Lets Do It Galway Volvo Ocean Race

Learn the Lingo

The Bowman is responsible for everything that happens forward of the mast. At the sharp end of all the action, the key attributes of top bowmen are rock solid reliability, speed and dexterity, a cool head and strength and agility. In many respects they are a breed apart not least because during sail changes and manoeuvres so much depends on their skills. When the pressure is on, they work mainly solo at the wettest, coldest and most exposed and dangerous end of the boat. The best Volvo Ocean Race drivers are prized assets, who have that innate sixth sense of how to steer the boat fast in different conditions for long periods. In fact, at least four or five of the crew and often the skipper, too, will be drivers of high ability, but the person named Helmsman and Trimmer will steer for 70-90 per cent of their watch, locked in for hours at a time. Often Helmsman come from a high performance dinghy background and their touch is light and subtle. The Boat Captain’s ultimate responsibility is to make sure the boat is in optimum working condition throughout the race. On the racecourse that means making sure routine maintenance and repairs of all types are completed effectively to keep the boat at 100 percent. The required skill set is wide and varied, but usually set against an engineering and/or boat building background. The Boat Captain needs to know every last detail of the boat, making sure that every possible kind of repair is prepared for. He works very closely with the shore crew manager. The sails provide the motive force to move the boat along and the trimmers are responsible for optimising their shape to deliver the maximum speed according to the conditions. The Trimmer’s role is a demanding one and requires non-stop concentration to keep the boat always travelling as fast as possible. The Navigator’s responsibility is to ensure the consistent best positioning of the boat to take maximum advantage of wind and current, getting it from point to point as fast as possible. The Navigator has an increasingly advanced armoury of hardware and software at his fingertips. As no two-boat testing is allowed before this race, one key feature of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011 - 12 will be performance data collection, analysis and processing. Most navigators are specialist meteorologists who love crunching numbers. Two initiatives have helped to expand television coverage of the event: the switch to High Definition programming and the introduction of an embedded reporter on each boat – the Media Crew Member (MCM). The MCMs have a perfect vantage point to capture the trials and tribulations of the teams on the race, from the high winds of the Southern Ocean to the calms of the Doldrums. Their mission is to be a fly on the wall documentarian, providing a 24/7 news feed from the yachts, through HD video, audio, photography and the written word. A Pitman controls all the halyards (ropes) and control lines and is the lynchpin of every operation. He coordinates between the helmsmen and the bow team. The Watch Captain will make the call when to change sails or make a manoeuvre, but it is the Pitman who organises the finer detail. He releases and takes up the different halyards or control lines with split second timing through the sequence. In essence he choreographs the manoeuvre and leads the timing throughout. The Skipper has the widest role with the biggest weight of responsibility: team manager, captain and chief executive all rolled into one. On the racecourse the Skipper has the final say on strategy and tactics, working in tandem with the navigator. Skipper backgrounds are varied, usually with a very high level of success. Olympic medallists are not unusual and most skippers are very accomplished helmsmen in their own right. They thrive under pressure and are solid in motivation and management. They will often have business responsibilities to help deliver return for their team’s sponsors, fulfil budgets and deal with personnel issues within the team.