Becoming a Racer - By Michelle
you have read all the reports about the various regattas going
on around the country and followed the progress of ‘The
Race’ last winder, and now you have the not so fleeting
thought… ‘Hey, I can do that!’. Well, here
is your chance to get started in racing. Just have a read
of the following pearls of wisdom and you will start making
the transition from rail meat, to rock star in no time.
to your local club, sailing centre of marina and find an entry
level crewing position. Try and join someone’s boat
for a race on a warm summer evening. If you luck into a crew
position, all you will need is a hat, sunglasses, some deck
shoes, gloves, an inflatable PFS and some sunscreen. All of
this is for warm weather. In the cold weather, you will also
want to add your own boots, foul weather gear, and a PFD that
will give you extra insulation for when you are hanging off
the rail. Once you are on board, by keeping your eyes and
ears open you will quickly learn the basics of racing.
are in the lucky minority if you enjoy your first crewing
experience. Many people come into racing without any of the
proper gear and are then surprised to find themselves bruised
and cold at the end of the day. Other trainees find themselves
with incompetent skippers who broach, yell, can’t make
a decision and slam into other boats. I’ve met every
different possible sort of helmsman, and all I have to tell
you is to stick with it. You can just keep trading boards
until you find a crew and skipper that you enjoy spending
time with, and you will soon learn that this racing stuff
can be a lot of fun.
might like to go to some of the post race parties and introduce
yourself to other crews and skippers. Another idea is to
post your name onto online notice boards, or published crew
lists, indicating that you are a novice but available to
race. Let the local sailors know if you are interested in
doing a particular job on board, like fly the kite, grind
sheets, hang off the rail, or work the foredeck. As you
sail more, and gain more experience, you will be able to
try out all the different positions to see which one suits
you best. What you are looking for is the ‘Dream Team’
and this will finally happen. You will find a group of like
minded sailors that don’t mind teaching you what to
do on the racecourse, and make you laugh. After I eventually
found my Dream Team, I learnt a huge amount in just a few
The skipper pointed out as we headed out into San Francisco
Bay, that I was meant to be moving my weight from one side
of the boat to the other as she tacked. Finally- I had found
a light at the end of the tunnel as I could see that the skipper
was conscious of balancing the forces exerted on the boat.
When the grinder pointed to the three bottoms sitting on the
jibsheets, and yelled ‘Butt cleat!’ to me, I realised
that I had been committing a sin every time I sat on the rail.
We would be sailing more efficiently, and I would have fewer
bruises form sitting on the sheets too.
I learned that I would have a real job at the end of the downwind
legs! My task was to stuff the spinnaker into it’s bag
as quickly as I could. The crew gave me a tip to do this-
I had to imagine that the sail was money and that I wanted
to collect as much as I could before it all blew away. With
the five other crew members shouting ‘Money, Money Money!’,
I was encouraged to work efficiently and quickly.
I started to realise we might be racing in circles, or maybe
triangles, when I started to study the course. I could see
as we zipped up and down the start line that the committee
boat wasn’t a target, it was simply a place for us to
check in and depart from.
After all the experience I had, I could now understand the
importance to find that guy ‘mark’.
you have found your Dream Team, you will begin to adapt
to a new kind of communication. You will be socialising
with other sailors and you’ll find your hands enacting
out what is called ‘bar karate’, to mimic boat
positions. You will pepper your speech with colourful phrases
like ‘dogs in the house’, ‘footing’
and ‘lay line’. Then you will find that the
discussions will turn to gear, and you will start to compare
hip pads, fleece jackets, padded shorts and kneepads.
you become more involved with racing, you may encounter some
strange consequences. When I fell asleep once after a weekend
of non stop racing, I had a strange dream in which I was wearing
a Velcro racing suit that could keep me firmly attached to
the boat because of the Velcro deck. Some sailors develop
strange obsessions, by purchasing magazines and referring
to World Champions and Olympic racers by their first names,
or becoming preoccupied with the weather.
happens with your sailing, you can have my opinion that the
racing bug is a healthy one to have. Just a small amount of
racing experience will teach you a huge amount about sailing.
Not about how to varnish teak, repair engines, electrical
systems or anchoring- but real sailing. You will get to see
how racing sailors balance the boat and adjust their sail
trim. You’ll also learn how they compensate for the
current when setting a course for the mark, and how you read
the water for a puff of wind. Just by observing the experts
around you, you will and have an insight into what it is to
more information on skydiving visit www.freefalladdicts.com
article was written by Michelle Potter and is copyright www.oceanpix.co.uk