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Start Yacht Racing

1: How is this different?

There are arguably more similarities than differences between inshore yacht racing and dinghy sailing, with the same skills of wind awareness, tactics, rules and subtle nuances of sail trim assuming equal importance. One of the biggest differences is the considerably greater loads on a big boat, especially on main, genoa and spinnaker sheets.

On larger craft these can easily exceed one tonne and must be treated with respect, especially in heavy weather. Equally, these loads must be tamed quickly in order to handle the boat efficiently, so the proper use of winches, clutches and other deck hardware is important, and effective teamwork is critical.

Big boat sailing also tends to take place in a more adverse environment, further from the shore and in deeper tidal water, than dinghy racing. Despite the potentially hostile environment, big boat racing is a statistically very safe sport, yet also one that offers huge thrills, although the potential consequences of falling overboard are very much more severe than for dinghy sailors, where taking a swim is often part of the overall experience. Another important issue is to ensure you’re not hit by the boom, mainsheet or vang in a gybe — where enough force is generated to cause serious, possibly even fatal, injury.

Although a yacht will not capsize in the way that a dinghy will (although some broaches can be quite spectacular), optimum weight distribution is crucial to boat speed. Some tasks only involve one or two crew members, so those who are not actively engaged should be hiking hard on the rail. In light airs, weight might be needed to leeward and some crew members may even be sent below, where their weight will be better located and they won’t contribute to wind resistance. On the other hand, weight needs to be as far aft as possible when sailing downwind in heavy weather. In all this, a dinghy sailor’s instincts will be very helpful, especially in light airs when even relatively large yachts such as Farr 45s and TP52s will be roll tacking.

Some manoeuvres, particularly spinnaker work, will involve everyone on board, with each task needing to be carried out in a strict order. Timing is everything, so even if you only have a minor role you must understand how it meshes into the overall picture.

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Those wanting to learn to race big boats need to be a little more resourceful in planning their training

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