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New Member
Hi all, I hope I can get some pointers from seasoned & experienced Sunfish racers. I've been racing for 4 years. Having never raced before
I've learned a lot and moved from consistent last place at our Yacht Club to within the top 5-7 leaders out of 20 sailors.

I'm trying to figure out why the leaders continue to pull away from me. I follow tell tales and have some good boat speed. The other
sailors have that little bit of edge over me. I'd like to learn that edge. Can anyone offer advice or pointers....obviously difficult not
sailing with me or seeing my mistakes.

Thank you

Charles Howard

Active Member
Agree with Beldar.

One nice thing about the Sunfish class is people willing to share with others. I go to different regattas and always ask questions from the good sailors.

The fast people have really good boat speed which comes with practice.


New Member
Thank you gentlemen. I always ask and usually they give little tips here and there but, I asked one sailor how does she know if she's trimming too much. She said I don't know how to teach that it's just a feel thing, listening to the boat and paying attention to the tell tails. Like you mentioned Charles, it comes with time on the water and practice. We have practice sessions on Thursday night given by some of the better sailors, even with coaching by last Thursday's leader, I still couldn't catch him. Thus my frustration.

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Well, I think it is impossible to just give tips and advice without seeing you and your competition. You could have bad tactics, make bad decisions, sail in someone's bad air, be missing shifts, pointing too low, pointing too high, sheeting too much, sheeting too tight, heeling too much, tacking slowly, gooseneck too far back, gooseneck too far forward, weight too far back, have an old sail, have a heavy boat, halyard in wrong spot, outhaul too tight, outhaul too loose, etc.

Getting better is not instantaneous, and usually not a matter of changing one thing and all of the sudden you are leading races. You need to be observing the other boats, seeing what looks to be working and how they are trimmed, assess where your are losing out (slow speed, can't point, tactics not working, etc. etc. ) and try to fix the issues. Stuart Walker books can be too detailed, but you need to be honing your tactics as well as speed. After 4 years of racing, my guess is you still have tactical knowledge to learn.


Upside down?
Staff member
Congratulations on moving up in the fleet's pecking order. With respect to getting even closer to the top, I need to point out that there's so much we don't know about your racing, so it's difficult to give a short answer. Beldar already gave you several issues to think about.

First of all, where do you sail; river, lake (big or small), ocean?

2. Do you do better in lighter air?

3. One can divide a race into segments: start, upwind, mark roundings, downwind. In which segment do the others get ahead of you?

4. Tactics and strategy (see Beldar's post)

There's more; that's what keeps racing interesting...

Alan S. Glos

Well-Known Member
There is also the 10,000 hour rule: "If you want to get really good at something, do it for 10,000 hours." Maybe its an overstatement, but a lot of good racers are well above the 10,000 hour mark. Consistant good boat speed then becomes a given and they can focus most of their effort on tactics. I race against one skipper from time to time whom I have never beaten in a single race - I had one second place once, one of the best Sunfish races I have ever sailed and I still finished behind him by more than a few boat lengths! His sailing looks effortless and he is always looking around the course picking up windshifts and planning his next moves. Impressive.

Alan Glos
Member in Good Standing of the 10,000 Hour Club (or is that the Wasted Youth Club?)
EdT, Congrats on moving up in the fleet... Alan is right to a point... time in the boat and when I was starting I got my butt kicked in by a guy who was about 90 years old... he said "you're doing well!" and I replied how I don't think I was... then he asked me hwo long have I been sailing and I told him a year (sailing and racing three to 4 days a week)- then he said, "it takes 1,000 races to get good"... well I totalled all my races back then and it was probably about 87ish... i had a long way to go... I then made a comment to our Fleet Champion, who always seemed to win in our 20 plus boat fleet races... I said, Peter, I wish I was as fast as you... you win all the time... then he remarked,"I am as fast as everyone else, but the one who makes the least mistakes...." hmmmm that got me thinking... EdT- to break the top of the fleet, you have to have even speed, make sure your boat is up to snuff, dry, bottom clean, everything rigged right and tight and relatively good sail... this way you can't use the boat as an excuse and a heavy or poor boat will hurt you from breaking in the top of the fleet... then you need to work on reducing your mistakes... 1st mistake most racers make: not getting a good start. if you dont start even with the top of fleet you are giving them a head start, if they are decent and moving the same speed as you, you wont catch them... because they will make less mistakes, too... so start well... on the line at the gun with full speed, have the ability to go to the favored side of the course, (if you dont, that is mistake #2)... then have the ability to tack when you wish, if you dont that's your 3rd mistake... sail on the lifted tack, (sailing in a header upwind? 4th mistake)... sail in more pressure (potential 5th mistake).... this is just the first leg... you have an opportunity to have five mistakes in the first 2 minutes of the race... top sailors don't make 5 mistakes in the first two minutes... if you can get yourself to the first mark, assuming it's upwind, in the top three boats... then you have a shot at extending your lead... and cracking the top of the fleet... the rest is basically: keep your airclear on reaches and down winds and fight for the inside room at the Jibe mark and leeward marks... ALWAYS round next to the mark (do NOT be pinwheeled)... if you reduce these mistakes, to less than others make, then I guarantee you will make it up the top of the fleet... Lee Montes