Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: New England
Thanked 7 Times in 7 Posts
Rep Power: 9
Competent Racers are better sailors.
OP the others have given you a whole host of reasons on why racing can make you a better sailor. But, just because you race, doesn't mean you're a better sailor. I have been on may boats where the skipper is clueless on rules, trim, strategy, etc. Bad habits can pass on to others.
I was crew on a J-24 during a Frostbite series. The skipper was a world champion Sonar skipper. Only one other of his crew was a repeat crew member from the previous year, the rest of us were newbies at winter racing and the J-24 in general. One of our crew never did any type of real sailing. Each week we were assigned a different boat and sails, to rule out boat bias and maintain an even playing field.
We had approx. 50 races during the winter. We came in 1st or 2nd around 60% of the time out of 18 boats. Some it it was us, but most of it was the competent skipper.
Two occasions I remember about really knowing how to sail versus "sailing". One race's upwind leg, we were low of the mark. About 50 yards from the mark, I was mentally preparing to shift my weight for the tack. It was going to be very tight as we would be going to a port tack and then probably have to do some quick ducking into heavy traffic and then another tack back to starboard. Skipper had another plan. Since were were short of the mark about 8 yards, he had several of us slowly go to the leeward rail which made the boat carve more and head up without him touching the tiller. Since he didn't use the tiller to turn, boat speed wasn't scrubbed too much. We held on the rail for only 5-10 seconds and the quickly back to the weather which forced the boat to cease turning. We made the mark by a few yards and avoided the oncoming traffic.
Second event was coming into the windward mark which had an off-set mark about 30 yards apart. We were 5th approaching the mark with the lead boat about 50 yards in front of us and the second place boat about 10 yards behind them. Boats 3 and 4 were all within 15 yards of us, and closer to the mark. We were windward of Boats 3 and 4. Instead of turning hard at the weather mark, then futzing with the jib and spinny, we sailed more a soft apex between the two, which allowed us to get the jib down and spinny up in a more controlled fashion and allow us to carry speed through the turn. Boats 2, 3, and 4 all got into each others bad air, and at the end of the turn, we went from 5th to second in a matter of a minute or two. Later I was able to watch the on film and asked the skipper what made him decide to approach the mark that way. His response was something like, were were in 5th, if we just played followed the leader, we more than likely would be fifth at the end of the day. Had to try something to get us back in the hunt and getting caught up in the bad air and parade of boats doing the same thing, wasn't a solution.
OP if you can get on anther boat for a few races, it may be a worthwhile experience before you attempt it with your own boat.
If you liked my advice/response, give me some rep points. If you didn't......well what do you expect, it was free.