Ideal range for crew weight

Moderator: GreenLake

Ideal range for crew weight

Postby sailorskipca » Sat Mar 26, 2022 3:18 pm

My forum search didn't result in a useful answer to the question of recommended/ideal crew weight for competitive racing.
I'm an experienced centerboard dinghy and one-design keelboat racer, so I know that "ideal" crew weight is a function of the expected wind strength.
I'm new to the Day Sailer and only have a notion of what might be a good range of crew weight. I'm thinking 350 lb +/- 25 lb.
I'd love get recommendations from experienced racers.
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby GreenLake » Mon Mar 28, 2022 4:13 am

By definition I'm not part of the target demographic from which you are expecting expert advice.

Here are some thoughts, anyway.

The DS is not a very light boat for its size. That means the same variation in crew weight will be a smaller percentage variation of the total weight as compared with some other dinghies. It also doesn't use a trapeze. Therefore any weight differences between crew and skipper have a different effect than on a boat with a trapeze for crew but not skipper.

If your sailing venue has consistently lighter winds, then I'd wager you could be more competitive with a total crew weight lighter than your competitors (and the reverse if heavier winds dominate). In neither case would adhering to some formula weight guarantee success.

While I race, I do so in a non-handicapped event with many larger boats. I also like to mix it up with the crew I bring. Local knowledge and finding a way through all the traffic seem to be a better predictor of a successful race than hitting a crew weight target. Crew skill on the other hand...

If sailed well in heavier wind with expert, but lighter weight crew, and I've benefited from soloing in ghosting conditions (zero crew weight).
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby tomodda » Mon Mar 28, 2022 3:12 pm

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

I agree with GL - crew weight is not as critical on a DS as you might be used to on a lighter boat. Weight DISTRIBUTION, on the other hand, is very important. You want the boat to be level on her lines (sit amidships) for most points of sail, and weight at the back running downwind. That being said (writ), I'm also not currently a one-design racer and it was Hobie-Cats back in the day, a whole different ballgame. For my usual noodling around the lake, all I want is a crew member who will shift him/herself to where I ask... usually all the way forward to the lip of the cuddy and outboard. For what it's worth, the boat's natural balance point is pretty much right under the logo on the cuddy. I know from when I hoisted her up and flipped her for painting. However, depending on conditions she'll have more buoyancy fore or aft of that point. I think the biggest "learning curve" for an experienced sailor is getting used to the balance between her fine bows and flared/planing aft parts.. scooting your combined weight a few inches fore or aft makes a big difference, moreso than total weight, at least IMHO. I also sail single-handed most of the time, and for light-air days it's ideal. On heavier-air days (say above 15 knots), I start to really want a crew-mate, if only for the "live ballast," not having to reef and being able to properly sail thru the gusts. Having sailed with several different crew, I'd say that someone about 1/2 my weight is ideal (I'm 260 lbs) - I can move them around to offset ME (Hey, I have to free the damn traveller, can you scoot a foot forward while I do it?), and the boat is still lively. I'll admit that when sailing with my son (also a big guy) or two crew aboard, the boat can get a bit sluggish. Weight starts making a difference in light airs, say under 5-6 knots true. Over here on the East Coast, where the wind often dies down suddenly, the Old-Timers (Chesapeake Log Canoes, Delaware Tuck-ups, Sandbaggers, etc) actually would send crew overboard in light air! Let them swim ashore or to the committee boat. I miss the old days....

And I have to ask - what is this magical place where you sail that you can pick and choose your crew by weight? Over here, I'm happy if my crew show up within and hour or two of when we'd agreed to meet up, and if they are passably sober when/if they do show up at all. It's pure gravy if they can pull on a rope and move themselves to where I ask when we tack. And I'm absolutely playing with house money if they know how to "hand, reef, and steer," let alone call out puffs and traffic for me. Anyway, even if I lived in this Sailing Shangri-La of yours, I think I'd still value a skillful "salty" crew over one who has a "correct target weight." Weight can be adjusted (within reason).... there's the old wet wool sweater trick for more ballast outboard, and if too heavy (for the conditions), throw crew overboard! :D Just kidding, of course, and here's to fair winds and a handy, smart crew!
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby GreenLake » Mon Mar 28, 2022 8:56 pm

I've had better luck with crew actually showing up, but I've not been one with a steady crew for 28+ years. (As I've seen examples of).
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby tomodda » Wed Mar 30, 2022 9:22 am

GreenLake wrote:I've had better luck with crew actually showing up,


Maybe it's me. My shining personality is driving crew to stay ashore? Nah, can't be that. I probably need to start stocking more beer in the cooler.
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby GreenLake » Wed Mar 30, 2022 2:15 pm

I don't know. I like taking different people out and over the years that adds up. Well over a hundred people by now. Some even come back. Some grow up to be pirates.
1720
But sometimes that means, I get to ask different question re: crew weight. Not, "what's the optimum?", but "what's the maximum?" :)
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Re: Ideal range for crew weight

Postby sailorskipca » Sun Oct 15, 2023 12:29 pm

I'm returning to this thread after more than a year. When I posed the question, I didn't share that I have a lot of racing experience in dinghies and ultralight keelboats, and I'm very familiar with the importance of crew weight and proper weight placement for different wind strengths and sailing conditions in weight-sensitive boats.

What prompted my question was to see if sailing in the 2022 NACR in Eugene OR - with its often light wind - with close to 400 lb total crew weight would be horribly uncompetitive. As it turns out, the wind was mostly very light - under 5 kt with occasional short periods over 10 - and our performance was probably more a function of not having sailed together enough and not enough in a larger fleet. That said, our results improved on Day 2 (Day 3 was a washout with no wind).

re: being able to chose crew based on their weight, that's not a top priority for me: skill level, enthusiasm and availability are more important. I race mostly on a bay where the wind during the spring and summer is often 12-20 kt, but at times can be <5 kt. I've learned quickly how to keep the boat moving well upwind in strong breeze with combined crew weight of around only 300 lb. I've learned the Day Sailer is quite adaptable to a wide range of wind conditions when trimmed and sailed attentively.

BTW, I have a 1994 DSII which I think is competitive. It weighed in 25 lb below the 575 lb minimum @ the 2022 NACR so I race with 25 lbs of lead ballast inside the bulkhead just ahead of the centerboard trunk.
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