Top Picks: The Best Books for Sailboat Racers

Published on March 21st, 2016

by Deborah Bennett Elfers
I can be a little obsessive when it comes to racing sailboats, having read absolutely every sailboat racing book I could find. I’ve read some truly awful books, which did little more than make me even more confused than I was when I started, some rather good books, which made me realize how much I didn’t yet know, and a mere handful of really terrific books which catapulted my understanding of sailboat racing, and helped me to move up the fleet.

Here’s a list of the better books – most basic appearing first – with a brief review of each…

The Complete Sailor, David Seidman
I’ve read this book from cover to cover, several times. There are so many little nuggets in here for the new sailor, but it’s also a handy reference guide for the more experienced. I use this book when teaching sailing, as it’s easily readable, and has some of the best basic sailing explanations I’ve seen anywhere.

Getting Started in Sailboat Racing, Adam Cort & Richard Stearns
This book was my bible as I was first learning to race. I can’t tell you how many times I read it through, from cover to cover. I had started off with some other, more advanced books, but much of the information in those books was too complicated for a racing novice. This was the perfect introduction to sailboat racing for a newbie, with great graphics, and an easy-to-read format.

Winning in One-Designs, Dave Perry
I think that this is one of the best guides to sailboat racing there is — it’s eminently readable, and organized so well that you can refer back to the appropriate sections when you’re trying to improve a particular weakness. You can use it like a “workbook”, as I did in my second season of racing, and I improved quite a lot by implementing the suggestions and techniques outlined in the book.

Start to Win, Eric Twiname
This is a classic book, so well-regarded among sailboat racers that it was re-published 30 years after the author’s death. It is a clear, concise treatise on how to improve your racing. Easy to use, even for the more novice racer.

Sailing Smart: Winning Techniques, Tactics & Strategy, Buddy Melges & Charles Mason
This book abounds with lessons on racing tactics and boat handling, sportsmanship, and is sprinkled liberally with the authors’ tales of races won (and lost). The book is clearly organized, and Melges’s personality shines through the pages. I’ve read this one again and again.

Sail, Race & Win: How to Develop a Winning Attitude – Eric Twiname
This book is perhaps my favorite of all the books, in that Twiname teaches us how to self-coach, and explores the winning mindset – mirroring closely my own approach to improving my sailing, one learned from and adapted from many years of training as an opera singer.

Note: A few of these books are “old classics” so you will have to be careful to reference the current version of the Racing Rules of Sailing.

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