Ocean Racing Club of Victoria
Steb Fisher

Foredeck Essentials, Conquering the Pointy End

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

“Master the foredeck 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 foredeckie and reduce the on-the-job “trial and error”

With a mixture of online, pre-reading and then a practical day in person, participants will learn everything they need to know if they want to conquer the foredeck role.


BowmanStart of the Conde de Godo Photograph Max Ranchi 

Foredeck Course Outline

The competent Foredeckie 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, foredeck competency is critical to reducing risks of damage whilst maximising performance.

With an eLearning online session and a full day in person for practicals (at Sandringham Yacht Club), participants will join our trainers and learn:

  • What it takes to be a good foredeckie, the skills you need to do the job properly.
  • How the role changes to suit the boat type or the sailing conditions
  • Learning how to predict what happens next and how to stay ahead of the game
  • Pre-race preparation – the art of avoiding problems before they happen
  • What it takes to work competently and safely on the foredeck ?
  • The importance of clear communications
  • What gear you should have, what works and why?
  • Personal fitness – an under-rated requirement.
  • The impact of modern boat & sail design on the role
  • We will look at a typical race day, how we manage the start, the various stages of the race, and the thinking and strategies of the foredeckie.
  • The art of gybing a spinnaker properly
  • How to drop and peel spinnakers
  • Headsail changes, when to change, why you change, the choice between inline and tack changes.
  • How to pack headsail on deck and spinnakers down below
  • Furling sails - types of furling sails, tips and tricks for more efficient furling
  • Review various boats in the marina, their setups, and systems, what works and why?
  • Strategies to reduce the risk and avoid problems
  • How to recover from a disaster and keep racing

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


Rudimentary understanding of what it means to work on the foredeck and some basic experience of inshore foredeck work plus knowledge of modern sailing terminology. All participants must complete the eLearning prior to the in person day and complete any pre reading.

Course Dates & Booking

eLearning prelearning and Practical Day at SYC Sunday 11th August 2024, 9am – 4pm.

ORCV Member $200 / Non Member $275 / Youth $175.  The course includes lunch on Sunday.

Club Support ProgramTo assist your members find suitable and trained Foredeckie, the ORCV is offering a pathway and will sponsor 1 youth (aged 25 years or younger) from your club to join the upcoming Foredeck Essentials Course.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with us with who it is you’d like to nominate.  

Book Now Buttons 1

The Trainers

Peter Dowdney – Lead & 'Master of the Foredeck'

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 “foredeck” right here in Melbourne sailing on the Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster onboard as foredeck in 1983 and then again on Turkeyshoot in 1984.

Pete’s foredeck skill and reputation led him in 1987 to being selected for Foredeck 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 foredeckie was the master of his/her domain in front of the mast. Being a good foredeckie , 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 foredeck has provided me with a lifetime of opportunity and allowed me to build a career doing what I love doing”


Martin Vaughan - Foredeck & Double Handed Specialist

Martin VaughanMartin started his sailing career on the foredeck. Initially he did foredeck 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 foredeck 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 foredeck 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 foredeck and that he had to take on foredeck 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 Foredeck 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 foredeck 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.

orcv logo reversed

3 Aquatic Drive, Albert Park VIC 3206 Ph. 0493 102 744 E. orcv@orcv.org.au