Preparing to win a long distance offshore race

Published on March 25th, 2015

As an America’s Cup sailor, J/24 World Champion, and winner of countless offshore events including the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Giraglia Rolex Cup, and the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Francesco DeVita knows what it takes to prepare for, and win, long distance offshore races. Here he offers his advice on what you can do to prepare for competitive events that cover over 1,000 nautical miles…

8-12 Months before the Race
– Selecting an Event and Considering Sails
– Budget, Crew and Schedule
– Prepare the Crew

3-4 Months before the Race
– Physical and Mental Preparation
– Team Effort

Selecting an Event and Considering Sails
The first step is to decide which regattas you want to attend. While 8-12 months in advance may not seem like a lot of time to prepare, selecting the event at the end of your previous season allows you to carry momentum forward year-to-year. Preparing for a single event over several years often causes teams to lose focus.

There is a huge variety of offshore events, which means that no matter what kind of experience you want, options exist for you. At this stage it is worth researching regatta reputations, histories, and weather. Understanding standard routes and the ratio of upwind beating versus downwind sailing will very likely affect which event and crew you select.

It is also important to know your anticipated routes and wind angles for a given event before you talk to your sailmaker. Having the appropriate sail inventory when you leave the dock can determine whether or not you even have a chance to win the event. You must consider the inventory options for spinnakers, genoa sizes, etc. that you want onboard for the most likely routes and weather. Having new sails onboard will also make a big difference towards accomplishing your goal of winning the event, providing greater speed, better angles and reduced heel. However, when it comes to actually purchasing sails, that decision may be more based on your budget, the quality of your current sails, and the likelihood you will use the sails in the upcoming event.

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