By Wally Cross, Quantum Detroit
If you’re thinking about getting into sailboat racing – or returning after a hiatus—you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of options based on your experience, available time, and budget. By planning ahead for the time and expense, it is pretty feasible to sail four to six regattas a year. The first decision to make is whether to go handicap or one design. This article looks at one design, a racing option that continues to grow in popularity due to the availability of boats, affordability, access to local fleets, and competition balanced with fun.
When looking at one design, the first step is to pick the class and then a boat. One design classes vary a great deal, and rather than focus on a particular boat, it’s a good idea to study the different classes and the people involved to see if it’s a good fit.
Finding the One Design Class Right for You
Many one design classes and sailors are active on Facebook and some classes have their own websites. These are good places to start your research to learn more about the interests and backgrounds of the class members and the overall direction of the class. For example, some classes have restrictions on who can steer and the number of pro’s (sailing professionals) allowed. Many one design classes will have a class leader (preferably other than the boat builder) to answer your questions. Contact this person and see if it is possible to rent/charter a boat for one event.
Selecting a Boat
Once you have narrowed down your choice to one or two one design classes, it’s time to focus on the boat. This can be a challenge; here are some pointers:
Used Versus New Boats
If you don’t have an unlimited budget and it’s your first time in one design, it’s a good idea to consider a good used boat. As a kid, I recall sailing the new 470 and each year, all the good guys had new boats. It became obvious to me that I could not afford to be competitive in that class. In other words, if the class you are looking at requires a new boat to win, it is probably not the right class. Good one design classes have older boats winning. Another rule of thumb: if used boats are competitive, the class will hold its value and local fleets are likely to exist or develop.
Congratulations, You Own a Boat! Now What?
The good news is that your research paid off and you now own a really nice boat. The first decision is to identify the races or regattas that will fit your schedule. The next decision is your crew. Are you going to sail with your friends or a combination of friends and professional sailors? Many one design classes have restrictions on the number of professional sailors (Category 3). Another consideration is to build a long-term team with your friends, yet hire a sailing coach for your first event. Once you have a crew in place, you can start getting ready for some racing!
Steps of Ownership and Team Building
Have fun picking a class that will challenge your sailing skills while providing enjoyment on shore. Use the successful sailors in your class to glean information that will get you a jump on the rest of the competition. Stay organized with all the information and set up your own system to race. Above all, enjoy the ride!
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