Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: East Stroudsburg, PA
Thanked 117 Times in 112 Posts
Rep Power: 10
Re: How does racing help you learn to be a better sailor?
I've sailed my whole life. I raced a couple races with my dad as a kid on his cruiser (US 27)... but never raced my own boat a bit until last year.
What I've learned about sail trim in a year has completely turned my thought processes of the last 40 on it's head.
Perfect example? On my boat before I'd change down headsail size from solo sailing 155 to 130 at about 10-12mph winds... Due to excessive heel... Well this was fine... except that on our gusty lake, we don't get 10-12 winds... we get 5-12 winds. So you have to figure out how to sail that 155 to get maximum speed for the 5mph winds, and how to depower it when the 12 hits.
You get to learn stuff like how much twist, and draft location, proper angle for jib cars, what rake does, and WHY... prebed, bend, how it affects sail shape, and how all these TINY little NUANCE type tweaks can lead to dramatic differences in performance, or depowering. Which I am NOW finding that racing is as much about knowing when and how to depower, as it is figuring how to power up.
One last thing about racing. Especially in Windward/Leeward courses, the windward legs will force you to maximize your point. Obviously if you know what your MAX point is, you'll make better progress to windward. If you read my paragraph two ago, you'll note that getting your rig tuned is essential to getting that point.. with poor tune, you'll be off as much as 10 degrees each way (port and starboard). If you don't think that's a big deal, consider a long cruise where you have to head to windward... that 10 degrees over a course of days could shave HOURS off your trip!
Oh and the old mantras, reef early, reef often, go out the window... in racing it's HOLD the sail up until you can't depower anymore, then reef.
To quote a brilliant J/World teacher that came to visit our little sail club... "Every good sailor should know how to shift gears. Knowing how to use brakes is also as essential as knowing how to press the gas!"
If you think PHRF type racing is cool.. try One design (or at least boats of nearly the same speed rating)... you'll be able to gauge your sailing skills REAL TIME with other sailors, and know INSTANTLY if you truly know your trim.
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**** Production boat limit tester, blue-water bucket owner, with wine taste on a beer budget.