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Old 22-10-2012, 06:31   #1
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Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Yesterday was a fiasco. As a cruising sailor, my approach is to minimize risk. Racing sailors tend to see it all quite differently. I had never tried racing single-handed before, but thought "what the hell, right?" So I entered the second day of a regatta on the Hudson River near Kingston.

Well...the first thing that happened was the laminated course chart they sold me for $5 got blown overboard, so I had to call on the radio and have someone read the windward and leeward marks to me. Then...I missed the start of my class by 10 minutes. (I don't know what the hell I was doing when they announced the order of the rolling starts.)

Then, after watching 4 or 5 boats broach in the strong wind, I decided not to unfurl my Genny and to sail with only the main (which is what I would do when cruising).

Well... that put me WAY behind the others. All boats were coming back from the leeward mark about a mile before I had even gotten there. Halfway through the race I asked myself, "What am I doing out here, besides making a fool of myself?"

I tried to call the committee boat on the radio again to announce my withdrawal, but after having to ask them directions and then later which class was starting, I think they decided not to answer my calls. Can't blame them.
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Old 22-10-2012, 06:46   #2
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Eh. Big deal. So the first time it didn't go all that well. Welcome to the world of every sailor who has ever decided to race. Don't let it bother you, and don't let it discourage you. I guarantee that the next time you will do much better.

I know I did. My first race was not unlike yours. The second went much better, though I still ended up dead last by a goodly margin. It wasn't until my sixth or seventh race that I finally managed to not finish last (and that was only because someone even newer than me finally came along). Now I enjoy the occasional club race almost as much as I enjoy a solitary anchorage just off a beautiful beach. And there is absolutely no doubt that the racing I have done has made me a better sailor overall, even if I haven't won any trophies.
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Old 22-10-2012, 06:47   #3
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

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Yesterday was a fiasco. As a cruising sailor, my approach is to minimize risk. Racing sailors tend to see it all quite differently. I had never tried racing single-handed before, but thought "what the hell, right?" So I entered the second day of a regatta on the Hudson River near Kingston.

Well...the first thing that happened was the laminated course chart they sold me for $5 got blown overboard, so I had to call on the radio and have someone read the windward and leeward marks to me. Then...I missed the start of my class by 10 minutes. (I don't know what the hell I was doing when they announced the order of the rolling starts.)

Then, after watching 4 or 5 boats broach in the strong wind, I decided not to unfurl my Genny and to sail with only the main (which is what I would do when cruising).

Well... that put me WAY behind the others. All boats were coming back from the leeward mark about a mile before I had even gotten there. Halfway through the race I asked myself, "What am I doing out here, besides making a fool of myself?"

I tried to call the committee boat on the radio again to announce my withdrawal, but after having to ask them directions and then later which class was starting, I think they decided not to answer my calls. Can't blame them.
I've done plenty of racing but none single-handed, which is a pretty big step. I would suggest you try again with some company as it is really a lot of fun and gets funner as you get more comfortable with it. Had to chuckle at your story as I certainly have had some similar experiences in losing our race chart oveboard and being significantly late to our start. It gets more fun as you gain familiarity with the process.
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Old 22-10-2012, 06:54   #4
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Thanks, guys! I did enjoy it, regardless. It was a 2-day regatta. The first day I had a skilled sailor friend aboard, so we did much better during the three races. I will definitely do it again, but not if it interferes with cruising out to Cape Cod and the islands.
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Old 22-10-2012, 07:41   #5
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Sounds like a big regatta wasn't the best first race either. On Wednesdays our club has simple beer can racing, typically just a windward/leeward course. Everyone starts at the same time etc. I agree, the big regattas with multiple classes and courses can be very confusing, especially if your single handing. Typically race committee won't broadcast on the radio after the start period so it wasn't just you.
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Old 22-10-2012, 07:44   #6
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Thanks, PCP. In the summer, I keep my boat further south, on a much wider part of the river, where there are numerous races, including beercan races. I am always intending to join one, when not out cruising, but they want a PHRF certificate.

I'm too lazy to do the measuring and the math. And I can hardly ever find crew, anyway...so I don't race.
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Old 22-10-2012, 08:54   #7
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Never mind...

Went sailing...

Seriously - dont expect to won the first time out...

While ai love and totally respect the cruisers. Your post is an awesome reminder of how different cruising and racing are, and puts vmg in perspective...
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Old 22-10-2012, 09:05   #8
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

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Thanks, PCP. In the summer, I keep my boat further south, on a much wider part of the river, where there are numerous races, including beercan races. I am always intending to join one, when not out cruising, but they want a PHRF certificate.

I'm too lazy to do the measuring and the math. And I can hardly ever find crew, anyway...so I don't race.
For PHRF, you probably don't need to do the measuring yourself, as you probably can get the measurements you need from an internet search. Good luck.
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Old 22-10-2012, 09:11   #9
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Cruising and racing are pretty different worlds. I wouldn't sweat botching the first few races at all. Just get out there and have a good time. Watch what other people are doing. If you can, it helps to find a nice boat to crew on and sail in a few races.

Also, the starts can be the most confusing times. Even experienced racers sometimes screw up. Attend the captain's meetings and ask questions.

Does your club use permanent buoys? We put the marks in our GPS so we don't have to depend on a paper map while underway. It helps a lot. And when in doubt, just follow another boat in your class.
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Old 22-10-2012, 10:06   #10
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Thanks, Target. I just do it for fun, which totally pisses off the serious racers.
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Old 22-10-2012, 10:35   #11
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

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Thanks, Target. I just do it for fun, which totally pisses off the serious racers.
I doubt that just having a good time and being new to the race scene actually makes anyone angry. What usually gets to skippers that are serious.

1) Getting in their way at the start, finish, marker, or offset. tip: Just keep a little distance from other boats for the first few races even if it means being slower. Watch how the other boats act at these "critical" points in the race.

2) Not knowing who has the right of way. tip: If you hear lots of people shouting "STARBOARD" at you, then you might be doing something wrong. Know when you're in the right of it and when you're not. If you're not, just get out of the way. No biggie.

3) Getting in their way when you have the right of way for no real reason (ie, You're not actually in their class, etc.) tip: Just try to stay out of the way of the other boats unless they're in your class or it hurts you specifically to change course.

4) Moving upwind of the other boats. tip: Just be aware if you're upwind of another boat you're going to screw him up. It may seem really negligible to a cruiser but it is amazing how much wind disruption can happen if a boat is 100 yards upwind of you. Even if their sails aren't up, it can give you "bad air".


If you just sort of watch out for those things, anyone that is "pissed" at you is just a punk.
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Old 22-10-2012, 10:35   #12
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Racing is all about the start.... as far as difficulty goes anyway. Learn the rules for starts and use them to your advantage. However, it sounds like it was a good test for you. You need to get familiar enough with your boat, headsails, reefing etc so that you could have just continued on . I guess this has reminded you of that. Racing makes you learn to do what ever you need to do to continue on.....Sounds like great wind for racing.....
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Old 22-10-2012, 10:53   #13
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

Yes, the wind was excellent for racing. Practically a hurricane out there. My wind instruments are inoperative at this time, so I couldn't give you a reading. I'd probably exaggerate it, anyway.

I have done some racing in the past. I'm fairly familiar with this particular course, and I know the rules, it was the single-handing in a wind big enough to broach the smaller boats that eventually caused me to leave early.

Next time I go out, I'll fly a chicken from my flag halyard.
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Old 22-10-2012, 10:59   #14
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

If you are not looking for tips, I apologize in advance. If you would like them, I would suggest that the following are useful tips. Sorry if they are not advanced enough:

The Start: probably not a great idea to mix it up with the madmen too intensively at first. Make sure you start on a starboard tack or you will make a lot of enemies (and possibly cause some damage). Starting on a port tack is advanced, daredevil stuff, or when there is an extraordinary amount of room at the line. While you are finding your way, it is more important to hit the line with some speed than it is to try to time the start perfectly.

Rules of the Road You don't have to memorize the rulebook. If you know that port yields to starboard and windward yields to leeward, you are most of the way there. If in doubt, tell the other boat your intentions.

If in doubt, Yield Rights of way are one thing, but you don't want to hurt yourself or your boat insisting on it. If in doubt, leave some room at a rounding. Wait until you've gained some confidence with the format to be a hard-ass.

Treat your Crew Well The better you treat your crew the better the chance they will come back and that you will be able to attract better sailors that you can learn from. Beer, food and no yelling are the big three in this department.

Have fun.
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Old 22-10-2012, 11:02   #15
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Re: Sillly Me, I Tried Racing Single-Handed

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Next time I go out, I'll fly a chicken from my flag halyard.
I'm sure people will have fun trying to figure out what that means. Sort of like the boat that races on our lake that flies a woman's bra from the spreaders. I honestly think more of their jib is made from duct tape than dacron.
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