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Old 08-11-2008, 02:46   #1
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What can cruisers learn from racers (& vice-versa)?

What skills can we cruisers learn from racing?

Let me begin by thanking those who raised some interesting points on “The Racing Rockstar ...” thread at:

Sailing is one of the important skills a cruiser must master.
Sailboat racing is a concentrated, high-performance variant of sailing.

Ergo: Racing can help accelerate a cruisers learning curve.

What are some of the skills that a new cruiser can learn most quickly & memorably, through racing?
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Old 08-11-2008, 03:30   #2
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Again I am going to be the devil’s advocate on this.

My first reaction would be to say; Rig tuning and sail balance; weather gauging and reading wind shifts; reading currents and back-eddies; monitoring leeway and optimum tacking points.

Then I realized that those skills are not exclusive to racers and any cruiser (who has that same interest) can learn those skills independent of racing.

However, aggressive tactics at close quarters pushing competitors into making costly and sometimes dangerous mistakes…..pushing the equipment.... is not a skill I wish to learn as a cruiser.

Sorry folks…..speed kills!
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Old 08-11-2008, 03:35   #3
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DEAR PELAGIC, I'm with you on this one!
That over canvasing is often unnecessary and often dangerous.
That there are huge fundamental differences between sailing for recreation and sailing as transportation.
That speed is not everything.
That being healed way over may be great for pictures but doesn't make for a pleasurable passage, dispite the speed gain.
That reefing is not a four letter word.
That beating the hell out of the boat for speed gains is not necessarily the best thing for the boat or the crew.
That a finely tuned rig with properly adjusted sails is a pleasant way to travel, even if you do have to give up half a knot here and there.
That as a cruiser you get your thrills from bad weather, and really don't need any additional excitement.
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Old 08-11-2008, 08:12   #4
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I have to agree for all the reasons above. Plus I couldn't take the derogatory remarks from those more experienced, and this was on several boats. They asked me to come along, and then were abusive as hell. Then wanted to be buddy buddy on the dock. I am not talking huge mistakes. Just small stuff.

Once I set the spinnaker pole on the deck, and and walked to the stern to confront the owner. Everything was hush hush after that. Once I stepped on the dock I made no effort to help in organizing, and never came back. That was the short lived racing career of mine......lolololol

I went to fine tune the skills I had learned. It just didn't seem worth it to me. I figure if I am getting 95% out of the boat under safe conditions. I will be okay.
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Old 08-11-2008, 08:29   #5
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Originally Posted by Pelagic View Post
Again I am going to be the devil’s advocate on this.......

Sorry folks…..speed kills!

Last year we used speed to get into a safe port whilst those slower caught the tail end of a hurricane and limped in days later. No one killed - fortunately.

C'mon guys. Speed does not kill.

A bad sea, or a bad skipper or a badly set up boat can. A fast boat / skipper has all the options. They can always slow down. A slow boat / skipper can't speed up.

Don't take life too seriously. No ones going to make it out alive......Go see our blog at
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:26   #6
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You are absolutely right about getting to port. I went from SF. to Cabo & back to S.F. averaging 4knots, and took a beating. That's why I looked for something faster. Now mostly I average 10+ knots over 400 miles plus.

I would have loved to really fine tuned my skills early on. I just couldn't take the attitude that came with the boats. There is fast sailing, and there is unsafe fast sailing is the point made above.

The pic of you doing 16 knots is proof of your skills. I love that pic......i2f
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:30   #7
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I am only a armchair sailor. I have been told that you can learn to take orders and react safely in most situations and weather conditions.
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:34   #8
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I spent a year crewing on a 30 footer in weekend yacht club races. I did learn some sail trimming skills but that's about it. I found it too stressful. On one occasion we got t-boned by another boat. Came up on our leeward side thru the foot of the genoa and onto the coach roof. A 6 in hole in the hull at the hull/deck join taking out the toe rail and a winch on the coach roof. (we still won by 6 sec) It didn't help that I had an undiagnosed heart condition and the exertion of many of the races was making itself felt.

In the main, I would say that most of what I learned was what NOT to do as a cruiser. No yelling, sail appropriate to the conditions, reasonable degree of heel, etc. The one time I raced my Cabo Rico we had every stitch of canvas up in 30 kt of wind with the rail buried. The boat, she no like that. Are speed wasn't what it should be and it was almost impossible to go to weather. We actually gained speed and pointed higher when I rolled up the 130 and went with full main and staysail. Later I found that the 130 had started to rip, hence a new headsail my 110 Yankee. Racing can be hard on equipment and expensive.

To each his/her own but racing is definitely not on my agenda.
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:43   #9
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I agree with swagman, A racer or a person who has raced knows how and when to safely slow a boat down and for "over canvassing" that does not exsist in racing, If there is to much canvass up then the boat slides to leeward and that does not make for good VMG. What you do learn from racing is to minimize how many tacks it takes to get to your destination, and that is a bonus when you might have bad weather upon you, you also learn how to trim or reduce your sails to be more productive, how many cruisers know how to properly adjust the main to the wind conditions or proper headsail track adjustment for a proper "groove" or "slot". There is so much to learn from "performance" sailing to help the "cruising", yes we beat the snot out of equipment, only so that we can have better equipment on all boats, call it test bedding for all boats. All racing equipment can now be found on cruising boats because of this. It is an interesting topic and I'm sure that everyone will agree that you do a little tweaking of the sails and the smile gets a little bigger, and the boat that was on the horizon is now behind you, This is racing just a little slower. Whatever you eventully decide as your style of sailing, Just do it safely, and mostly have fun.
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Old 08-11-2008, 11:43   #10
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Racing straightens out your thinking.

Everyone comes into situations with preconceived ideas. Sailing more than ever. You hear all sorts of people online dreaming about buying their first boat. They spout off all sorts of preconceived hogwash about how it has to be. It has to be this or that because of, whatever..

I was exactly the same..

Racing strips away, from those that can observe, these preconceived notions on how to make a sailboat go. If your ideas work, you tend to win, if they don't, you don't.

And, as a bonus, racing tends to force one to sail in conditions that one may not choose. That helps a lot with the old learning curve.

I'm really glad I raced before cruising. I can remember trying to get my old sailboat to go before and after racing. The difference was night and day. Not only in the speed, but in the amount of enjoyment. Because then we knew what worked and were able to relax and have fun.

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Old 08-11-2008, 12:01   #11
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I learnt to sail on race boats and ended up racing on Maxi Sleds in many long distance races at speeds up to 28 knts. Being called from your bunk for a fire drill in the middle of the night on a powered up reach. Now that I have my own boat I find that I'm alot more carefull, especially with less experienced crew because I know what can happen when thing go wrong. Racing is by far one of the best ways to learn sailing skills and the easiest way to get on other peoples boats to aquire such skills. Yes some owners seem to get a kick out of yelling but not all are like that. I also find that when invited for a sail on a cruising boat most owners question me about how they are sailing and what they can do better.

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Old 08-11-2008, 13:15   #12
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Then again we have to thank racing and their rich status conscious Owners for:

The Rolex and Louis Vuitton pricing of all things related to marine use.

The evolution of sailing jocks who are experts at sailing the rich man’s sailing yachts at “breaking” speeds, while looking on, in blue eyed disgust, at any real job.

The copious consumption of beer and bravado between races, that teach our young ones the true spirit of yachting.

The support of a multi billion $ industry who will organize and sponsor Reggatas for their weekend warriors to go out and race into storms for the chance to stand dazed and weather beaten on a stage….clutching a shiny trophy, while their ringer “jocks”, shout boisterous words of affection and wonder if he is good for a part time job between gigs.

A chance to play God (in a hurry!)

(Told you I would be the Devil in this one!)
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Old 08-11-2008, 23:41   #13
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Breaking strengths

There's an old saying that if a sailor attached a button, the article of clothing would be rags before that button came off. A sailor didn't have time to do the job a second time, so he over-engineered the solution. And that's still the approach for many cruisers.

Racers, on the other hand, give engineers all the data they can ask for about what breaks under what conditions. The racers demand hulls they can modify in situ, bending and tweaking the shape to suit the conditions. (They used to do the same thing with sails until they made themselves silly rules to prevent each other from doing so, and thus ended the reign of the gaff rig.) By acting with stupid disregard for safety and gear longevity racers have financed the development of great technology for going faster.

Most of which is completely useless for cruisers, because it's disposable technology dependent on reasonably steady flows of capital.

But the remaining 10% of R&D results is golden. Stable sail cloth, low-stretch lines, tank test data for laminar flow modeling... There isn't much of our modern cruising boats which doesn't have a bit of influence from racing. But it's seen through a dramatically different lens when applied by cruisers to cruising.

What can cruisers still learn from racers? What technology is more or less robust when given to a group of adolescents to test to destruction. How not to sail near other boats. Where not to anchor (anywhere they're anchored, mostly for peaceful and quiet evenings. And why is it that of all sailors, only racers seem to regularly have PWCs?) How not to design a boat for seaworthiness. Actually, I take that back. Almost everything which is penalized by a racing measurement rule is good for seaworthiness, so in a way you *can* learn from their design rules.

Oh, and ocean racers seem to regularly have emergency medical events aboard, so I'm guessing they've also got a good history of what's important in a medical kit. I should look that up rsn.


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Old 09-11-2008, 00:46   #14
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I know it's cheating but...

What's the problem with using the engine?

Racers may never do it (unless they are late for the start) but if speed is necessary then (to me) it's the way to go.
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Old 09-11-2008, 04:48   #15
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Adolescents you say, Have you read the blog for the Caribbean 1500 "we have brought enough beer for the boys and wine for the girls" and they are heading perpindicular to a named storm called Palermo, Do you think real racers would put their boat or crew in harms way, I don't think sobut there are some cruiser doing a rally who will, and drinking, with no regard........By the way I'm not against the rally just the fact that while you sail "booze cruise" while offshore is a bad recipe, Racers wait till the boat (and I mean all aboard) is put away to have a drink, anything short of this puts lives at stake. Oh and by the way a racers anchor is for looks, if we needed it, we shouldn't have been out there, also if you do need to anchor and you see a race boat at anchor, you can bet their is plenty of water under them. Oh and by the way I DONT HAVE A PWC. So to you arm chair sailors who leave the dock in your mind wake up I say, everyday on the water is a great day so long as it's safe (even though it might be in your mind). By the way Amgine and palagic, I'm not targeting you, but if you are refering to Fastnet and or Sydney to Hobart, remember there were lives lost and because of it racing boats and equipment has changed.
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