Harken Derm

Some Random Early Season Thoughts

Published on June 10th, 2019

by Don Finkle, RCR Yachts
If you have not already done so, set some goals for where you would like to go and what you would like to do this summer. At the end of each season, we look back on things we missed out on because we either didn’t plan early enough or we let other things get in the way.

Share your passion:
For most of us, one of the things we enjoy most about boating is being able to share it with others. There are a few who enjoy the solitude of single-handing or the challenge of solo or shorthanded racing. Some even like extended cruising alone. These hardy souls are in the minority, however, as sharing the feeling of being on the water with friends and family is a special time.

We are often out together with our children and grandchildren and it is heartwarming to see the little ones take to it early on. We start them as babies and they soon become accustomed to being on the boat and can’t wait to come out with us. Many of you take your neighbors, business associates, or customers out with you. We derive a lot of satisfaction from seeing the smiles on the faces of those who don’t have a boat or who have not been on the water before when they experience it themselves for the first time.

Don’t get lost in the details:
There is often too much emphasis on minutia when it comes to racing and not enough on more basic, bigger picture aspects of the sport. Once you are at a high skill level, the little things are important and can make a real difference, but most average sailors would be well served to focus less on getting a new Cunningham or other expensive gadget and more on making sure they are doing the most important things right.

To start that means gathering a committed crew willing to learn while having fun; a boat with a clean bottom; good sails within your budget; equipment in working order, and removing unnecessary weight from the boat. On the water practice is a major key. It doesn’t cost any money, except maybe beer and pretzels for the crew, but you will never reach your potential until the crew can work together efficiently. Practice is also excellent for team bonding and building confidence.

Once you are ready to race, get out there early enough so you can do some pre-race tacks and jibes, and at least one set and douse. Start checking the compass as soon as you get to the race area. Do you have the right headsail for the conditions? Is the rig too loose or too tight? You won’t be able to make any sail or rig changes if you are tardy getting out there. Decide what your strategy will be for the first leg and where you want to be on the start line. By all means, be on time for the start!

Sail clean, avoid clusters of boats, keep your air clear and communicate maneuvers well enough in advance so the crew is ready for them. One sure way to screw up a good race is to wait until the last moment before trying to pull off a move that is either risky or for which the crew is unprepared. Remember, you do not have to sail a perfect race, often the boats at the top are the ones that made the fewest mistakes. If you do all the basic things well your results will show it.

The value of the debrief:
Once the race is over and while things are still fresh in everyone’s mind, it can be beneficial to replay the race for lessons learned. Start with the positives, the things you did right. This will reinforce them for the next time. Then go over what went wrong or could have been done differently to improve the outcome.

Be careful not to be overly critical, stick to the facts. After all, this is supposed to be fun and ridicule is not fun for the recipient! Regardless of what is said, the act of going over the race reinforces the fact that every race should be a learning experience. The crew should want to improve their skills and knowledge over time.

The flip side of this of course is that some people just want to go out, sail around and have a good time. Learning is not why they are there. That is OK too, each person or team should decide what their goals are and sail accordingly. We would submit that if they don’t care about learning then they should hold off on complaining about their results, their rating, the race committee, and other boats.

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