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  Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
America's Cup crew roles
Typical crew positions on board an America's Cup boat
Typical crew positions on board an America's Cup boat
An America's Cup boat is not a place for the faint-hearted, lazy or work-shy.

BBC Sport Online looks at the roles of the 16 crew onboard GBR Challenge.


Ultimate responsibility for boat's safety and performance as well as the public face of the team off the water.

Positioned in the afterguard or "brains trust" and usually doubles up as helmsman, tactician, or strategist.

A leader and motivator who gets the best performance from his crew while remaining calm under pressure.


Responsible for the positioning of the boat on the course, taking into account wind, tide, sea conditions and the state of the race.

Draws on input from the crew, strategist and navigator and must have implicit trust of the helmsman, especially during the frantic pre-start.

It is a major role and the tactician acts as the eyes of the boat.


In charge of all the electronic instruments on board, which provide information on conditions, boat performance and meteorological input, often gathered months before the event.


Concentrates on driving the boat as fast as possible. Takes input from tactician, navigator and trimmers.

Often split into two roles with a specialist pre-start helm, who hands over to the race helm.

During the pre-start (five minutes before gun) the helmsman is crucial in the jockeying for position to secure the best possible position for crossing the line.

Strategist (wind caller, mainsheet traveller)

A diverse role. A key member of afterguard who is on a constant lookout for changes in wind direction or strength.

The strategist also helps trim the mainsail by operating the mainsheet traveller, using the aft winch behind the wheels.

And he acts as an extra pair of hands during manoeuvres. On a boat using two helmsmen, the pre-start helm might become the strategist once over the line.

Mainsheet trimmer

Controls the ropes (sheets) that set the shape of the mainsail to maximise performance.

Takes into account conditions, the opposition, and what the helm is trying to achieve.

Must have a good knowledge of sails and rigs. Works closely with the grinders.

Genoa/Headsail trimmer

Sets and controls headsails using sheets and hydraulics to fine tune sail shape. Two positions on the boat - port or starboard, or upwind and downwind.

Upwind, he is responsible for the genoa, downwind the spinnaker.


No sail can be trimmed or hoisted without using a winch. The grinders supply the power to the winch and answer the demands of their "client" the trimmer.

There are three grinding positions:

  • Aft grinder (mainsheet traveller): trims mainsail and helps with runners (wire that holds up mast - must be swapped from side to side with each tack.
  • Mid grinder: helps with mainsail and is responsible for direction of power to winches using buttons on floor. Also ensures there is enough manpower on each winch when required.
  • Primary grinders (two): use front pair of handles for genoa and spinnaker and hoisting sails.

    Grinders need to be very fit and strong - tacking and gybing require large bursts of energy to transfer the sail from one side to the other.


    A split job - upwind and pre-start he trims the runner.

    This has an effect on the sail shape and performance and needs constant trimming.

    A mistake in timing when letting off the runner could bring the mast down.

    Downwind, he jumps into the pit and assists the front of the boat with hoisting and controlling sails. Also helps out on primary grinders.


    Occupies a central position and controls halyards which hoist and drop sails.

    Provides link between afterguard and front of boat. Needs tactical awareness and appreciation of other roles.

    Helps out on primary grinders during manoeuvres.


    Works with pit and bow to hoist and drop sails and control spinnaker pole downwind, swapping it from side to side during gybes.

    Upwind, he works the primary grinder, trimming and tacking the genoa. During the pre-start he helps the mid-grinder with the mainsail.

    Mid bowman/Sewerman

    Organises sails down below, including repacking spinnakers. Called the sewer because it is hot, dark and wet.

    Needs to anticipate what sail will be needed next and have the strength to lug it around on his own.

    On deck, works with the bowman, mastman and pit to hoist and drop sails and assists with spinnaker pole during gybes.


    All action role involved in hoisting, dropping and controlling the headsails.

    When gybing he swaps the sheets at the end of the spinnaker pole.

    Often has to climb to the end of the pole or is hoisted up the mast to organise sheets and halyards.

    Also acts as the eyes at the front of boat, judging distances, especially valuable during the pre-start.

    Needs to be agile, sure-footed and must not suffer from seasickness.

    17th Man

    Spectator position at the stern.

    Often the syndicate backer, but not allowed to help out either manually or with making decisions.

    Members of the public may pay tens of thousands of pounds for the privilege.

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