Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad

Cruising lessons from ocean racers

by Andy Schell on 2 Aug 2014
Bermuda aerial view Bermuda Aerial Media
As reported on World Cruising Club, Andy Schell updates us on the Bermuda Race experience as well as cruisers vs racers.

350 NW of Bermuda...

'Sleijride' is nearly halfway back to Newport on the return delivery following the Bermuda Race last week. We're in cruising mode again, down to four crew (from six), and enjoying single-handed watches steered by autopilot, nine hours of rest, reading (!), and motor sailing through the calms.

Yesterday we had a very close encounter with a sperm whale that breached not 100 yards off our port bow, then proceeded to meander across the bow and dive off to starboard, showing us his big tail on the way down. Today we're sailing fast off the wind, fair weather cumulus clouds dotting the blue sky and the hot sun baking the decks. Aside from the relentless heat, this is ocean sailing at its finest.

Participating in the Bermuda Race last week (my first), got me thinking about the differences between ocean racing and ocean cruising, and what the former can teach us about the latter. I'm primarily an ocean cruiser (though prefer the term 'sailor', as cruising has an air of laziness to it that doesn't suit me), but having done two long ocean races now (Annapolis-Newport in 2013) has altered my perspective on some points. I'm admittedly no authority on the subject of ocean racing, but I've jotted some ideas down here, with a few anecdotes from our experiences to elaborate. Here goes...

There is immense satisfaction to be had by completing a voyage entirely under sail.

The racing sailor certainly feels a greater sense of accomplishment arriving at a distant landfall knowing he's completed the journey without the aid of an engine. Few cruising sailors nowadays understand this. Miles Poor, a veteran and huge supporter of the Caribbean 1500 likes to preach that on that route, 'fuel is king.' No offense Miles, but I disagree. The feeling of making landfall under sail is so thrilling, that I'm planning on introducing special 'no motoring' prizes for the 1500 this fall. Stay tuned...

Hand-steering with a watch partner is good fun and great practice.

Ocean racing, unless you're in the double handed or cruising divisions, does not allow autopilots. Being at the helm puts you closer to the elements and to the marine environment we sailors supposedly yearn for. With no bimini and the dodger stowed away, we were in it, driving the boat day and night through whatever nature tossed at us. Going off watch after three hours at the helm in wet, squally conditions is a relief, to say the least. 'Without the bitter, baby, the sweet ain't as sweet.' You're more conscious of the moment at hand - no escaping into a book while you hide behind the dodger. It's just you, the boat, the sea and the wind.

The boat, as most cruisers already know, can handle much more than you can.

Our best day's run during the race was 185 miles, or an average of nearly eight knots. Not bad for a 37-footer. It was made possible mostly by us pushing hard through a dark and squally night. Beam reaching in 20-25 knots of wind, we routinely hit speeds in the double digits, topping out at over 11 knots, barreling mostly blind through a moonless night, steering by the dim red light on the compass. The hand steering was tiring, and the off watch were bounced around in their bunks, but eating up the miles was worth it. Pushing hard made the challenge that much more exciting.

Racers are almost always better prepared than cruisers. And they don't whine about it (as much!).

The '1500' and all the rallies I work for require nearly the same safety equipment as an ocean race. In fact, the ISAF Special Regulations inform requirements for ocean races and rallies. Racers break gear for sure (they expect to), but the level of preparation, both in terms of crew readiness (with CPR and Safety at Sea course mandatory), and readiness of the boats was apparent on the docks in Newport and in Bermuda before the trip home. Racers carry more sails (more redundancy), and seem more aware of and ready for the risks they'll encounter. They leave nothing to chance, something a lot of cruisers can learn from. And when's the last time you've heard of a racing boat being abandoned (aside from the extremes like Fastnet 79 or the Vendee)?


The shortest route between two ports is still a straight line!

Racers understand this better than cruisers. On Sleijride, we plotted the rhumb line on the chart and never deviated from it by more than 23 miles (14 miles so far on the way back). We sailed a bee line for Bermuda. We knew our boat wasn't fast enough to take any 'flyers' - most cruising boats aren't - so we sailed the weather we had on the course. In rallies like the ARC and 1500, it often pays to sail off the rhumb line to better set up to catch the trade winds, but sailing the shortest route is still the fastest.

Racers are better sailors than cruisers.

Some of this admittedly has to do with effort and saving energy on a short-handed crew, but racers are almost always more in tune with their boats and how to get the most out of the. They're not afraid to make sail changes, or leave sail up overnight. They know they're boats and are happy going to the now in the dark to reef or change headsails. I learned a lot about light air sailing and spinnaker sailing from Adam Cort, fellow writer at SAIL who crewed with us last week and has way more racing experience than me. Patience is the key. Like an old cycling line I once heard about optimizing the pedal stroke, 'slow becomes smooth, and smooth eventually becomes fast.' Good advice.

Overindulgence of alcohol is the bane of lots of racing AND cruising events.

I'm no teetotaler, but why are sailing and boozing so inexorably linked? We hit the dock at 3pm at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and our neighbor on a J/120 was so drunk he could barely stand. He was loud, rude and obnoxious, and about drowned himself when he decided to jump in the harbor right between our rafted boats. The DJ party music played till 2am three nights straight, and the sailors at the bar were drunk all the while. One or two celebratories is fine, but isn't there more to see and do at these beautiful landfalls than drink? Come on people...

So, what do you think? Who have I offended and what did I forget? What can ocean cruising sailors teach the racing World Cruising website

North Technology - Southern SparsFremantle to Bali Race 660x82Ensign 660

Related Articles

Knowing Harken takes years and years (Pt.II)
We looked at how Grant Pellew became the MD here in Australia, and how they rigorously go about testing their gear In Part One of getting to know Harken, we looked at how Grant Pellew became the MD here in Australia, and how they rigorously go about testing their gear. We also looked at some of the other brands Harken distributes in Australia and so we move on to the last category.
Posted on 25 Sep
Olympic Gold medalist and Volvo Ocean Race winner up for WS Board
Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing in November. The five times Olympic medalist, Volvo Ocean Race winner and several times America's Cup competitor will bring a much needed sailing edge to the Board of World Sailing if he can navigate the politics of the controlling body of the sport.
Posted on 25 Sep
Amel - Do you fit the bill?
Perhaps it is equally as fascinating as the many features that go into either the Amel 55 or 64 It is certainly an interesting set of criterion. Perhaps it is equally as fascinating as the many features that go into either the Amel 55 or 64 and make them a definitive part of the quintessential bluewater cruiser armada. We’ll come to all of those in due course, but firstly we’ll tackle the hero image and why in so many ways, this explains, so, so much.
Posted on 21 Sep
Knowing Harken takes years and years (Pt.I)
You could imagine that being familiar with all that Harken produces and stands for is a lengthy process. You could imagine that being familiar with all that Harken produces and stands for is a lengthy process. So if you were going to be the person at the top in Australia, it would be best for you to have immersed yourself in sailing from an early age. When you grew up, being one of the technical service team would be more than a handy apprenticeship, as it were.
Posted on 19 Sep
Brookes and Gatehouse Videos with Knut Frostad
Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos with Knut Frostad, the legendary Volvo Ocean Race sailor and former CEO. See him talk about sailing in general, the B&G product choices and placement he made for his own boat, and then why he loves his Outremer 5X.
Posted on 8 Sep
Boat Books of the Month - How to Read Water and False Flags
How to Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to Sea & False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II. This month the Boatbooks Australia: Boat Books of the Month are How to Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea and False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II.
Posted on 6 Sep
Soft Padeyes – light, strong and versatile
Several types of soft padeyes are now available and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel pa Several types of soft padeyes are now available on the market and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel padeyes. They all capitalise on the incredible strength to weight ratio and abrasion resistance of Dyneema® which offers a reliable, robust, flexible and safe termination.
Posted on 6 Sep
The X Factor starring X-Yachts
X-Yachts do indeed have plenty to sing about. X-Yachts do indeed have plenty to sing about. Testament to that is the three-year-old Xp38 on display at the recent Sydney International Boat Show still looked brand new. This was no mooring minder either, but rather a boat that had gone up to Hamilton Island Race Week for each of those years and campaigned hard.
Posted on 31 Aug
The C Beetle Project
Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Such is Phil Smidmore’s tale of Mick Miller and if I could be so bold as to implore you to read, then I know your life will be the better for it!
Posted on 30 Aug
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug