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Does your local sailing area need more Relaxed Racing?

Published on October 21st, 2014

With winter on the horizon, and the racing season slowing down, thoughts now turn to whether changes are needed to the 2015 regatta schedule. Here Erin Schanen reports in Sailing magazine how promoting ‘relaxed racing’ can get people in their boats and on the start line…

For many sailors, the world of sailboat racing is completely foreign. It can be an intimidating experience filled with complicated rules, fancy gear and packed starting lines filled with yelling. And while that might describe the scene at high-profile events, most of the racing happening every week at yacht clubs and sailing clubs around the country is much different.

Racing can be fun, casual and a great excuse to use your boat more often, said Ken Quant, who helped revive a Milwaukee-area casual racing group called MAST.

“We get people who are not dedicated racers,” Quant said. “These are people who just want to get their feet wet at racing. They just want an excuse to go sailing, they don’t really care about winning.”

And it turns out there are a lot of people with just that attitude. Although the Milwaukee Area Sail and Trail (the trail part no longer exists but Quant said he’d like to work an off-season skiing component back in) group was formed in the 1970s, interest waned until about eight years ago when more and more people were interested in going sailing. Now the group has about 70 boats in the fleet.

Finding the right place to start racing is key, Quant said.

“If somebody wants to try racing, don’t start in a big series,” he said. “Look for something that is short and simple. Out, in, done.”

Traditionally, weekend racing is more competitive, although some clubs are seeing interest in weekend club racing wane and Wednesday night racing become more competitive. Find out from fellow sailors what the level of competition is like before you jump in to a race. Most fleets offer jib-and-main divisions that do not allow boats to fly spinnakers, and Quant said that’s a good place for new racers to start.

“It’s just easier when you don’t have to worry about a spinnaker,” he said. “You can focus more on the racing stuff than the boat handling.” – READ ON

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