Follow the Leader


  • Practice and develop the boat handling skills of turning and making speed adjustments while staying in formation.
  • Helps beginning operators bring the boat to a planing speed by having the reference of a boat ahead of them.
  • Helps develop operator comfort in crossing wakes by having the reference of a boat ahead of them.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Boats start from a position dead in the water or at dock near the trainer’s boat.

Conducting the Drill:

  • On signal, all boats form a single line astern of the trainer boat at pre-briefed separation.
  • Trainer leads boats through a series of figure-eights at varying speeds.
  • Each boat switches operators when signaled by trainer and when dead in the water, or at the start of an on-water session.

Teaching Tips:

  • Before conducting this drill, the trainer will have stressed the problems encountered by different hull designs while turning in a seaway or cross a wake.
  • Do not dawdle in semi-displacement speed. Start out slowly, but when transitioning to a plane do so smartly.
  • Trainer ensures a system of hand signals is in place in order to tell operators when the trainer boat is slowing down. Have them repeat the signal until all boats are repeating it.
  • This drill can often be accomplished when leaving the docking area and proceeding to the drill area.

Common Errors:

  • Allowing boat to change heading during transition to planing speed.
  • Hesitating in transitioning to planing speed and remaining in semi-displacement speed for an extended period of time.
  • Failing to remain directly behind the boat ahead and winding up in its quarter wake with resulting difficulty in steering.
  • Having a misperception that staying in the prop wash of the boat ahead risks excessive turbulence and could cause steering difficulty, but it does not.


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standards 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.10 and their rubrics
  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pp. 48, 53