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Old 05-18-2005
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Catalina 38 Avantura
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Racing basics desired

I am thinking of racing this year (38 footer). The only other time I raced was on sunfish back in the late 70''s. What I am looking for is information, a book hopefully, on basic racing. I''m talking basic! For example, what is the recommended crew size and their jobs? What are the basic rules (the ones to keep me from trashing someone elses boat)? Any info or recommendations you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
FYI, unless you are on the west end of Lake Erie, you''re safe ;-)!
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Old 05-18-2005
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Racing basics desired


Love the last name (do you belong to the beer magnate family featured on the Simpsons?)

I''ll assume your boat has wheel steering at that size.

If you''re looking to join a typical beer can racing fleet flying spinnakers in boats displacing from 5-10 tons or more, you''re taking a big step up from sunfish. Racing sunfish is a good background for learning tactics and such, but the point is handling a big boat, flying a spinnaker downwind, etc. will take some adjustment. How much sailing have you done on her so far? Ever flown the spinnaker?

It might be best for you to spend a season (spring/summer/fall) crewing on someone else''s boat that''s been doing it for a while just to get a feel for what''s needed to handle a boat that size smartly during a race.

I stepped onto my little 25 footer in 2003, and started racing her that year because:

*She had tiller steering
*Her sail area (mainsail, anyway) was comparable to the overpowered Hobie 16 I''ve been sailing and racing for years
*I race nonspinnaker fleet (jib and main only)
*The cockpit is small enough, with sail controls (sheets) within close reach so that if an inexperienced crew (your are likely to have inexperienced crew at first, so you need to be the one who knows the ropes) did something wrong or failed to do something, the proper solution was usually one or two steps, and seconds, away from the tiller
*I was confident enough in my boat handling abilities, and knowledge of the racing rules, to feel up to the job even though a 25 footer weighing a couple of tons is a big step up from dinghies.

If you''re that confident in your sailing abilities, good for you. I don''t know of any particular books that deal with keelboat racing basics, I guess you just need to combine basic ability to handle a keelboat with a crew in various wind conditions with confidence, combined with a basic understanding of racing rules and tactics.

Racing is a great way to hone your boathandling abilities, and learn your boat and what it can and can''t do. Just keep in mind that 8 to 10 tons of boat is a lot of oomph to go plowing into someone else''s hull, and the loads on the sheets for sails on your boat will not be trifling, particularly when the wind is up. You can certainly "practice" being a race boat by gathering potential crew, heading out and doing basic maneuvers; rounding marks (nav buoys), tacking and gybing, sailing in a circle, crash tacks, etc. Head out when the wind is up and feel whether the boat has weather helm or (yikes!) lee helm. See what happens when a puff hits and the boat heels excessively; does the boat round up suddenly? (Don''t try this with anything to windward) Try it again and see if you can release the main easily to depower the sails (don''t count on releasing a jib quickly 100 percent of the time if you are using a winch, because every now and then someone will either wrap the sheet the wrong way or "overwrap" the turns so that you can''t get them unjammed). You want to be able to have more or less complete control of your boat regardless of wind conditions, minor mishaps (like a stuck sheet, or a sheet letting go, a halyard coming uncleated, etc.) so that you can safely avoid collisions with other boats in tight quarters.

On my 25 footer with plenty of wind I''m grateful to have 4 crew (me and 3 others). A boat your size flying spinnaker, you''d probably want at least 4, maybe more with a lot of wind.

Good luck and have fun. Remember to keep the boat in the water, and keep the water out of the boat!

Allen Flanigan
Alexandria, VA
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Old 05-19-2005
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Racing basics desired

Thanks for the reply. No, I''m not planning on flying a spinnaker, just running jib and main. Aslo, my sunfish experience was only limited to 2 races... someone had to finish last! So as you can probably surmise, my knowledge of the rules is almost nil! (I do know that starboard tack has right of way... most of the time)
That is why I''m looking for something to give me the basics. I would want to know some of the basic rules before even crewing on someone elses boat (I''d like to be a little more than ballast). This is where the engineer in me kicks in; I''d like to suck in as much info as I can before I take a shot at it, so I don''t end up sucking in water instead (or someone elses fiberglass). I am also toying with the idea of racing with the fleet but staying the heck out of the way when things get tight.
Again, thanks for any and all info.
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Old 05-19-2005
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Racing basics desired

J-World runs some great basic racing courses as does NorthU. NorthU also has a series of videos that are pretty good. There are a number of books out there about basic sailboat racing rules and theory. The racing rules change every three years so to be completely up to date you would need to look for an up to date version of something like "Paul Elvestrom Explains the Rules".

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Old 05-19-2005
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Racing basics desired


If your racing experience is limited, aside from taking courses as Jeff suggests, I''d consider joining a racing dinghy fleet. Small boat racing is a good way to learn the ups and downs of racing, including boat handling on a race course, without risking big expensive collisions. On a small dinghy, the biggest injury is likely to be to your ego when you pull the inevitable bonehead moves of a beginner. Plus it will be easier for the other competitors to avoid you when you make a mistake in smaller boats, since they are more maneuverable. Once you''ve learned how to avoid putting yourself in irons, what a sailboat can and cannot do to avoid other boats (i.e. should I tack to avoid those oncoming boats, or can I sail under them?), basic right of way rules, and so on on a small boat, you should have the confidence to do the same thing in a larger boat, mindful that it has much more momentum and is much slower to accelerate. I don''t know if going out as a greenhorn and tagging along behind the fleet is a good idea, since you may never work up the nerve to get up there and mix it up if you start out on your big boat. Our cruiser boat racing fleet seems to have a few of these "tag along" boats that are reluctant to get near the start, seemingly for fear of fouling someone in the close quarters before a start. Probably other fleets have them as well. Maybe other racers out there have done it this way, but I think you''ll be better off learning the mechanics of racing on smaller boats and then bringing this knowledge aboard your own boat.

Allen F.
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Old 06-17-2005
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Racing basics desired

Welcome to the wild world of racing houses at 6 mph with no brakes! They are not a dingy nor an America''s Cup boat. Things happen more slowly, but once they do, the boats are slow to react to any emergency input, so you have to stay on top of everything.

But even cruisers have their place and can really be a hoot to race.

If you are looking to use your boat, you will probably be racing in PHRF fleets. It is not perfect, but it is a lot fun.

I suggest you ask to crew on a similiar boat to yours for a couple of races to get the hang of what it is all about. Don''t go for the A fleet boat with 60 different lines and rock stars yelling words you have never heard. You will only get confused and scared about the sport.

You will notice a rhythm from the pre-start to the start, upwind and downwind legs.
You need to get comfortable and plan ahead for each in order to do well and be safe. Watch the captain and his crew. Even better, do a couple races with one boat, and then ask to be rail meat on a different boat to see how they approach the race. You can then put the best together for your boat.

In Cruising fleet you have your basic controls. Start with trim, work your way to halyard setup, and then you can graduate to the fancy stuff.

Get a copy of a North Sail video on sail shape. Knowing how to quickly trim sails is the most important thing after knowing the basic rules.

I also suggest you do not shadow the fleet without a least entering the compitition. More times than not the racers get pissed when someone is out there they are not sure is racing and accidently causing others to modify tactics or worse, all the sudden they are in the middle of Grand Central station with no clue what to do (eg windward mark with boats coming down under chutes and everyone else converging coming up wind). If you are in the race, then you have every right to be there.

Another great place to start is to talk to the local club''s regatta committee. They love new comers since it bolsters the fleet and brings in new blood.

They can explain the local area, rules, where you fit, who to look out for, get you a ride, help get you crew, check your boat to see if you are set up correctly and suggest small items that will really help out, help get your rating certificate etc.
This can knock a year off of your initial education.

If your club does not have a RC, check out other clubs nearby. Half the racers on our Thursday night line are not members. We throw seminars in the winter, bring in race officers and noted racers to explain the fine points. In protest meetings people can learn from the mistakes of others. And it is all open to the public as we think we get better racing when people know the rules and how to use their boat properly.

The 38 is a big heavy boat. Your plans are about right for it. Use it to have fun and know when the wind comes up and boats start to reef, the playing field just leveled for you.

Once you get hooked, well your spare time is all over. You will be pissing away money like a drunken sailor on new gear, seminars, bottom jobs etc. And enjoying every minute of it. You have been warned!

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