There are three things that establish boatspeed and I have listed them below in order of importance.
Obviously, number three is not relevant in a strict one design boat as all hull shapes are the same within fine tolerances. Having said that some one design classes do allow subtle differences which can affect boat speed in different conditions.
An example is the amount of rocker tolerance or station variances that are written into the rules. Variations here can affect light or heavy air performance whereby you boat may be quicker in one or the other of those conditions.
The helmsman and crew – Things That Establish Boatspeed
If you want to compete at the top of your fleet you must excel in all three but number one is by far the most important.
To win you must be in great physical shape with fitness work concentrating on the type of boat you sail. If you sail a Laser for example, its important to work on your stamina and core strength so you can be hiking as hard at the end as you were at the start.
Don’t discount your mental shape, don’t party hard at a regatta, save the real fun for when the regatta finishes. Get to bed early, get up early each day of the regatta and prepare quietly and methodically. This will avoid you being panicked into last minute hitches.
Don’t let a bad result or even a slow competitor passing spook you, be confident that your boat and preparation is at least as good as anyone in the fleet.
Train together in the conditions that you expect at a regatta but don’t totally discount training a little in alternative conditions. We have all been to events where the expected conditions have not eventuated.
Having the best rig, sails and equipment in the fleet will not guarantee a win if the helmsman and crew are not properly prepared. The same goes that the best helmsman and crew will find it hard to win if their equipment is second rate.
2. The sails and rig – Things That Establish Boatspeed
Old sails rarely win races.
If you have bought new sails for a regatta make sure to tune your rig to the sails. Make sure as well that you sail with them prior to the first race. That’s important because they will behave differently to the sails you have been using. You need to familiarise yourself with the differences before entering the heat of battle.
Use the sailmaker who has put work in with you fleet because they have been through the painstaking process of sail development. There is no silver bullet to be found with sails and it is best to buy the brand that is already getting results.
Use the rig that has proven best in your class. If unsure when tuning the rig to suit your sails, crew weight and the prevailing conditions, ask competitors who are sailing at the front of your fleet for advice. You will be surprised how helpful they will be.
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3. The fit out and hull – Things That Establish Boatspeed
Keep your hull fair and polished and foils are smooth with nicks and scratches either filled or sanded out. Don’t ignore the slot gasket or the fairing of self bailers. These areas can be the source of enormous drag.
Keep your fit out simple. I have seen sailors slavishly following the latest fad and adding fittings and systems that they don’t really understand. This can lead to unnecessary distraction during a race, add weight and cost money that would be better spent elsewhere.
Check all gear each day before you head out. Tighten every shackle pin and check fastenings. Look for worn sheets and lashings plus check that all sheaves are turning freely and lubricate if necessary. Turn Ratchets on or off as the conditions dictate.
Keep your boat as light as legally possible without the quest for lightness becoming an obsession.
Always carry a spare shackle or two and a couple of short lengths of different sizes of light rope. These can be used for running repairs should something break whilst you are out on the water.
Sail hard but above all make sure you have fun. You will learn something new every time you sail.