Jenny Riley and Penny Fenwick are Squib Championship winning crews (Jenny in 1990 and 1993 and Penny in 2007 and 2010) - loyally crewing their husbands.
This article is not for 14 stone guys with muscles like a boxer and weight-lifting their other hobby besides crewing Squibs! It’s for those wives and girlfriends who want to sail in the Squib, but are put off by it being too difficult. So here are some of our tips to make sailing a Squib together a pleasure, rather than a feat of endurance, come rain or shine, Force 6 or Force 2.
1. First of all, you do not need to suffer, girls, (unless you actually like being cold and wet) so a first tip is to buy a drysuit straight away. They come in various forms and styles, pick the best and you will be comfy, dry and toasty whatever the weather.
2. Shin pads worn back to front make sitting out far more comfortable and prevents you getting bruised calves.
3. Team work is really important. You will need help to do some of the things that other crews do easily, so work out how and when rather than shouting at each other. Sailing a Squib is a team sport, so always try to be positive and encouraging to get the best out of each other.
4. Practice! The only way to sail isn’t just racing. Why not go out on your own with no pressure and practice putting the spinnaker up and down, going round marks, gybing etc, so that you both repeat the same sequences every time. You will soon find that everything starts becoming so much calmer, smoother and easier. For example, your helm will need to help you when gybing by easing off the spinni guy when you pull the pole is out, then help you again by pulling it round. Practice will make perfect.
5. You are both going to need to lean out on the toestraps. “Flat is fast”, so make sure your toe straps are long enough, short ones really hurt. When you make a tack, pull the jib in as you cross the boat, then get your bottom over the side as quickly as you can, tuck in your toes and then pull in the jib to the mark. Your helm may need to help you with the last bit, but that’s fine, it doesn’t need to be in tight too quickly. He needs to lean out really hard too, so it’s vital to have a mainsheet system that can be controlled in all wind strengths while you are both leaning out hard.
6. If there is a problem in the boat, or something needs adjusting, you may need to do it while he is leaning out! So be prepared to undo bird’s nests in the mainsheet or adjust some settings by popping into the boat. Sort it out and hop back out on the side and there is no need to panic.
7. Is the worry of picking up the mooring buoy enough to put you off sailing? If so, consider fitting a furling system to your jib. This takes all the speed and power out of the boat just when you need to and allows you to get onto the foredeck with the jib all safely stowed away.
8. If your Squib is fitted out for you (and not the 14 stone - weight lifter) there need be nothing that requires more strength than you have got. You can do everything so long as all the systems work properly. Put 2-1 purchase on the jib sheets, using 6mm rope. (Several male crews are now seeing the benefits of sheets like this, so especially in heavier weather don’t exhaust yourself without the help of an additional purchase.) If launching the pole is difficult, then set the downhaul so it is easy to release when pulling the pole out and pull it tight when the pole is on the mast. Put the pole downhaul near the base of the mast so you can reach that instead when lowering the pole. Use all ball bearing pulleys and cleats and put ratchet blocks on both the jib and the spinnaker.
9. As light weights, you will need to depower the rig as it gets windy. Use all the controls you would use in a dinghy (kicker, cunningham, mainsheet, outhaul) to do this. And remember, you can use the backstay too – don’t listen to the big crews who claim otherwise.
10. Read books, discuss ways of improving the boat and think about tactics – but not while the 14 stone weight lifter is listening with a sarcastic smile. Don’t worry, it will be your turn to smile soon. You may find that it is hard to keep up with the heavyweights on a close reach in strong winds, but less weight in the boat means you will accelerate quicker out of the tacks and you will go faster downwind. Start believing that you can sail as well as anyone else and anything is possible.