Episode #015: Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast: Sailing Goals – Race Sailing

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This is episode #2 in a four-part series I am doing on sailing goals. These episodes are aimed at helping you to figure out which courses to take, habits to form, and areas to focus on depending on where you want to end up! This second episode is geared to race sailing. You are someone who wants to move into the world of racing. Whether you are looking for weekend races, or offshore races, I’ll talk about how you can create a plan to get there!

Listen to Episodes #015: Sailing Goals – Racing

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Here are my most recent episodes:

  1. #53: Crew Overboard!
  2. Technical Tuesday: Flares!

Who is the Race Sailor?

The race sailor is an experienced day sailor looking to take their sailing to the next level. They have probably already completed several introduction or basic sailing courses. They may own their own boat, or they may be crewing regularly for someone else. Perhaps you have already dabbled in the world of beer can racing and now you are curious about larger, or maybe even offshore, races.

Which key courses should you take?

There are a few different ways that you can expand your race sailing knowledge. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Introduction to Racing Course: there are several courses that help you understand the foundations of sailboat racing. These courses also should dive into the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) which are updated every 4 years. There are also many courses and seminars that focus on specific aspects of the race and the rules pertaining to those aspects, such as race starts.
  • Spinnaker Course: Being able to fly a spinnaker is a beautiful thing, but there are some key elements and safety components that you should be familiar with. I highly recommend a spinnaker course to help you become familiar with the rigging and handling of this large sail.
  • Race Officer Course: Becoming a race official, or just taking the courses to understand how they evaluate and manage a race, is a great way to increase your racing knowledge. Also, many clubs are always looking for race officials, so why not!

Which courses will give you more?

If you’re looking to step up your day sailing skills a bit, you could consider adding these courses:

  • Coastal Navigation: If you are planning to participate in races outside of your home harbour, I would suggest you get Coastal Navigation under your belt. This way you can properly scope out the race area using a multitude of tools including paper charts, Navionics, google earth, and more.
  • Intermediate to Advance Weather Course: Being able to predict, read and understand the weather is key when racing. Particularly wind shifts on the water. If you are able to read the wind, you will be better prepared to alter course to maintain your speed and hold your position within the fleet. This is a great skill to perfect, so I suggest finding some good weather courses.
  • Advanced First Aid: Having a more advanced level of first aid could be beneficial, again if you will be participating in races further from shore. Many offshore races require crew to take a Safety at Sea course, or something similar. Having the proper tools and knowledge onboard to deal with any first aid situations is a good thing!
  • Tide & Current Course: If you will be racing in a tidal area, definitely take a tide and currents course. This will be covered in your Coastal Navigation course as well. but something more in depth will provide you with extra knowledge. Also, be sure to read up on any local knowledge as it refers to tides and currents in the area that you’ll be racing as that could really give you a leg up.

Top 3 Habits to Perfect

HABIT 1 Be observant: While racing you should be watching the other boats and your surroundings constantly. Why is that boat hugging the shoreline? Are they pointing higher than you? What is their speed relative to you? At the start line you will definitely need to be vigilant watching all of the boats so as to avoid a collision. Don’t forget to look below your jib on the lee side as well. Head on a swivel!

HABIT 2 Be precise: When you are racing your movements need to be precise. You cannot win a race by doing your typical, disjointed, lazy tacks! You will want to firm up your helming and winch techniques to have all crew working together and nail that timing! Sail trim for optimal speed should be happening all the time as well. Watch those ticklers and learn to anticipate wind shifts.

HABIT 3 Be communicative: Tell your crew what is happening! Be communicative with everyone on the boat and stay calm. There is nothing worse than a skipper who swears, yells and is disrespectful towards the crew. There is really no need for that in my opinion and I have quit race teams for that exact reason. I don’t need that crap in my sailing life! To me, a skipper who cannot control their emotions on the boat, is probably also a skipper who cannot adequately control the boat.

Other Areas You’ll Perfect…

Tacking, hoisting/dowsing, and understanding leeway! You will probably be doing a lot of these in race sailing.

Tacking – as mentioned above, you will be doing a lot of tacking! Searching for the optimal heading to round the marks will be key. Timing and communication are also important and it will not take long for you to really get your tacks dialed in!

Hoisting/Dowsing – if you are using a spinnaker for your races, efficient and safe hoisting and dowsing will become key to your success. Practice, practice, practice! And when you think you’ve done enough practicing, check your sheets and rigging again! Because you probably got something on the wrong side of something else! It’s worth checking again to be sure 😉

Understanding Leeway – leeway is a reality of sailing. Understanding how your boat is affected by leeway will help with your headings and help you to trim the boat for optimal sailing. So, pay attention to wind speeds, your speed over ground, and how your heading is affected based on your sail selection and heading. These are all clues that will help you maximize the efficiency of your boat.

Alright get out there race sailor and have a blast! Go practice those starts, mark roundings and read those wind shifts!!


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