Top 3 tips for the novice yacht racer

jac

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As on the previous thread, I raced on dinghies a bit in teens / twenties but now mainly cruise but being tempted to the dark side!!!!

So what are your top 3 tips for those taking first tentative steps towards yacht racing rather than cruising
 

lpdsn

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As on the previous thread, I raced on dinghies a bit in teens / twenties but now mainly cruise but being tempted to the dark side!!!!

So what are your top 3 tips for those taking first tentative steps towards yacht racing rather than cruising

1) always have a tactical plan for each leg. And evaluate it afterwards. Even if you start off as the most useless tactician in the world, you'll get better. If you just play follow the leader and tack whenever you approach a starboard tacker, you'll never get any better. (although often the usual leader might have the right tactical plan, so you might be following him. Then it is useful to get your crew to compare the shape of their sails to the trim of the usual winners.)

2) If you want to be helm, JFS. If you want to do more than JFS, get somebody else to helm. JFS=Just Steer.

3) Organise your crew into a team. A crew that are sailing together and all want to win, will eventually learn all the technical aspects to sail better.
 
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flaming

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1. It's supposed to be fun. Being shouted at is not fun. DO NOT EVER shout at your crew. Occasionally you may have to shout "to" your crew if they are at the other end of the boat and it's windy, but things like "Get that bloody jib in now!" that you hear so often are massive no nos. If you do this, it's a self perpetuating circle as people won't want to sail with you twice, and therefore you'll always be sailing with new crew, and therefore probably shouting at them if they don't do what you want. Try to be the boat that people want to sail on.

2. To start with at least set yourself a budget for new sails etc. And I don't mean a financial budget. A budget that says things like "If I organize 2 practice days with my crew and we get really slick at tacking I'll let myself buy a new jib". There is no point whatsoever in splashing loads of money on fancy sails if the crew are still flogging the jib through every tack. Try and get experienced sailors to come out with your crew for a race or practice to give you some pointers. You'd be surprised how many good sailors would love to be invited on a cruising boat for a Tuesday night race to help out.

3. Remember when you start that you won't be winning. I think one of the biggest problems that yacht racing has as a sport is that it attracts wealthy people who are used to winning, to succeeding. Time and time again I've seen new boats join the fleet and be well behind for 3 races, then never get seen again. Set yourself achieve-able goals, let your crew know what they are and celebrate a bit when you hit them.
 

Birdseye

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1/ a stable crew, preferably of people you can train rather than other skippers who always think they know better than you what you want.
2/ empty the boat and get a clean bottom
3/ four critical manoeuvres that need practice and skill : the start, the hoist/ jibe and drop of the spinny. Get your crew together, go out and practice these things.

The above are 90% of winning

Racing round a laid windward leeward course is easier than round channel markers. For the latter you really need to know your boat - questions such as the point of sail at which its best to raise the chute, how close to the wind for best vmg to the mark etc
 

Birdseye

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golf is what you take uo when you are too old and senile to do anything exciting and active.
 

KINGFISHER 8

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golf is what you take uo when you are too old and senile to do anything exciting and active.

How true! ........... another tip - treat the crew to dinner in the club, maybe after your first win or maybe after the last race of the season (if you never win!) ..... and buy them a round of drinks every week, then they'll want to go again!
 

Somersault

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Roughly there's three ranks of yacht racer.
The guys at the front, the middle and the back.
At the start line I can tell broadly who is who.
After the first ten minutes,
I can normally tell who the top three will be, (though not necessarily what order they'll finish)
And be pretty sure who the last three boats will be (again the order is up for debate for a while longer)

So back on topic, the only relevant tips for a novice yacht racer is to have fun, watch, take notes, learn from them and ask questions.
To move up through the fleet requires you to identify what you're doing not as well as the guys who consistently beat you.
I've been lucky enough to have won a fair few events over the years and given a reasonable state of boat tune the first 10 minutes of the race are the most important.
So that's usually the start and the first beat.
If you start at the back then unless you have vastly superior boat speed that's where you'll stay.
If you and your crew are not so great at tacking and getting back up to speed then a good start will be wasted.
If you can't point then you'll get stuffed on the start line and likely to be forced to tack off up the beat.
The list continues.
Do not get hung up on boat speed, new sails, gear etc, work with what you've got first.
So pick an area which you believe would gain you the most and ask again but be more specific.
 

roblpm

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1. It's supposed to be fun. .

Hmmmm on my thread about being ood quite a few people have pointed out that its not supposed to be fun, it is a serious business, with lots of acronyms (rya, isaf etc) and loads of rules which are to be taken extremely seriously. And then semi legal proceedings afterwards if anyone disagrees about what has happened.

Thus I suppose my top tip would be to find out where on the scale between the americas cup and a casual race between a couple of boats the club that you are going to race with is, and whether that matches what you want.
 

sarabande

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1 bone up really well on vectors and find how to predict wind angle at the next mark, taking tide direction and speed into consideration

2 track the wind direction and strength constantly, watching for changes from your own instruments, the hairs on the back of your head, and other boats, and the weather forecast. Read Aldard Coles'Wind Pilot (both vols !)

3 learn to feel when the boat is in a groove and slipping thro' the water rather than battling its way along. Use your ears and arse to get the info.
 
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Quandary

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1 Be ready in good time, smile at the competition, chew some gum.
2 Know exactly where the start line is (use transits and time your runs until you really know your boat and crew) and where you need to be, going full speed ahead when the gun goes, but keep it to yourself, when they see how good you are some of them will start trying to follow you.
3 Starting in front just requires a bit of cool thought and determination, nearly everyone is usually late, staying in front is even easier, looking at the rest over your transom is all the motivation you and your crew will need if it is one design, if it is a handicap fleet clear air is vital.
(if you had allowed four I would have suggested then sailing your own race, avoid getting suckered into needless tacks and gybes)
 

Birdseye

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Hmmmm on my thread about being ood quite a few people have pointed out that its not supposed to be fun, it is a serious business, with lots of acronyms (rya, isaf etc) and loads of rules which are to be taken extremely seriously. And then semi legal proceedings afterwards if anyone disagrees about what has happened.

Thus I suppose my top tip would be to find out where on the scale between the americas cup and a casual race between a couple of boats the club that you are going to race with is, and whether that matches what you want.

It is supposed to be fun, at least unless you are a paid gunslinger type sailor. But whatever the race you do need to take the ISAF rules seriously. The reason is simple - everyone else is expecting you to behave in line with those rules and if you dont then the risk of a collision is much higher. So you do need to know the rules at least as far as how they apply at marks, at the line, on crossing.
 

bbg

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Hmmm. Some of these comments I would say are more advanced than for a novice.

My three tips would be

1 practice sail handling. Tacks, gybes, hoists, drops etc. screwing up a maneuver will send you backwards in the fleet faster than anything else.

2 read and understand the rules. You need to be confident that you have rights when you need to call for them, and need to know when you have to give way.

3 lighten the boat. Take everything off that is not needed. Free speed.

4 (okay I know you only asked for three but this one is really important). Read everything flaming writes. He is the most useful racing resource on this forum. He is so smart he even refused to race with me when I invited him. :p
 

lw395

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1) If you're not racing, volunteer for the committee boat, it's fun and you can lean loads
2) You can win races with a good understanding of the lee bow effect
3) Don't believe everything you read on a forum.
 

flaming

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4 (okay I know you only asked for three but this one is really important). Read everything flaming writes. He is the most useful racing resource on this forum. He is so smart he even refused to race with me when I invited him. :p

Hopefully with the new racing forum some people more qualified than a Solent Hack will join!

And to be fair, you were offering a 3 day ride in a 21 foot semi-submarine, when the last offshore I did was on a much larger boat in perfect sunny conditions that we won by an almost embarrassing amount, and I didn't really enjoy it. In fact it caused me to realize that I'm not an offshore racer, at least not in anything that I'm likely to be offered a ride in!
 

temptress

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As on the previous thread, I raced on dinghies a bit in teens / twenties but now mainly cruise but being tempted to the dark side!!!!

So what are your top 3 tips for those taking first tentative steps towards yacht racing rather than cruising

Get a crew together and practice. Then practice some more and then practice again. Get the teamwork right, learn how to handle the boat, sail changes, kite trim, gybing, tacking and learn to trust each other. That will get you to the top part of the fleet. Then look at new sails and changing the boat setup.

Time and time again I see owners try to buy their way to the front of the fleet only to be disappointed by boat handling. Teamwork is 80% of racing keelboat.
 

BobnLesley

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Having only skippered one yacht race in my entire life - last year's two-handed around Carriacou race - I feel well qualified to offer 'novice' tips.
1. If you happen to be drinking with the local expert/top-dog the evening before a race and he, having realised that you're not going to be serious competition to him, gets out a chart and discretely offers a whole raft of tips regarding wind-shadows, back-eddies, passes through shoals, etc. Do not ignore them completely.
2. If the whole - yes all of them! - fleet tack way too early to make the upwind mark, do not assume that you've outsmarted them all as you stand on for another mile.
3. Leave the boat at anchor and join all your 'friends' in the hire car as they drive around the island and laugh/take photos of some other daft bugger as he screws-up every key manoeuvre and tidal gate on the course.
 

Daydream believer

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Light boat
Clean bottom
Most importantly a regular crew who are half decent and really want to race. No good having a regular crew if they are old duffers just looking for a ride
 
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