Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sailing isn’t just About Pulling Lines, It’s about Solving Problems Ahead of Time

Not all days on the water are this smooth!
The above is a (probably not direct) quote from Pete Goss, of Vendee Ocean Race fame.

Scott and I both come from sailboat racing backgrounds, which I am now convinced is a fantastic introduction to all elements of boating…the etiquette, the rules, the lingo and, of course, the basics of sail trim and boat handling.

More than any of this, though, is the fact that you learn, very quickly, to always be thinking ahead.  No matter what your position on the boat – be it helmsman, tactician, main trimmer, grinder, pit person or bow - you must be at least two steps ahead of the game.  You must always have your hand ready to pull or release, must always have a maneuver ready to deploy a, a “plan B” on your brain – because, as we all know, things can happen very fast on a boat.  Yes, even a sail boat.  If you don’t believe me, hop on a race boat and see for yourself.
Both Scott and I spent a significant time doing bow on a few boats, large and small – meaning we worked on the “pointy end”. We constantly had to have the sails and lines ready for the next mark rounding – well before we ever got to it.  This involved flaking the sail (to make sure it didn’t hourglass), running the lines (so they don’t snag or jam), and constantly looking up to make sure no lines are crossed.  On top of that – we also had to be prepared for running the sails to the other side of the boat (in case we decided to round on the opposite tack), or doing a fast sail change (in the event the winds went heavy/light).  It’s an exhilarating and very athletic, potentially stressful position on a boat – especially if it’s blowing.  The difference between a race boat and a cruising boat, however, is that a race boat is run by a (usually) well orchestrated crew of 6-10 – a cruising boat by 1-3.  There is comfort and safety in numbers.

The point is, both Scott and I have been pretty adequately trained in thinking ahead.  And yet we still get surprised.  There is an overwhelming amount of things to think about on a sailboat.  There are so many systems, so many moving parts, so many daily checks to make, so many opportunities for failure.  We are getting better at staying on top of this – but still have so much to learn.  Every day we add to our checklist of operating procedures because everyone can get complacent – and if there is one thing we have learned, there is NO ROOM for complacency on a sailboat!

Brittany & Scott


Paula said...

I would love to see your checklist(s) of daily operating procedures. Maybe an idea for a post?

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