Increasing the joys of sailing

Published on November 3rd, 2022

Daniel Swords has found that focusing on competition can be a distraction for the joys of sailing:

As a now elderly and past tense racing sailor, I see now that it has taken me decades to learn how much my simple joy of sailing, not for speed or competition, but just for the simple pleasures of learning and honing my sailing skills, has been overridden by the sailing focus on competition and boat speed.

Consider, for example, the loss of these seamanship skills (rarely if ever used in racing) and sailing enjoyment resulting from the almost ubiquitous use of the racing heritage oversized, overlapping 150%+ furling genoa. That sail alone begins to require more he-manship than seamanship in winds speeds over 15 knots.

Roller furling negates the ability to easily change headsails and makes for poor reefing. With such a large headsail, it makes little sense to reef the mainsail, so many (most?) sailors have never experienced the joy of sailing a well-balanced boat with a working jib and a double reefed mainsail in Force 5 or 6 wind conditions.

Heaving-to has also become a lost art because the oversized, overlapping genoa chafes on the shrouds and is too overwhelmingly large to heave-to in stormy conditions, so sailors instead run for cover and never experience the excitement and beauty of comfortably riding out a storm while enjoying a cup of coffee in the comfort of their cabin.

I also largely blame this sail for the demise of the simple tiller and the lost art of sheet-to-tiller steering. Learning the skill of sheet-to-tiller steering is like learning the enjoyable skill of using a manual transmission versus the automatic push button “ease” of an auto pilot or a wind vane.

Perhaps with more emphasis on these other seamanship skills, besides just the skills of competitive racing (or cruising to tropical paradises), more people would develop a lifelong interest in sailing.

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