working with four different Cup programs, "it's a nice change to get back to your speciality during inshore sailing."  Kelvin will be PUMA's tactician for In-Port racing.  "It's certainly a lot easier than being on the bow pulling down sailing in the middle of the night," says Harrap.
 

Sailing