Racing Makes for Better Cruising
31 December 2011
Rob the Rigger
The Beginning is a Good Place to Start
When it comes to the things that please us, the possibilities are endless. What’s more, those that fail to venture outside their comfort zones may never actual know what potential is there.
To some, sailing is a timid, elitist, thinking-sport where men in white shorts and saggy brimmed hats yell things like “jibe ho” or gather at elistest clubs and speak with that accent made so well known to all of us by Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island (I’m dating myself here.)
When it comes down to it, there are posers and egotist in every facet of life. You see them everywhere you go and the observant can (or think they can) spot them easily. If you let them, they might discourage those interested in learning more. Let me assure you that just as there are people as described above there are oodles of level-minded, good people racing aboard boats everyday.
In my profession I meet people all the time that verbalize their lacking sailing confidence by not knowing terms or understanding sailing principals. When I come across such a person I tell them the same thing every time, “Everyone starts at the same spot!” No one was born with a proficiency in sailing, although some may advance more quickly than others. We all start out at “the beginning.”
One thing I’ve noticed over the decades is that sailors like to teach others that are interested in learning more about sailing. We love to share the passion that drives us, whether we are a cruiser or racer or both. Getting out there on the water and sharing the love of sailing is, I think, a common goal.
For those new to the sport or wanting to learn more, racing is a great way to hone skills. I know, I hear it all the time: I’m a cruiser – I don’t wan that go fast racing stuff. Well, if you are truly a cruiser then honing your ability to trim the boat for efficient sailing is going to benefit you greatly! A faster passage from point A to point B may allow you to dodge that front heading your way with it’s foul weather and unpleasant conditions. Bettering your ability to handle your boat by learning from others is a definite winning scenario for more enjoyable cruising. I think much of the time people are afraid to let others know what they don’t know. Over the years I have made a goal of racing with crews I admire, skippers that commonly are in the money and those that are better tacticians than me. Yes, I have made stupid, embarrassing mistakes over the years, but as time has passed my skills have grown and I am a desirable crew member to have aboard (most of the time anyway.)
Start by knowing the strengths you bring to the team. Are you a good cook? Are you handy as a mechanic? Sit down before you offer to go racing with someone. Be honest about your experience level, but realize that you do probably have plenty to offer. Are you a first responder? Take an inventory of what makes you a good member of other groups at work, home, church, the bowling league - whatever. Many things transcend and translate to beneficial traits in sailing. Sometimes the best skill to is to be the first person to get off your butt and offer to take on the task at hand. I remember one time I was sailing aboard a boat that I have crewed for years. The skipper had brought thee college kids to sail that day, each had limited experience aboard “a big boat”. When it came time to ready the gear for a spinnaker launch nobody moved. I was working alone. I walked back and said, “Ya know, this boat is not the most comfortable boat. You have to be careful to not stub your feet and there are no cushioned seats. It hurts your bottom to sit there – so get off your ass and do something.” It was not the softest, PC way to put it, but they got it right away. Don’t wait to be asked – offer to help and listen to direction. Humbling your self is the first step that you can take to make yourself a desirable crew member – and to get invited back!
Another paradigm true in sailing as well as elsewhere in life: show up on time. When I started in my first career my boss sat me down and said, “The first secret to success is just showing up.” He meant showing up on time. Don’t be late. Nobody wants to rush to the race start because they waited on you (no matter what your skill level.)
Come prepared. Know the expected weather conditions or ask the skipper before race day and come prepared, but not with two bags and a cooler. Weight, as you probably know is not so desirable aboard a boat.
I am not a yeller when sailing. If I yell it is to increase the amplitude of my voice to make it over the conditions or to be sure I am heard because the message is important to be heard and understood. Realizing that about your skipper, or knowing to expect that he/she will yell is probably something you will learn quickly. I’ve never sailed a second time with a skipper that yells anything belittling – you might feel the same, but I can count their numbers in my experience on one hand…and I have sailed with many different skippers and crews.
The bottom line is that sailing might be about winning, but winning is about preparation and doing your personal best! Striving to do your personal best every time will definitely drive you to be a better sailor, do tasks better each time and will ultimately make you a batter sailor. Being a better sailor will help you to enjoy your own boat much more…and increase your confidence for those times when whether or circumstances challenge you – most often when you least expect it.
So think about it! Go racing!
Most clubs or associations will welcome your phone call and direct you to the race chairman who may be a great source for helping you find your way onto a boat. Be careful though, you might meet people that love the same thing you love, make friends and hone your skills all at the same time.
Enjoy! Go sailing!! Go Racing!!
Rob the Rigger