Five further Racing Tips to Improve Your Sailing

When you want to kick your sailing performance up to the next level, many sailors think first of spending money – buying new sails, replacing gear, or even buying a new boat.

In most cases a number of small and easy improvements in your technique can yield great results using the gear that you already have.

Tip 1: Be Consistent

Always try to balance any risk you are thinking of taking against the potential gains, fellow competitors who have inconsistent results tend to be those that take too many risks.

When they get a run of good luck they are at the front of the fleet, but all too often the risks they then take don’t pay off and they end up mid-fleet or worse.

If your own results aren’t consistent, there’s a good chance you are being let down by a small number of mistakes and identifying these can be very revealing, helping you to finish  a long way further up the fleet.

Tip 2: Duck or Tack

When heading upwind on port tack you need to know well in advance whether to tack or duck upon meeting a starboard tack boat. You should always be thinking about what you would do if you meet a starboard tacker and so this emphasizes the importance of having your head out of the boat and knowing where the boats around you are at all times.

If you’re on starboard and want to continue on that tack, don’t let a port tack boat that’s on collision course with you tack under your lee bow, call them through and duck their transom if necessary.

Tip3: Post race Analysis

Always analyse your days performance in a race when you get back ashore. When you have a great result make a list of the major contributing factors to that success, conversely when you have a bad day, list the reasons why and then learn from your mistakes.

If sailing in a crewed boat, this process helps to improve communication with the team and is an excellent opportunity to air issues that may have arisen in the heat of competition. A bonus of this is that if there has been a problem during the race, there is a chance to air the grievances when blood pressure has subsided and everyone is in a more relaxed mood.

Tip 4: Sort the boat out

Everything in your boat must work flawlessly. You may train hard working on weaknesses but if the boat is not up to scratch any gains made by crewing improvements you have gained  may be lost during a race if a fitting or system fails or jams.

An advantage here is that psychologically, your team knows that if they push extra hard that the boat will not let them down.

Make sure that the bottom and foils are fair and smooth and that the rig is properly set up to class specs. Sails need to be as good as they can be given their age and past use.

Having the boat looking good and presenting well will make the crew feel good about sailing it and that is important for crew morale and performance.

Tip 5: Look After Yourself

Have the right clothing and equipment for the boat you are sailing on and for the conditions. Make sure that the gear you bring with you will cover the full range of conditions that you expect to encounter, the key being preparation. 

If you are cold or wet and not comfortable, you can sail at nowhere near your best and in fact if you become really uncomfortable you probably wish you were somewhere else as well.

Good quality gear can sometimes cost a bit more than inferior stuff but generally lasts quite a lot longer with the bonus being that you will enjoy your sailing more.



Week One – 5 Sailing Tips To Improve your Sailing (of 20)

When you want to kick your sailing performance up to the next level, many sailors think first of spending money – buying new sails, replacing gear, or even buying a new boat.

In most cases a number of small and easy improvements in your technique can yield great results using the gear that you already have.

Over the next four weeks I will give you some sailing tips to help improve your performance, this is by no means an exhaustive list but will give you some worthwhile things to work on.

Tip One: Practice Boat Handling

This does not need to involve hours of drills and practice – 15 minutes spent practicing your weakest manoeuvre before the start of each day’s racing will rapidly pay dividends.

Once this first manoeuvre is nailed, you need to find another weakness  to work on.

Buy or borrow a  GoPro camera in a waterproof housing, this is an ideal self-coaching tool and will reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when played back after a race or training session.

Tip Two: Hoists, drops and gybes

Getting gybes right in a single-sail boat in all weather is an essential skill as is perfecting hoists and drops in a boat that carries a spinnaker. Practice done outside of race conditions will always give excellent returns.

The boats with polished crew work in this area always gain an advantage on their rivals in a race especially in pressure cooker situations whatever the weather. Practice manoeuvres using a mark or some other point to replicate race pressure.

Tip Three: Mark all Settings and build up a tuning Guide

Your tuning guide will be a work in progress that will be continually refined over the course of your racing life.

A great starting point is to get a guide for your class or type of boat from your sail maker and then refine it to suit yourself and your crew. This refinement will come from your own on water experiences.

Everything should be marked – halyards, sheets, vang, outhaul, shroud tensions etc. Like the tuning guide, it’s the beginning of an ongoing process that sees both sail trim and boat handling improve as you gradually refine the markings.

Tip Four: Mark Roundings

You will be amazed at how much time is lost at mark roundings and this even goes for some great sailors. One of the biggest mistakes is failing to follow the basic ‘wide in, narrow out’ principle and thereby allowing other boats inside, added to that  uncoordinated sail handling by not planning ahead or leaving it too late will cost you plenty.

Sometimes an early drop will set you up to pass the boats in front, the small amount of time that you lose without the extra will be more than compensated for by an orderly roundng.

Planning ahead for your mark rounding will also pay dividends, plan where you want to be in relation to the boats around you least halfway down the leg.

Tip Five: Practice Starting

Getting away with clean air and runway below you at the start and on the first beat gives a valuable early advantage plus starting without being boxed in allows you to re-jig your plan if something changes immediately after the start.

Get a reliable transit and don’t be afraid of being half a length ahead of the boats around you as most hang back too far. Have a dedicated yachtrace timer and know how to use it.

Do time on distance drills and get to know your boats head to wind, tacking and gybing manouvreability and above all know the rules.