Can some sailboats point higher than others? I have heard that the Olympic class Star and Flying Dutchman sailboats can point higher (sail closer to the wind) than most other sailboats. I have also heard that catboats and catamarans usually do not point very well to windward.
Are these statements true? If so, is a boat’s pointing ability, or lack thereof, significant? (Is it a matter of just a degree or two, or ten to fifteen degrees?) Does good pointing ability mean good speed to windward, or are some boats faster to windward than others with only average pointing ability?
Can someone explain this to me?
Yes it's true.
Usually, lack of pointing ability results in a lower VMG, which results in a longer travel time to your destination (whatever that may be), however in the case of multi-hull boats, they are often fast enough, that their sheer hull speed keeps their VMG high enough to compare or beat monohulls. True, they end up sailing a great number of actual miles, but they sail them faster, and so arrive at their destination sooner than your average, cruising monohull might.
That's sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison though. If you restrict the comparison to mono-vs-mono or multi-vs-multi, then yes- Loss of point can result in more miles sailed, and longer to arrive.
The importance of pointing ability is largely determined by YOU.
If you race, then pointing ability is probably very important.
If you're a cruiser who places a priority on sailing vs. motoring, pointing ability will be important, because you want to arrive at your destination before your turn to skeletons.
If you're a day-sailor who's just farting around it's not a huge deal.
If you don't like the upwind motion, and prefer to motor, then it's not going to be important.
Pointing ability between boats can vary as much as 10 degrees. There are a LOT of factors that contribute to this. Design, sail condition, rig tune, etc.
Really, Faster's explaination was pretty good. I'm probably just re-hashing what he said.