While EMG does a huge variety of events both on and off the water, we have a special place in our hearts for sailing events. EMG was born on the water and we love to share our enthusiasm for sailing, specifically as a team building event, with our clients. With that it mind we thought we'd share a few wise words on the subject.

Why Choose Sailing for Your Team Building Event?

Sailing is a natural team building activity. There are several different roles to perform when sailing or racing a yacht, and if crew members do not communicate efficiently and clearly with one another when performing these roles then the boat will simply not sail.

Team Building Sailing – the Basics

Team Building Sailing – the Basics

While getting to grips with a new environment and tasks such as navigation, sail trimming and handling the yacht, crew members will naturally develop their ability in several areas which can be transferred to the work environment, including:

  • Communicating in a busy, unfamiliar & complicated environment
  • Decision making, especially under pressure
  • Leadership
  • Acting as a unit and coordinating performance
  • Self confidence

In addition to really targeting the transferable skills above, a main plus point for sailing is that it is highly participatory and inclusive - leaving no one on the sidelines. As opposed to a number of activities, for example rock climbing, paint balling, and physical boot camps, sailing allows those who are nervous or want to take a bit of a 'back seat' to be a part of the experience, with everyone participating to some degree. With such a diversity of key roles on a boat there generally is one to suit every personality type, with those who are nervous often choosing to act as 'ballast' or steer the boat at first and then as their confidence builds taking on other roles such as working the sails. All of the roles on a boat, big or small, are important and impact other areas.

The Key Roles on a Yacht

The majority of EMG's sailing team building events are on Beneteau First 40s - or in simple terms, 40ft sailing yachts. There are nine key roles onboard a 40 ft sailing yacht and each is vital to the performance and safety of the yacht and its crew.

Boat Captain

Surprising as it may seem the captain is not necessarily the helm (yacht driver). This crew member must ensure that the yacht is ready for racing, all of the crew are accounted for and that food, fuel and sails are ready for hoisting. The boat captain is key in keeping communications open at all times inboard and may well help other crew members as and when needed. He or she is also generally responsible for talking the whole crew through manoeuvres as they are about to happen and ensuring that all crew are ready.


The tactician's role is to get the yacht around the race course as fast as possible taking into account wind, tide, other competitors and the crew's ability. They are also responsible for making sure that the yacht has the correct course and has the correct start times for every race - in short they are the brains of the operation. Main communication is with the helm and boat captain to run through manoeuvres.

The Helm (driver)

Just because they 'drive' the boat does not mean they are the Captain. The helm's role is to point the yacht wherever the tactician says and to keep the yacht going as fast as possible at all times. Although it is easy for the helm to get involved with other crew members' jobs, they must try to focus on the job at hand and not be distracted. Main communication is with the tactician and main sheet.

Main Sheet

First things first: a sheet is a sail and the 'Main Sheet' is the person in charge of letting the main sail in and out. The main sheet trimmer has a lot of control over the yacht's speed and manoeuvrability. The main sheet trimmer must focus on their job at all times to help produce the most speed for the yacht at which ever the point of sail they may be (not a job for the faint hearted). Main communication is with the helm.

Head Sail Trimmers

This position is for two crew members, one who will cut the sheet (release it when going through the tack) whilst the other pulls in the loaded sheet. The crew member releasing can then help with tailing the sheet or trimming it - which is a good example of team work. The head sail gives the yacht a considerable amount of drive and as always, the trimmer should keep adjusting the sail depending on the point of sail - never taking their eyes off of the ball. The trimmers are also in charge of trimming the spinnaker sheet and guy when going down wind. Main communication is between each other, boat captain and tactician. Pre start these guys will have a lot to do!

Bowman (the thankless job)

The bowman is in control of all sail hoists and drops depending on the point of sail, the bowman spends most of his or her time on the foredeck preparing for spinnaker hoists, gibes and drops. Communication is vital between the boat captain, pitman and mast man to ensure a smooth race. No sails up means no sailing so always be nice to your bowman!


The pitman is an extension of both the bowman and mast man and is in control of all of the running rigging which comes into the cockpit. Once again a very important role and always in the thick of the action. Main communication is between bowman, mast man and boat captain. The eyes and ears for the foredeck crew.

Mast man

This position is for the stronger members of crew. A mast man's main job is to assist with the fast hoist of sails during manoeuvres. The mast man and bowman go hand in hand and assist each other on hoists and drops. Main communication is with bow man, pitman and boat captain.


No sailing team is complete without its members that help to balance the boat in order to gain the top speeds and maneuverability. These members of the crew are called 'ballast' and are key when racing for the mark. Acting as Ballast also allows for the best seat in the house.

What You'll Actually Be Doing on the Day

Team Building Sailing – the Basics

Although the above may sound intimidating to the novice sailor - it shouldn't be! On the majority of our sailing events 95% of our guests have never sailed before. On a standard Team Sailing Day or Corporate Regatta, where guests have a little or no experience of sailing, it is most likely that they will fully take on only a few of the above roles (with much guidance) for example helm, pitman, mastman and ballast. The roles of Captain and tactician will generally be taken on by an experienced EMG Skipper who will provide support and direction throughout the event.

Once participants have the swing of things, they'll generally take on more responsibility throughout the day and will find that they begin to interact more fluidly and with less guidance from the Skipper.

For more technical sailing events such as the Match Racing Academy & Round the Island Race there is more structured role definition but don't worry we provide a lot of guidance, training and support!

Sailing Terminology

A few useful sailing terms to prepare you for any up coming sailing events.


The back of a yacht. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern.


The front of the yacht is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow).


Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front. An easy way to remember that port is the left side is by remembering the saying "there is no PORT LEFT in the bottle".


Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Starboard is used to define the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.


Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward).


The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know.


The boom is the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards.


Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger yachts control the rudder via a wheel.


The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. When tacking the wind will be against you.


The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind. When jibing the wind will be behind you.


A line used to raise the head of any sail


The loo! Don't worry you will receive a demo on how the loo's work at the start of the day.


The kitchen! This is where you will generally find your friendly host/hostess.

Some Final Words of Advice

Ultimately sailing is fun so relax and enjoy it. Have a good breakfast (generally we always send teams off with a full belly and plenty of tea!), never be afraid to ask questions or for help and in the words of Baz Luhrman, "if I could offer you only one tip for the future sunscreen would be it."