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Top Tips for Powerboat Instructors – Craig Ferris

Published Fri 22 Sep 2023

In each Training in Focus edition, we will provide some bite-sized, practical, easy to implement ‘Top-Tips’ from experienced instructors and coaches from around the country, that you can incorporate into your session planning and delivery throughout the season.   

In this edition, is Craig Ferris’s Top-Tips for Powerboat instructors!   

Craig Ferris is the current Australian Sailing Chief Powerboat Instructor. Known in the Sailing world as Fez, he has coached, instructed and taught beginner sailors to high-performance athletes. Winning multiple state, national, and world championships in multiple sailing classes himself shows that he’s more than just an alright sailor.  

After traveling the world, chasing the sun, and winning championships, he gave coaching a go and I guess he was alright with that too. He has been a national and state youth coach, Australian Olympic Coach, Italian Olympic Coach, and Singapore Olympic Coach.  

These days you can find him sipping an extra hot, large, strong cappuccino under a palm tree shaking his head while watching people use ribs without kill cords.   

As fellow instructors, we come across some human traits that seem to be very common when learning how to drive powerboats properly, so a few tips to ensure important messages and key points are in place: 

  • The “pivot point” of the vessel is well forward. Typically, on a centre console RIB it would be forward of the console. The stern of the boat must move sideways during a slow speed turn. 

  • The above can be demonstrated when approaching something in the water. On approach, when close, turn away from the object and the back of the boat will get closer to it. 

  • I also find that holding the throttle with a clenched fist results in excessive speed or not enough. Also, they tend to hold the gear trigger in and go from forward straight through to reverse. Suggest the participant have an open relaxed hand when in gear and push with the palm of the hand and pull with the fingertips. 

  • The big key point that needs constant attention by the instructor in practical sessions is “Steer before Gear”. During low-speed manoeuvres I come across this all the time. As forward is the opposite to reverse, the steering needs to be the opposite before the gear is engaged. 

As instructors you will come across the above issues and the sooner the key points above are in place it will make the practical session go a lot smoother. You must keep a good eye on the direction the participant is turning the wheel and throttle control during the sessions. 

Here is a great PowerPoint for powerboating for instructors