Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Start racing

I have noticed that many who go sailing don't race because they don't know the rules and don't want to get in the way. This is a great shame because I believe that you learn how to sail a boat more effectively by racing it.

The reason is that racing a boat gives you objectives both in terms of where you point the boat and how to control the speed and direction of the boat through steering, trim and sail controls. It thrusts you into collision avoidance decisions requiring quick thinking. It makes you more aware of the sailing conditions, the effect of tide, the importance of boat maintenance, appropriate clothing when on the water and what to do when things go wrong and you need to right a boat or jury rig solutions when equipment fails. All of these are aspects of good seamanship and all who take to the waters should be disciples of seamanship for their own sakes and the safety of others and you never stop learning.

When I first started racing dinghies I knew nothing beyond the basic ideas of steering and simple sail control - pull it in and the boat goes, push the tiller and the boat turns - simple stuff eh?

My first race ended in my self and my crew being picked up out of the river and my boat abandoned to the elements to be recovered by the rescue boat. No harm was done and the important focus was on making sure we were unharmed - hats of to Burnham Sailing Club who back in 1976 took great care of their cadet fleet.

From that time on I began to learn the skills that made me a much better and far more competent helmsman and I am still learning the skills that improve my boat handling, my tactical and strategic skills, and reading the sailing conditions (weather and tide).

So my advice to any reader who would like to have a bash at racing is to read books, ask questions, seek advice but have a go and learn from the experience.

I recently found some Club websites with some 'rules made easy for beginners' ; well work a look:
Burfield SC

Burnham Overy Staithe SC

There are some excellent books about too. My favorite is called 'Start to Win' by Eric Twiname which has been out of print for 20 years but is soon to be available again although you can still get copies of the original.

Another I have read and liked is Jim Saltonstall's 'The RYA Book of Race Training'.

There are many others that are probably equally as good.

The following image is a handout I created for the pre-season session of dinghy racing back in March this year:

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