Tom Cunliffe has assessed hundreds of sailors for the RYA Yachtmaster exam. He shares a few skipper's tips with us...

Skipper’s tips

How to leave a raft

Skipper’s tips

There is only one way to slip out from the middle of this raft of yachts – and that’s downtide

Nobody would approach a raft of boats downstream or downwind if there’s no tide. The opposite applies when you slip out of the middle of a raft. There’s only one way out, and that’s downtide. Try it the other way, and as soon as you let go the outer boat’s up-tide line to allow you to exit, she’ll be away with the fairies, beam on and going strong. All you need do, once shore lines and springs have been brought in, is run a long line from the downstream end of the boat outside you, hand it to a helper on the boat inside, then let go all your breast ropes, engage gear and go for it positively while those left behind take up the slack, then adjust.

Swig those halyards

Skipper’s tips

Cheat friction by sweating up the halyards from the mast – it’s easier and much quicker than toiling away on a winch

Halyards led aft sound like a great idea. They can be adjusted from the cockpit at sea, so nobody need go forward. The trouble is, manufacturers don’t always fit the finest turning blocks, salt gets in and before you know it, friction has triumphed. The result is that a modest mainsail on a 32ft boat has to be winched up for much of its height. A useful answer is to send an active adventurer forward to heave up the halyard where it exits the mast while the cockpit crew whips in the slack around the winch provided. The technique is to grab the bight (middle) of the length of halyard available, lean back on it, then bear down with your weight. This generates several feet of slack for the winchers to grab. With practice, they’ll only have to wind up the last foot or two. Watch a race boat – they all do it. It makes sense for us, too.