What makes good sailing crew?

So you think you’ve got what it takes to be a skipper aboard a yacht? I didn’t, but I was curious to see how it might be identified and assessed by those in the know, so Noble and Hogbin’s The Mind of the Sailor: An exploration of the human stories behind adventures and misadventures at sea makes for insightful reading.

Within the book there’s a 2-page questionnaire asking the reader if they’ve got what it takes. I did the quiz out of pure curiosity and wasn’t surprised to see that my score indicates I am “average”.

I think the real point of the questionnaire is to demonstrate that being a good skipper and/or crew member has obviously got something to do with sailing ability, knowledge and fitness, but that’s not all. A large part of performing as a race team involves living with strangers, at least at the start, with no privacy under taxing physical and mental conditions….so you need to be a ‘people person’, able to relate to others with warmth and positivity, self-aware of one’s own emotions and process stress constructively.

“…A person who is sensitive to the atmosphere on the boat, good humoured and receptive is well on the way to being a good crew member. Crew work under the direction of the skipper, and a good crew is one who listens carefully and is willing and able to take instruction. He or she must also be happy to comply with the routine of the boat…It also helps not to be over-sensitive – a crew needs to be open to constructive criticism without taking it personally. Life on a small boat, particularly in heavy weather, can become overcrowded and claustrophobic. Fortunately, some people have the happy knack of diffusing tension and the capacity for overlooking the occasional outburst from other crew, or even the skipper. Temperament and compatibility are as important as sailing skills in the choice of crew…But the situation on a racing yacht is different, where technical competence and physical fitness are much more important. Racing boats also require larger crew, so the aspiring ocean racer must be prepared for overcrowding and discomfort…”

(Noble and Hogbin: 9-10)

Hhmm, I think I have a lot of un-learning and self-development to do yet then! 😊

Depending on your own answers to the quiz below, you’ll either be a person all Clipper Race crew are hoping their team mates will be like aboard an ocean racing yacht, or the person we all hope and pray will be left on land at the race start.


Skipper/Crew Questionnaire from Noble and Hogbin’s The Mind of the Sailor: An exploration of the human stories behind adventures and misadventures at sea


“To sail is to embark on a lifetime of learning – about the sea and about ourselves.”


(Noble & Hogbin 2001:25)

4 thoughts on “What makes good sailing crew?

    1. Ha ha! Actually, I’m not surprised you got that score, as you are able to focus on a goal despite challenges, be self-motivated, whilst also being there for others and being aware of their needs too – far more than me I think!

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