Bowman Essentials, Conquering the Pointy End

This course, aims to help boat owners and skippers upskill crew to be competent on the bow and help improve boat performance. Peter Dowdney who has 30 years bow experience provides inspiration and insight into what it takes, what you need to do to move from crew to bow.

“Master the bow position and you will always have a boat to sail on. Skill up and be confident and you can go places with it”

Develop the skills and learn the tips to be a great bow person and reduce the on the job “trial and error”

Over 2 progressive modules, participants are provided with a mixture of classroom and practical demonstrations to build knowledge and confidence for both inshore and offshore racing.

Everything you need to know if you want to conquer the bowman’s role.

BowmanStart of the Conde de Godo Photograph Max Ranchi 

Inshore Bowman Module

The competent bow person needs to plan ahead and think about what’s going to happen out on the course. They need to understand their boat, the equipment and know-how to approach sail changes using the correct techniques. On a modern racing boat, bow competency is critical to reducing risks of damage whilst maximising performance.

Over 3 sessions (one online and two Saturday mornings at Sandringham Yacht Club), participants will join our trainers for a mixture of theory and practical covering:

  • Introduction to the Bow including:
    • What it takes to be a good bowman, the skills you need
    • The moves, what they are and spinnaker types
    • How the role changes to suit the boat type or sailing conditions
    • Learning how to predict and how to stay ahead
    • How to avoid problems
    • What does it take to work competently the bow?
  • Importance of clear communication skills and preparation
  • What gear works and why
  • Personal fitness
  • Impacts of boat, sail type, sail materials
  • On race day, we look at the pre-race preparation, the start, stages throughout the race and thinking and strategies
  • The art of gybing a spinnaker and dropping and peeling a spinnaker
  • How to avoid problems and how to recover and keep going
  • Headsail changes, when to change, inline and tacks changes plus packing
  • Furling sails including types and tips and tricks
  • Review of various boats in the marina and their setup and systems.

After each session, we would encourage participants to join a boat so they can put these learnings into practice.

Pre-requisites – Rudimentary understanding of what it means to work on the bow and some basic experience of inshore bow work plus knowledge of modern sailing terminology. All participants must have attended the introduction session.

Inshore Course Dates: Online Wednesday 12th May 6.30 - 9.30 and Classroom sessions at SYC Sunday 16th & 30th May 2021, 9 – 1.30

Course Cost: 

  • Complete both the Offshore and Inshore Bow course:  ORCV Member $200 / Non Member $275. 
  • Inshore Course only:  ORCV Member $125 / Non Member $175.

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Offshore Bowman Module

Building on the inshore knowledge, this course looks at the challenges associated with being offshore, how to approach it whilst reducing risk and maximising performance.

We look at the differences between inshore and offshore including"

  • Strategies to reduce the risk
  • Key procedures for headsail changes, reefing the main and spinnaker hoist, gybe and retrieval
  • Disaster recovery for broken sheets, halyards and accidental gybe or broach
  • Big boat considerations
  • Short-handed consideration
  • Personal fitness and gear consideration

Pre-requisites: All participants have attended the inshore bowman course or can demonstrate strong inshore bow competency.

Offshore Course Dates: Classroom at SYC Wednesday 2nd June 7 – 9pm

Course Cost:  Complete both the Offshore and Inshore Bow course:  ORCV Member $200 / Non Member $275. 

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The Trainers

Peter Dowdney – Lead & 'Master of the Bow'

PD Portrait

Many of you will know Pete Dowdney our lead trainer as Pete from Ronstan as he’s been there for some 30+ years putting to get use his knowledge and experience of sailing.

Peter started out as most young ones do, learning to love sailing via off the beach boats. Being fit, strong and agile, he joined the crew of Turbo and Freelance to learn the trade of “bowman” right here in Melbourne sailing on the Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster onboard as bowman in 1983 and then again on Turkeyshoot in 1984.

Pete’s bow skill and reputation led him in 1987 to being selected for Bow on Steak n Kidney for the America’s Cup and again in 1991 onboard Challenge Australia in San Diego. Travel and a “bucket list” of other races were then completed with some of the more noteable ones being:

  • 12m World Championships in Sardinia and Sweden onboard Steak n Kidney,
  • Admirals Cup and Fastnet in Cowes UK onboard Bimblegumbie,
  • Kenwood Cup in Hawaii with Challenge 3, Once Jolly Swagman and Challenge Again, and multiple
  • Melbourne to Hobart Westcoasters onboard Turbo and Freelance
  • Sydney to Hobart onboard Ragamuffin, Illusion, Westernport Venture, Sword of Orion, Ocean Designs, Wedgetail, Cougar 2, Blackjack and Terrafirma to name just a few with the list going on and on.

“I learnt very early on that the bowman was the master of his/her domain in front of the mast. Being a good bowman, opened opportunities to sail on some incredible boats, with some of the best sailors in the world, taking me to places that I had only dreamt of going! “

“Mastering the bow has provided me with a lifetime of opportunity and allowed me to build a career doing what I love doing”


Martin Vaughan - Bow & Double Handed Specialist

Martin VaughanMartin started his sailing career on the bow. Initially he did bow for a several years on a friends Noelex 25 trailer sailor, helping them win a number of national titles. After purchasing his first keel boat with a mate, the Murray 41 Terra Firma, Martin did bow for quite a few years on everything from club racing to Sydney Hobarts and regattas such as Hamilton Island race week and the offshore Sydney southern cross series. Despite drifting towards the back of the boat, trimming and steering, plus several stints at boat ownership of other cruiser racers, Martin has found himself back on the bow more times than he can count over the last two decades. Joining friends at various regattas around Australia and internationally, it isn’t unusual to find that nobody could do bow and that he had to take on bow once again.

It has held him in good stead, underpinning a successful double handed sailing career, including the Melbourne to Osaka and several Melbourne to Hobarts.


Mark Welsh – Accomplished Sailor with Years of Bow Experience

For the best part of Mark’s 40 years of sailing, he’s been on board a range of keelboats after starting out on International Cadets. He’s currently co-owner (with his father Mike) of Wicked, a Beneteau First 40.

He’s crewed in most positions, including many years on the foredeck. Having completed most ORCV races, the inaugural ORCV Melbourne to Vanuatu race on Alien, Adelaide to Port Lincoln races, Hamilton Island, Sydney to Gold Coast and 7 x Sydney to Hobarts (best result being 2nd IRC overall 2009 on Wicked). Mark has found himself on the bow in a wide range of conditions.

Well known in the sailing scene, Mark is currently Rear Commodore of Sandringham Yacht Club, Club Captain and a regular ORCV Skipper and has won a wide range of ORCV races.