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How to be a better sailor

2018 June 1

The best thing about sailing is that there’s always more to be learned. Here are some ideas to start you on your way.

Stop being so serious about it

If you aren’t comfortable sailing with a spinnaker that’s exactly what you should do more of. Push the envelope a little to broaden your skills.
Pat Reynolds photo


Sailors love to talk about how dangerous sailing can be and all of the safety precautions that need to be taken, and these are important aspects to pay attention to. But at some point all of that danger talk can make it seem downright irresponsible to go out on the water with anything less than a survival suit and helmet on. Remember, you are far more likely to be injured driving to the boat than sailing on it.

Sailing is supposed to be fun (and if it’s not, then why are you bothering?). Instead of scaring the pants off landlubber friends who you talked into a harbor cruise with a 30-minute lesson on what to do if someone falls overboard, why not remind them to keep one hand on the boat and offer them a life jacket to wear if they (or you) are more comfortable having one on? Go sailing on a perfect day and enjoy it without stressing about everything that could go wrong. 

Rediscovering the enthusiasm you had for sailing before you decided it was fraught with peril will reinvigorate you as a sailor. And a happy sailor is a better sailor.

Go outside your comfort zone

Are you a fair-weather sailor? If you don’t entertain the idea of leaving the dock unless the sun is shining and the wind is blowing a steady 12 knots but you still want to learn more, it’s time to gear up and get out there when you really don’t want to.

It’s easy to sail in ideal conditions. But you learn more when the conditions are challenging. This might mean going out when it’s blowing 20 knots and you can practice reefing and tacking in more wind than you are used to. Or it might be hanging in there and resisting the urge to start the engine when the wind dies (at least for a while). Sailing in light air is an art and a good way to learn what adjustments work best, particularly when it comes to sail trim. You’ll quickly learn if you are oversteering and you’ll get a real sense of being one with the boat.

By getting experience sailing in a variety of conditions when you choose to, you’ll become a more knowledgable sailor when you’re forced to sail in those conditions.

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