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Start Offshore Racing

2: Night sailing

Night sailing can be a truly wonderful experience and holds enormous appeal for many people. However, at times it can be challenging and disorientating to those without experience of sailing in the dark, especially on windy and overcast nights with no moon. Night vision is crucially important for efficient deck work, but it takes a long time to establish and may not be fully developed even after 10 minutes. Many people donít give it sufficient time and over-use torches, which can be counter-productive. Other than on a very bright moonlit night, a torch will of course be needed to check sail trim, but make sure you donít switch it on until itís pointed exactly where the light is needed, and anyone whose vision might be affected by the light is warned in advance.

When offshore the lookout for other traffic and competitors needs to be more focused than for inshore racing ó shipping may not be following the predictable paths vessels take in confined waters such as the Solent and Thames Estuary, so more time is needed to confirm whether a risk of collision exists. In addition, when crossing the English Channel, or southern North Sea, youíll be racing across some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Itís therefore vital to be able to identify at the earliest possible stage whether a risk of collision exists (when the other vessel is on a constant compass bearing) and to be able to identify vessels by their lights at night.

Watch keeping systems on an offshore race need to balance the need to drive the boat hard, with the crew on the rail to provide stability, and the need for everyone to be adequately rested so they perform as near as possible to their potential, and avoid accidents. Donít be misled into trying to mimic the pros who manage to drive their boats hard on minimal sleep ó itís a skill that takes time to learn, and these are people who can snatch anything from a 20-minute break to a full hour and a halfís sleep at any time and any place, no matter how unlikely or uncomfortable.

On a race that involves a single night at sea opportunities for sleeping below will be limited. This means itís worth starting the race as wellrested as possible. A couple of hours sleep in the afternoon, for instance, can often prove to be time well spent before an evening start.

In a longer race itís important to get into the rhythm of the watch-keeping system early on ó if everyone stays up most of the first night, the entire crew will be well below par by the second evening. Itís far better to get some sleep in as early as you can ó even during the first afternoon if possible. And certainly after dinner on the first day there should be people going down to get some rest.

Many cruiser-racers have a limited number of bunks on each side of the boat, which reduces the number of people who can get sleep on the windward side. Out-and-out raceboats, however, often have two pairs of bunks on each side, enabling at least four people to get rest, with their weight continuing to make a contribution to stability.

Previous page:1 Introduction

The boat will have a different motion in the taller, but longer, seas typically found in less sheltered areas

Next page:3 A harsh environment

Youíll be exposed to a harsh environment for much longer

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