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Improving as a Racer, Part 2.5, More on the Sails

A big question is how "good" do the sails need to be for a developing sailor. And how do we know?  I want to be able to say something like "ignore high-tech fabrics" or "Go to a used-sail loft" or something. But I'm realizing it isn't that simple; the question is unanswerable as a general case.

Basically, we have to have equipment that is as good as the top rung of the ladder we want to climb.    The ladder is our ruler, we measure performance against the fleet.  So first question is, "can my team manage the boat around the race course and perform the standard maneuvers"?  At that point we need sails that keep us in competition with the fleet. When everything is settled and we're hanging with our part of the pecking order in the fleet and our power and boat speed are equal.  But, the sails have to work so that we can change gears as needed. Usually that's not a cheap sail. Depending in our fleet and it's competetiveness and culture, that may well mean new sails every year.

But, can I really SEE the difference between good and great sails (as determined by the fleet culture). If I can, I should go for them because it's my passion; why would  I short change myself. And I can copy the way the top of the fleet set up.
But with that advice comes this: don't think that we'll necessarily win or get the most out of those sails. Time on the water is the coin that matters.  Time on the water means that we'll be able to pull the strings to get the sail shaped correct for the conditions.  If we have a lesser sail, it's much harder to see the effect of getting it set properly.

As an example, one of our competitors on Wednesday nights in the past few years wins with his personal recut sails from Bacons.  He probably starts racing with sails as good as the top of the Wed night fleet or a bit worse.  He knows how to set them right.  His sails are good enough so that other aspects of racing determine his place but always in the top. But, he does not race CBYRA weekend races where the sailors would be as good as him, but playing with newer sails.

So bottom line: sails are an issue when we have boat speed issues that are not explained by some other factor like crew weight, bottom not clean, rig out of tune, etc. In the same breeze, current, etc. and with clear air and the other boat is just faster, then we might see and identify the problems in our sails.

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