From the Editor: The Need for Speed - Sail Magazine

From the Editor: The Need for Speed

They say every cruiser turns into a racer when there’s another boat in the vicinity. I’m not so sure that’s true.
Author:
Publish date:
Jan-13-editor-letter

They say every cruiser turns into a racer when there’s another boat in the vicinity. I’m not so sure that’s true. I’ve sailed with plenty of people who could not care one iota about staying ahead of the boat coming up from astern, or catching up to the one that’s just appeared on the horizon; the journey’s the thing, not the rate at which it’s accomplished—why be in a hurry to end it? I’ve also sailed with plenty of people who see every other boat as a foe to be vanquished; maximum pleasure comes from getting the boat sailing at maximum efficiency—why would you settle for less? 

Somewhere along this spectrum lies the sweet spot for every sailor. Most of us, I suspect, swing both ways. We know how to relax and let the pleasure of being on the water on a perfect sailing day infuse our souls. We also know when to let our inner racer out of the cage. There is a time and place for this. If you have a cockpit full of non-sailing friends out for a pleasant afternoon jaunt, you won’t score any domestic points by leaping around the boat fiddling with your sheet leads or tugging on your Cunningham and giving the overtaking boat your best gunfighter glare. On the other hand, if it’s just you and your regular crew, knock yourself out.

Even in the heat of battle, it is best for the competitive cruiser to proceed with some decorum. Rule One is to appear nonchalant. Few things are more distressing

than to be seen working hard to trim your sails, but then be overtaken anyway. In order to avoid this embarrassing scenario, you should have a fair idea of your adversary’s speed potential. In some cases this is easy—if he has a sportier-looking boat, just lean back and do not under any circumstances make eye contact. As he overtakes, act surprised to see him and give him a friendly wave. You weren’t really trying, right?

Laminated sails are a dead give-away of a sailor’s attitude to boatspeed. So too are worn-out, yellowed Dacron sails, but beware—off the wind, such sails will be no slower than your own and sometimes faster, given that they are already nice and full with no need to ease halyards or outhauls or any of that stuff.

If you judge the other boat to be potentially no faster than your own, you can engage, but be subtle. Limit sail trim to a couple of sneaky cranks on the genoa sheet winch or a surreptitious tweak of the mainsheet when the other skipper is looking the other way. Ideally, you will approach from slightly to leeward and then work up to windward to steal your unsuspecting opponent’s wind, having first positioned yourself comfortably with a beer in your hand and an I-wasn’t-really-trying expression. A regal nod of acknowledgement is all that’s required here, and it’s probably all you’ll get back from your victim, who wasn’t-really-trying either. It’s hard to smile while you’re grinding your teeth. 

Photo by Peter Nielsen

Related

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more

dorcap-open-blue

ATN Inc: Dorcap

COOL SLEEPYou’re fast asleep in a snug anchorage, forehatch open to catch the breeze, when you’re rudely awakened by a sneaky rain squall. Now you’re not only awake and wet, you’re sweltering with the hatch closed. Sucks, right? That’s why ATN came up with the Dorcap, an ...read more

HIGH-RES-29312-Tahiti-GSP

Ask Sail: Who has the right-of-way

WHO HAS RIGHT-OF-WAY?Q: I sail in Narragansett Bay, which is a relatively narrow body of water that has upwind boats generally going south and downwind boats generally going north. When sailboats are racing, the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way over the port tack boat, so ...read more