Make the Most of Weekday Racing

Published on June 6th, 2018

Alex Curtiss

by Alex Curtiss, Ullman Sails
Summer is on and yacht clubs across the USA are having their twilight series. These races are either windward leeward courses or random leg, but none the less it’s still sail boat racing. Weekday racing can be used to hone critical racing skills that are used during weekend regattas. Below are three things to do during the week to help improve your weekend regattas prowess.

Typically while sailing during the week, boat owners will bring non-sailing friends or less experienced sailors to race with them. Without a doubt this is how we get people involved in the racing side of sailing. The social aspect has always been and will always be at the forefront of amateur sailing.

But rather than enjoying refreshments and arriving at the starting line just minutes before your start, try to rally the crew to get out to the race course 30 minutes before the gun goes off. Then in your spare time, roll out the jib, trim the sails in and go upwind. Try to sail upwind on starboard for 3-5 minutes. During the time, take a look at the jib lead, the relative trim to the spreaders, as well as main trim and traveler height. Then tack to port and repeat approach.

What you have accomplished is essentially what you would want to do before the start of any race. This will give you an idea of what tack is favored and which side of the course has more pressure.

You’ll hear the saying over and over, “It’s Wednesday night, we’re not protesting,” but the fact of the matter is if you consider all of the racing you’ve participated in throughout the summer, a large portion of it comes from twilight sailing. Do not be afraid to call someone out for breaking a rule, whether it’s on the water or on the dock, it doesn’t matter.

Rules are an important element of sail boat racing that are often neglected during the week. On the flip side, you have to discipline yourself as taking turns when a rule is broken will teach you to be more aware of the rules. If you don’t respect the rules during the week and pay attention to protests, you are going to have a tough time carrying out penalty turns on the weekend.

If you feel as though you might have fouled, just do the turn and move on. It is also great to teach “newbies” in the sport of sailing to respect the rules of the road. A basic explanation to the crew of why you are doing turns will ultimately do them well.

It is important to keep the brain curious on the race course. I often ask myself, “If we do X, Y could happen,” and then I try it. Thoughts like these are great learning tools because if it works, great, file that one in the playbook for future reference. If not, how can you learn and improve from it? Maybe it was a side that doesn’t normally pay off, but works out one night. Reach for your notebook, write down your headings for that day, along with breeze direction, and keep not of what, why, and how things worked out. Who knows, this information could pay off in the future.

Use your weeknight experiences to strengthen your weekend results. You shouldn’t be afraid to challenge your crew from time to time (even if they are new to sailing), track and collect compass headings, respect the rules, and do not be afraid to step out from ordinary once in a while. Have you heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know?” The same applies here, in low risk environments it’s easier to experiment and gather knowledge than risk it all without direction when it counts.

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