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Start Offshore Racing

3: A harsh environment

All the personal safety considerations that apply to inshore racing ó particularly keeping clear of the boom and mainsheet in a gybe (whether accidental or not) and staying on board are just as applicable to offshore racing. In addition, youíll be exposed to a harsh environment for much longer, which means thereís more potential to get cold, potentially dangerously so. It also means that itís vital to have a suitable selection of quality gear ó even in mid-summer, if youíre sat on the rail for six hours on the same tack while being regularly hosed by spray, itís asking a lot of even the best clothing systems to keep you warm. It can be very difficult for those who donít have considerable experience to judge exactly what garments might be needed for the following few hours, so donít be afraid to canvass advice from others. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the effects of allday exposure to the sun must not be underestimated, even in UK waters.

Use of harnesses and lifejackets is more important than when sailing inshore, and is vital at night, when there is very little chance of recovering someone lost overboard. In heavy weather it should be routine to clip on while still standing safely below deck next to the companionway before going up on deck. A boat thatís raced offshore will also have a greater amount of complex safety equipment than one which races inshore. Before departure you can expect a thorough safety briefing, with the aim being that any item can be deployed immediately should it be required, even at night.

Diet and nutrition are important factors for dinghy racing, but assume even more significance in a race lasting 12-24 hours or more. Plenty of the right kind of food is important ó avoid sugary options that will give your blood sugar levels a short-lived peak, followed by a more sustained low. Instead, look for items high in complex carbohydrates, which have a slower release of energy. If the boat youíre sailing has an oven itís a real bonus, as minimal crew time is needed to heat pre-prepared meals, and a hot meal on the rail before nightfall is a real boost to morale.

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Night sailing can be a truly wonderful experience and holds enormous appeal for many people

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Many excellent sailors succumb to sea-sickness

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