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dchew 12-26-2002 09:04 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
I''m prepared to be tied to a stake and burned for stiring up a little controversy...

"The general state of club level racing is pathetic. Sure there are some good, tight fleets, but I''ve seen too many skippers starting at the wrong end of a starting line on the unfavored tack. I port tack start these cream puffs all the time. If most skippers are having trouble with this Racing 101 problem, how can they be expected to know the more technical aspects of the sport. Why are most racers so bad?"

Okay. I''m ready. Take your best shot!

Douglas Chew - s/v Challenger - Berkeley, CA

Sailormon6 12-27-2002 07:38 AM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad

Yacht racing is one of the most complex of all sports. Newbies want to learn to race, but they are awed by all that you need to know. The start of a sailboat race is tremendously intimidating when you first see all those boats bearing down on each other, all trying to occupy the same space at the same time, and all yelling right-of-way rules at each other. When newbies start at the wrong end of the line, they are just trying to survive, and stay out of everyone else’s way while they learn. And what do they get for their efforts? Guys like you go down to the wrong end of the line and harass them. You said you could take some heat. ;)

If we experienced racers discourage newbies from participating, we can end up racing against each other, with no “fresh meat” to keep the game interesting. Experienced racers should understand that newbies are not likely to win, and that it is unnecessary to use aggressive tactics against them. Until they develop enough skill to become a threat on the race course, we should leave the newbies alone. We should save our more aggressive tactics for the race-toughened skippers who are capable of beating us. When newbies ask questions and seek advice after the race, we shouldn’t be stingy with our knowledge. We should share it generously with them. If a newbie is liable to beat us just because we shared a little information with him, maybe we aren''t as good as we think we are.

Don’t wait for newbies to ask for help. Invite them to crew for you, and when they do, explain everything you do and why you are doing it. I once suggested that a newbie crew for an experienced racer as a learning experience, and he said that he didn’t learn anything, because the racer was so intent on racing that he didn’t take the time to explain anything. When I have a newbie crewing for me, teaching the newbie is the most important concern. Winning the race is secondary. If I win the race, I might collect another, frankly, cheesy trophy at the end of the season. If the newbie learns to enjoy racing, I will have another opponent to share the excitement and camaraderie of racing for years to come.

In short, the size and skill of the local racing fleet depends primarily on the attitudes and generosity of the experienced racers.

tsenator 12-27-2002 09:30 AM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
Jeez Douglas,

Maybe they are just beginners and trying to learn the sport before they get in the more "serious" racers way.

If you really see these green sailors doing tactical errors on the race course why don''t you be a better person and pull them aside after the race and give them a few pointers. I''m sure they would be very thankful.

It seems that the state of todays sail boat racing is intimidation and constantly *trying* to feel superior....and THAT is what is wrong with sailboat racing today. Most people ask "Why don''t more people get into sailing?", "Why does it seem all the sailors are just getting older and older, why aren''t all the younger folks joing the sport?". Sounds like its because people like you.

tackesailors 12-27-2002 07:52 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
It''s because of people like you that I don''t race.
The sport is to have fun and enjoy. To be intimidated and harrassed when you are trying to learn is not fun. Winning is great, but these "beginners" aren''t going to win anyway, why shadow and taunt them. If you truly want a good race you should encourage and teach. "Why are most racers so bad?" Because people like yourself discourage them.

Jeff_H 12-28-2002 02:12 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
Er Doug....Two of the races that we won last year we purposely chose to start down near the wrong end of a starting line on the unfavored tack but in clear air and able to cross on starboard the log jamb that started on the so-called favored end of the line. Sometimes you have to study the fleet and do something different.

The fact that there are a lot of poor racers in club racing can actually add to the fun. One of the things that I enjoy doing is going out with these poorer racers and coaching them around a race or two (as experienced sailors did for me when I was trying to learn). By improving the skills of these poorer racers, it becomes more fun to race against them, and also, it really helps the comradery of racing when you can help many of these sailors with thier racing skills.

To be frank, at least in the areas where I sail, club racing is really pretty healthy, with good close racing across a spectrum of skills levels, but with all due respect, I don''t think that the attitude reflected in your original post is especially helpful in altering the general state of club level racing, if you believe that the quality of club level racing is so poor.


Bart Toby 12-31-2002 10:08 AM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
This year I got back into club racing on a J-24 that I picked up. So that my better half could have fun racing as she has litterly no experiance in sailing.

First several races we went to the unfavored side to get away from the pack and not to place any undue stress on my crew or me.

Also to see how agressive the fleet sailed.

For many people boats cost a lot of money and should be treated with care at the dock and on the course. So when someone comes barging at me on a port tack, being bigger or smaller, experianced or not, right or wrong, I''m getting the H*** out of the way. to much damage can be done (crew & boat).

Fastest way to kill a good racing fleet is to let people knock boat around like a bunch of cowboys.

If this guy was good at sailing than we should be no concern of his!

However if he is just going out there to make an ass of himself than a the rules should be changed so that people like this are not allowed to race.

by the way I''ve sailed all of my life and done my fair share of racing. but I would not race with you in the fleet.


dchew 01-03-2003 09:38 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
Okay. I thought I''d give everyone a week or so to take a swing at me. Some of you should be classified in the heavyweight division. Ouch!

Thanks for the responses, guys. You’re all right, based on the limited information I gave you to work with.

I remember my early years of dinghy racing asking and getting friendly advice from the better racers. I know all too well about helping others so they''ll give me a better fight and so I''ll have to sail better, too. Experience racers know the best part of the sailing game is NOT winning, but the drama of closely spaced boats.

Actually, I''ve been VERY good about offering to share advice. Have offered to hold a tuneup clinic for others in our one-design fleet and not one person responded. Before you imagine anything different, let me say that I''m a well liked, friendly guy in the fleet.

Offering unsolicited advice is not my style. So I try to offer advice indirectly. For example, I''ll ask some of the slower drivers if they''ve read any good sailing books. They''ll reply, "No." But they won’t ask if I can recommend any good books.

That''s what I mean about the "poor state of sailboat racing". Nobody jumps on the "tuneup clinic" offer. Nobody asks for advice. Nobody does any reading. Yet they consistently finish at the back of the fleet. How can you help others that won’t do a thing to improve? Would you think that racing is in good shape?

I will say I think dinghy racing has far more better drivers than found in keelboat fleets. Do you think so, too?


Douglas Chew
s/v Challenger
Berkeley, CA

Jeff_H 01-06-2003 02:30 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
I am not sure that you can make that broad generalization about drivers in dighies vs keel boats. I would say that some of the worst sailors that I have ever encountered have raced keelboats. If they had been racing dinghies they would not have made it to the course without a visit or two from the chase boat.

On the other hand, most of the best helmsmen that I have ever encountered were racing keel boats. Then again I never competed above a college level in dinghies and may unfairly base my opinion on that.


paulk 01-07-2003 07:37 PM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
Our club has had great results at clinics and "how-to" sessions. Lots of people go to them and have many questions. They''re not all run by National class champions (though some are) so that neophytes aren''t embarassed about asking basic questions. Each club is different, however, and pre-conceptions can be difficult to overcome. Maybe people in your group feel that free seminar advice is worth what they pay for it--- nothing. Charge admission (just so you can get refreshments, even) and bring in someone from a fleet up the coast a way so that he''s not a known quantity, and see what happens. Getting one person to commit, and then have them bring a friend, and then talk up the first session can lead to a great second session, and third, etc. Good Luck!

nelly 04-08-2003 01:42 AM

Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad
Well done Doug. I''m with you. You can''t help people improve who don''t want to learn. I think you Americans don''t do enough dinghy sailing, and that is the root of your problem. Dinghy sailors are better than yacht sailors, period.

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