A Quick Guide to Winter Racing in Florida

For many places up north, the sailing season has come to an end, but the winter sailing season in Florida is just heating up. With a number of signature regattas coming up in the Sunshine State, we put together a high-level guide to help you know what to expect when you arrive for your regatta.

There are a number of great events this winter in Florida, including Quantum Key West Race Week and the Quantum J/70 series that you won’t want to miss. Our experts, Marty Kullman and Scott Nixon, talk about things to know if you plan on sailing in the Sunshine State this winter.

“The major appeal for most is to get out of the snow and head south. Florida is the closest cost-effective location to sailing in the Caribbean, which has better sailing, but Florida is easier to get to logistically,” describes Kullman.

Key West

Close to the trade winds – January’s best…is in Key West. 

There are normally 1 to 2 cold fronts per week in Key West during January – meaning a very shifty and strong Northerly with flatter water for a few days. After a cold front, the breeze tends to go northeast and taper off, but the wind stays shifty and could trend right. Northerly direction can blow a lot of weeds onto the course, so be sure to watch out for the clumps. Bring a weed stick to Key West to clear your rudder and continue to practice flossing.

The weather gets hot when the high-pressure system is over Florida and the wind will shift from east to southeast. This is where you will see the classic Key West racing days with sunny clear skies and small wind shifts in the teens. Expect to see some chop and swell from this direction

After the high leaves the Keys, it stays warm and the breeze gets a bit lighter and shiftier from the southeast with some chop and swell. Watch the right and sail for pressure.

If you're planning to attend Quantum Key West Race Week from January 17th-22nd, Nixon reminds you that "Key West Race Week is a long regatta with five days of sailing, so pace yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Top teams start out solid and finish strong. Consistency is key to getting on the podium and Duval Street has taken more than a few good teams off the podium. Have fun, but don’t stay out too late.” You can register here for the event of the winter.

Take advantage of Quantum coaching, debriefs and class gurus available to help at the race village and check out Coach Ed Adams weather report each morning.

Tampa Bay

 A challenging and fun venue – expect to see flat water with shifty lake-like conditions. Despite it being known as the Sunshine State, be sure to pack warm clothing and foul weather gear. Fronts move through during the winter months regularly, bringing cold and windy conditions. For the J/70 racers out there, be sure to register here for the Quantum J/70 Winter Series, held the weekends of December 12-13th, January 18-22nd, and February 6-7th hosted by Davis Island Yacht Club on Tampa Bay. Competitors must compete in a minimum of two of the three regattas during the series to qualify for a podium position.

South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale  

South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale have some of the best sailing in Florida, with windy and wavy conditions on the Atlantic. Even though these locations offer great sailing, they can be logistically harder to attend due to lack of boat storage. Most venues are out of marinas and it is difficult to leave your boat at these locations.

The Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race is a popular feeder race for Key West Race Week that attracts a mixture of sailors from grand prix racers to cruisers. This popular race typically provides a nice ride downwind around the curve of the Florida Keys to the crystal clear waters of Key West.          


Miami’s Biscayne Bay attracts sailors from all over during the winter months due to its incredible sailing conditions, warm waters and competitive fleets. Several Olympic and professional sailors flock to Miami and call this place home for the winter months due to a wide variety of training conditions and opportunities to cross-train in other competitive fleets. Lighter air in the summer with land thermal’s and a consistent sea breeze, the winter months bring more fronts and more challenging conditions.

Many fleets are following in the Etchells and Melges 20’s footsteps with winter series. Competitors can find local storage and leave their boats in between regattas if they are going to compete in any of the winter series. Be sure to be proactive and make arrangements early, however, as these places do have limits and will fill up.


Among all the winter series, midwinter championships, and several other regattas being held in Florida this winter it shouldn’t be hard to find regattas that are suited to your sailing. At whatever regattas you may find yourself attending during the winter sailing season in Florida, there are sure to be Quantum experts at each event. Ask our experts any questions you may have and take advantage of their coaching.


Check out our recent article on How to Prepare Your Boat and Your Crew for a Signature Regatta here.


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Posted in One Design Racing, Quantum Key West Race Week 2016, Racing | Leave a comment

How to Choose Your Cruising Sail Inventory: Mainsails

Choosing the right sails can be a daunting experience for any sailor. Whether you’re new to cruising or you’ve been knocking around local waters for years, the lure of open water and longer passages can get to you. When it does, it’s important to have the right sail inventory. This series, How to Choose Your Cruising Sail Inventory, will help guide you through the process and make sure you know what questions to ask. Part 2: Mainsails.

Sail inventory - resized

Now that you’ve found the perfect headsail, let’s look at mainsails. Mainsails can basically be divided into two categories – with battens and without battens. To make a good decision about which sail to buy, you need to understand a few things first:

  • What do battens do?
  • What makes a good batten?
  • The problems with battens.
  • What are your options?


What Do Battens Do?

Battens are like the framework of a tent – they keep the material taut and smooth. Without battens, the roach would flap uncontrollably. Acting as I-beams, they resist the forces on the sail that try to compress the leech in towards the luff when the sail is sheeted in. This preserves the open-leeched airfoil shape and keeps the sail from becoming fuller and more semicircular as the breeze increases. Battens also provide much-needed structure and support that help maintain your sail’s shape and durability.

The more roach you need to support, the more important battens become. Full-length battens carry the compression loads all the way to the mast. The more full-length battens you use, the more durable your sail will be, and the better it will hold its shape in a breeze. Also, the more structure you give to your sail, the less it will flog.

What Makes a Good Batten?

Battens need to be stiff enough to resist compression loads. Solid, pultruded glass battens are cheap, tough, and virtually indestructible, but they usually lack necessary stiffness. They also aren’t tapered. Tapered battens provide an advantage because they mimic the sail shape when compressed and do a better job of maintaining airfoil shape.

There are various flat, foam-cored, laminated tapered battens that work well on smaller boats (under 40 feet). They aren’t as rugged as solid glass, but are usually lighter. On larger boats, round battens work best because the round shape provides stiffness without increasing size. Plus, they’re very hard to break (for boats over 60 feet, consider carbon battens). No matter which battens you use, carry a spare on board (equal in length to the longest batten).

Potential Problems with Battens

The downside to full-length battens is the compression they transfer to the luff hardware. Battens force the luff into the back of the mast. That loads the sail slides, creating friction and causing them to twist and toggle in the groove. In worst case scenarios, slides can lock up and prevent the sail from being raised and lowered. At a minimum, batten compression causes chafe and wear at the inboard end where the batten presses against the mast.

Another possible problem with full-length battens is that they tend to poke past the mast, creating a V-shaped wrinkle. That wrinkle at the inboard end of the batten keeps the sail from having a smooth, clean shape.

To avoid these problems you can use shorter battens, but those can create another problem – the compression loads are transferred to the sail cloth instead of the mast. Over time, that can break down the fabric and create hinging. Each of these problems is magnified as the sail gets bigger.

What Are Your Options?

Though battens can cause additional wear to your slides or sail fabric, their benefits tend to outweigh their problems. When you look at your mainsail options, you have three basic choices: conventional (non-furling), in-mast furling, and in-boom furling.

For conventional mainsails, full-length battens have become standard issue in the top sections of the sail. It’s up to you whether or not you want to use battens throughout the rest of the sail and how long you want those battens to be.

If you have an in-mast furling system battens are not an option.  Removing them can have a negative impact on the shape and size of the sail, as well as performance. Vertical battens can be used, but they tend to add to maintenance and might compromise functionality for a relatively small gain in area and leech support.

In-boom furling systems allow the best of both worlds. They do require more attention – particularly when protecting the luff tape while furling – but they also provide uncompromised size and structure with the convenience of roller furling.

Regardless of whether or not you choose convention sails or a furling system, full-length or shorter battens, make sure you understand your options so you can make the best decision for your boat.

Dave Flynn
Quantum Sails – Cruising Guru


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How to Get Kids to Love Sailing

When the topic of kids and sailing comes up, Farr 40 pro Dave Gerber gets really excited.  Growing the sport and including more kids in more sailing activities is close to his heart. Here, Dave talks about what he's learned about getting kids to love sailing as a coach and from sailing with his own kids.


Someone asked me "How do you measure a successful sailing season with kids?"  Is it a regatta win, a personal victory in a given wind strength or a new skill learned?  Personally, all of those are important and any one of them will keep kids coming back to our sport. However, there are three common elements that are needed to get to any level of success.

Get them involved.

Sailing classes are a great way for kids to learn the fundamentals of sailing and start to grow in their own right. However, the skills and confidence they pick-up from sailing with you or family and friends is beyond what can be taught in a class.

Kids love to feel grown-up and important and part of what’s going on. If you give them the opportunity they will step up. When I see sailing today, I see many opportunities for kids to sail and gain involvement.  My own kids love to sail with their Grandfather and they love to sail with him during the Wednesday evening club racing.  Grandpa Dan takes many steps to ensure the kids are safe and having fun.  Depending on skill he gives each one a job on the boat that they can do.  What is important to note here is it’s a job where they can be successful.  Sometimes it is as easy as fetching refreshments or working the traveler.  Other times maybe they even get to spin a winch.  Most importantly, they always have fun and they always want to go back.  On top of it, it’s a fantastic way to connect with them and build some great memories. Grandpa Dan Spyhalski says, “Sailing with my grandkids or any kids always makes me smile.  To offer an opportunity to enjoy the freedom of the water and the joy of sailing.”

Make it fun.

It's important enough, I'll say it again: when kids have fun they will stay engaged and open to learning. The key to having fun is not just success or doing a job well, it’s making sure that as a whole, it’s a positive experience. If your boat is filled with high tensions and lots of yelling during an evening race, it might not be the best time to try and enjoy sailing with kids. Instead, maybe pick a time when the stakes aren’t so high and they can try new things without having to worry about making mistakes. Keep kids having fun by making them feel accomplished and an important part of the crew. Not to mention, if you’re having fun, so will they!

Teach how they learn.

2015 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Stephanie Roble says this, “Working with young sailors is extremely rewarding and fun! I love figuring out different styles of teaching all the aspects of sailing to kids. There are so many unique elements to the sport and each kid learns differently and has individual goals.”  It’s important to identify how the kids you’re sailing with learn and try to teach to that. Do they learn by doing or watching? Or do they absorb information better with books and diagrams? It might not seem like a lot, but when kids can better understand what’s going on it keeps them from getting frustrated and losing interest, and possibly giving up.


When I think about my involvement with kids in sailing or the experience of Grandpa Dan or Stephanie, it is encouraging to see a similar theme.  Keep kids having fun and keep them involved.  Have tasks big or small for anyone to accomplish and feel good about accomplishing.  Sailing is a lifetime sport; a unique recreation that one can enjoy for many, many years.  Stephanie adds, “The friends, relationships, and skills that kids develop in sailing at a young age will last them a lifetime!”

It is a complete education sport with its physical and mental demands.  This allows youth to grow and expand their knowledge base.  I fully think kids in sailing is a form of creative art.  Where else or what else allows kids to participate where there are no boundaries, no walls, no sidelines.  Sailing for kids, be it cruising or racing, is freedom.  It is joyful.

Scholastic Sailors Sara Gustafson and Katie Crewes say it best, “We sail because we want to sail.”  And, if we can all do that….that is all we have to do.


By Dave Gerber
Sail Consultant
Quantum Sails Great Lakes
M: 312-213-1181
E: dgerber@quantumsails.com


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