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  #1  
Old 08-25-2008
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My First Season of Racing

This is my first year of racing. The season is winding down and I thought Iíd pass along my experiences and learnings from racing. My experience is the following: 1 time racing on an Etchells, once on a J109, and about 10X on a J105 (with the same skipper).
  1. Fast enough isnít fast enough. You matter what you are doing, trim, hoist, takedown, even if you have it done in an instant, it still was too slow.
  2. The start is 50% of the game the first down wind set 30%, and the remaining 20% is a combination of luck, minimizing mistakes, and picking the right spots.
  3. Collisions are avoided by inches after 3 seconds of shear chaos and frantic steering. However, a collision course between two boats often is known well in advance, but for some reason everyone has a ďI donít think we are on a collision courseĒ belief until 5 seconds before.
  4. Every boat sails differently. The same boat even in different wind conditions.
  5. Skippers never lose the race, itís always the crews fault some how.
  6. Crews never win a race, the skipper does.
  7. In a fleet of 10 boats, if 8 boats pick one tack off the start or around a mark and you and another are on the other tack, youíre probably wrong.
  8. As the wind speed increases, so does the yelling and crew tension.
  9. Every boat has a Know-it-all. 99% of the time, this is not the skipper.
  10. There is a HUGE difference between cruising sail trim and racing sail trim. Just because youíre decent at cruising trim does not necessarily mean you are good at race sail trimming
  11. A competent bow person is major factor in setting and dousing the spinny. Without them, itís a pure crap shoot if the sail comes up right or gets dropped in the water during the douse.
  12. If you think you're doing something right (right or wrong) and the skipper a doesn't want you to do it they'll either say "Don't do that, Why are you doing that?, I didn't tell you to do that". However, if they do something at the helm and you don't respond with a action that they wanted you to do, but didn't tell you, you should have known better.
I have also found that I really donít know what the hell is going on during the race except at my position. I often trim the main on the J105 and with intermit instructions from the skipper, constantly looking at the main trim, the speedo, tidying up my lines , and then doing a tack or jibe, I really donít have much ďfree timeĒ to watch the race. I know when things arenít going well with a spinny set or douse because of the add verbage being thrown around.
I also think that most racers are type A and even A+ personalities with very thick skinned.

Racing this summer has definitely made me a better sail trimmer and quicker during tacks and jibes on out boat (which we donít race). When we go out on our boat, my wife mostly steers and I trim the sails. When we have guests, unless they are competent sailors with respect to handling the sail sheets during tacks and gybes, they helm and my wife and I do the sails. I also have learned to better identify wind shifts when going up wind to maximize upwind efficiency.
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Old 08-25-2008
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Not for cruising....

Great observations. I agree with all except that on our boat the upwind leg is 70 % of the race. We actually messed up the start last Saturday, due to confusion about our start time (no doubt the bow man's fault, since it couldn't be the skippers responsibility), starting 4 minutes late, and won our fleet by several minutes, making up that 4 minutes easily on the last 7 mi beat leg. Thanks, obviously, to the skipper.

A word of caution. The thick skin of racers doesn't cross over to your cruising friends. After several years of racing, I constantly have to watch myself when sailing with friends or family on my boat, which is not really set up for racing. It can be hard to get used to NOT constantly checking and adjusting the head sail leads, or the vang tension, or almost everything else that you are constantly doing on the race boat. I suspect that more than once I have alienated a friend when out for an afternoon cruise because the natural racer starts to eek out....

Enjoy the racing.
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"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward
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Old 08-25-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padean View Post
A word of caution. The thick skin of racers doesn't cross over to your cruising friends. After several years of racing, I constantly have to watch myself when sailing with friends or family on my boat, which is not really set up for racing. It can be hard to get used to NOT constantly checking and adjusting the head sail leads, or the vang tension, or almost everything else that you are constantly doing on the race boat. I suspect that more than once I have alienated a friend when out for an afternoon cruise because the natural racer starts to eek out...
I tend to have the same problem. Guests want a boat ride, and I want to catch 30 footer infront of us. Its hard to turn off the "racer" button.
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Old 08-25-2008
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Welcome to racing... its a whole different world but at the same time it's not, the principles are the same after all!

If I may go through your points:

1) It's a helmsman/tactician thing... what, you can't go from nothing to a kite full and drawing the instant I begin to even think about it?? what's wrong with you?

2) You're either in an insanely competitive fleet (by that I mean evenly matched skills between boats), or your perceptions might be a bit off. Clean starts and boathandling are very important, but the one boatlengh difference between a good set and a perfect set isn't gonna make a lick of difference if you lost 10 boatlengths on the beat because your jib trimmer tacks like a granny, your helmsman pinches, or your tactician blew it and missed a shift.

3) An duck begun well back and missing the other boat's transom by inches is way faster than a crash tack!!

4) Wouldn't really be racing if it was the same all the time now would it?

5) & 6) Common problems... you may want to find yourself a new skipper.

7) Pretty much.

8) You may want to review 5 and 6, or maybe the crew just needs more time together - a competitive well-sailed boat is generally a fairly quiet place.

9) Usually the dude with the "tactician" nametag Being the boat "know-it-all" is pretty much a job requirement, being right more often than a magic 8-ball is not.

10) Meh, trim is trim... what do you mean?

11) On a 105? What's the bow guy even do on a 105? To be fair I don't sail on sprit boats all that often, but I agree that I'd rather have a rockstar up there than a newbie on a sym boat!

12) Tough point, sometimes it's a jerk helm, sometimes its a crew work issue. Most boats I sail on are pretty quiet, but we've been together for a while and know each other's "moves" so to speak, and there's a fair amount of trust involved (that you'll do what you do when you need to, and if you're doing something, there's probably a reason).

Final point... good! If your only job is to trim main, then you should just be concentrating there and not sightseeing, unfortunate but true. Kinda sounds like your helms need to be doing more driving and less other stuff as well... every little thing that takes concentration away from watching the luff of the jib will ultimately slow you down upwind, and downwind watch your angles and listen to your spin trimmer.

Glad is sounds like you're enjoying it... trust me, it's even more fun without the yelling, and usually quicker too
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Old 08-26-2008
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I tried my hand at racing. I wasn't any good. I got tired of the Captain Blighs on the bay. I figure my loss, but I couldn't take the foul mouths directed at the crew.
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Old 08-26-2008
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I'll comment on just no. 2:

The start, and keeping your air clear for the first 3 or 4 minutes of the beat, are the most important thing.

Picking the correct side of the first beat is next.

Get those right and that's 80 percent of the race.

Caveat here: I come out of one-design racing, and my beef with handicap racing is that if you get a good lee-bow, and sail real fast, the windward boat shouldn't roll over you. But in handicap racing, sometimes it does, and the big guys steal wind and blanket you when based on how they sailed, there's no way they should, it's just the size and rating of their boat.

Confession: I never liked rating-based racing. If you want to find out who sails the best, then all sail the same boat.
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Old 08-26-2008
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My comments,

Bow guy on a sprit boat is just as important, but less complicated.

I am with the revious post the "boat Know it all" as to be there, someone has to be in the skippers ear on big boats, keeping another set of eyes on the course. Now how the snactitian acts is up to them, I have sailed on big boats with young arrogant guys calling **** and micromanaging everything, but now I am in the hot seat and I try to act more like the all info in- good info out guy, I don;t yell and I encourage people to point out stuff, it makes us all better when we talk about what we are doing and WHY.

Starts are huge in OD not as important in PHRF or whatever handicap.
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Old 08-29-2008
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NOLATOM, If you want to find out who sails the best, then all sail the same boat.

Agreed, in my opinion PHRF doesn't favor the best skippers.
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Old 09-29-2008
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I did the main trimming on a Farr 44 (it actually took two of us) and it was intense! We solved the foredeck sail handling by what our tactician called "dry sailing" we did spinnaker sets with the boat tied at the dock, after 4 hours practice in the dock and 4 on the water, we had the chute up within 2 boat lengths of the mark. Practice makes perfect.

I think racing builds better sailors, you learn about the boat, the water and the wind. It makes you a better navigator. And you learn to focus on what is necessary to make a boat "go" in all kinds of wind.

Jager
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Old 10-04-2008
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Racing is for tweekers!

Rick
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