Originally Posted by DrB
I often get a kick out of folks that are basically club/weekend racers and spend oodles of $$ new sails every few years and think it makes a huge difference on how they place.
I raced over the winter on a J24 out of a sailing club/school. They had about 15 boats and each week you got assigned a different boat. Some boats had better sails than others. In the end, it came down to the skipper and crew, not the sails. I was fortunate enough to be with a world champion skipper who had more knowledege about the boat and sailing in his thumb than I did in my entire body. Consequently, we won or came in second out of 15 boats almost 45% of the time and I learned more about racing tactics from talking with him and watching what we did over the 4 months of w/e sailing, then I had over the 20 years previous sailing years.
Same with beer can/club racing. If folks want to do well in these races, find competent crew, practice, and become a better helmsman. If you don't want to do that, getting a new Hi Zoot sail isn't going to give you any advantage over the guy/gal in the old boat with the "blown" sails that has competent crew and knows how to eek every microknot of speed from his vessel and has better tactical skills.
While what you say might be true in some fleets where there is wide ranging skill levels, I have found that even at the upper range of club racing sail quality is a factor. In any established one design fleet there are different tiers. There is always the same group of boats at the front of the pack. Those boats are usually all pretty equal when it comes to skill level, but you will notice that the other thing they have in common is that they all have good sails. Assuming boat handling and tactics are comparable there is no way a boat with worn out sails is going to win consistently.