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This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49 

Finding The Perfect Crew
By Alex Hagen
Apr 16, 2003, 14:54

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Oh boy - to be honest this is the most difficult thing in the world. When I started sailing a Star I put a lot of energy into this. I could neither find a suitable person among my Laser and OK-Dinghy companions, nor in my club or neighborhood. Then I started a nationwide advertising campaign in several sailing (and nonsailing) magazines. "Looking for a sportsman of more than 100kg for a crew career in the Olympic Star Class, sailing ability is welcome but not necessary!" (I was wrong.)

I interviewed about 10 people, mostly non-sailors. Then simple luck offered the best crew to me. Vincent Hoesch, 20 years young, living 1000 km away, had a telephone chat with my mother and left no doubt that he was the right choice. With 80 kg less team weight than the current World Champions Conner/Anderson, I wasn't too confident. But, we were young and created a new athletic sailing style that was very successful in those days.

Vinci was, what I call, the perfect crew: He was highly motivated and always pushed me hard. He was physically strong, and most important, an incredibly good sailor. He simply understood the whole game, 100%, and his great input helped minimize the mistakes that occurred while we were racing. On top of this, I had not before, and have not since, seen anyone as skilled in manual crew work (remember 20 years ago a lot more things broke on a Starboat, but Vincent fixed everything in a minute). Last, but not least, we liked and respected each other.

After 5 years together we separated and Vinci decided to become a skipper of not only Stars, but also other keelboat classes. Since that time, we each continued
having great successes, but being separated, never again achieved the skills that we had together.

Nowadays, I would not have the energy to train a non-sailor until he is "the perfect crew".

One day, I went out for a test with a huge discus thrower. As we could not find a sailing suit to fit his size, he put on 10 t-shirts from his sponsor, Adidas. After a long downwind leg, I was ready to feel the advantage of excessive bodyweight. However, when we turned upwind, this athlete explained to me that there was no way he could hike out without going through his warm-up-program first

It is just so much easier to call a superstar like Marcelo Ferreira and - with a lot of luck - win the world title. He is a natural talent and positive thinker, which allows the skipper to free his mind.

The attitude and sportsmanship is what I like about my current crew, Carsten Witt. Yachting was a new sport for him, since he was a national rowing champion and did no sail until he was 25 years old. I tell him to look around as much as possible and feed me with short and helpful information.

Looking at his own sailing career, any skipper will agree to the fact that he had his best crew simply when he had his best result. Or - when the top sailors of the world meet once a year to battle for the Gold star, it is the small differences in the crew work that makes one team the winner.

Nowadays, the Star rig has developed to stiffer masts and more powerful sails than 20 years ago. As a result, the Star goes faster upwind in the waves, but for sure requires more crewweight. Vinci Hoesch of the early eighties, with 85 Kg - matter how good he was - would not work as a crew today. This, friends, makes the search for a super crew so difficult. I am sure the Star Class would double its numbers if the pool of potential Star crews was bigger. Most people look at the Star Class after they have finished with dinghies. The Star would attract more sailors if the boat would not require such enormous bodyweight.

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