First Sail of the Season: Racing Checklist

The first sail of the season might be the most exciting. Quantum Sails expert Keith Church put together this comprehensive list so you can start your season on the right track.

Everyone needs a checklist - Whether you're a dinghy sailor or a pro on a Tp52, nobody sails becuase of the logistics, so the more prepared you are the more you'll be able to enjoy the reason you sail.

Shaking off the cobwebs of cold weather and short days, sailors return to their crafts ready and eager to start the new season. The first sail of the season is one of the best. However, before you head out on the water and into a full-fledged season of racing, run through this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases (don’t hesitate to call your local Quantum loft if you need any help!).

Pick Up Your Sails

If you dropped your sails off at your local loft, this should be your first stop in order to get your boat re-rigged. If you didn’t drop your sails off for a check-up when you finished last season, there might still be time. If you can’t squeeze it in now, make a note to do it as soon as you’re finished sailing this season. It’s important that your sails get regular maintenance, just like your car. If you keep up on your regular maintenance, you’ll prevent small problems from becoming large, expensive ones, and you can protect the lifespan of your sails.

It’s extra helpful to provide your sailmaker with photos of your sails so they can identify any potential issues that you might not see, such as with sail shape (click here for tips on how to get good sail shape photos).

Start From the Bottom

If you have $10 to spend on boat maintenance, spend $8 on the bottom of the boat (wouldn’t that budget be nice?). Make sure the entire hull is symmetrical, and buff out any issues and blemishes to create a smooth, hard finish. Consider repainting the underside if you have time. Inspect the keel and rudder to make sure there are no external issues, and inspect any joints and hydraulics to make sure they’re running fair and smooth. If you have a centerline speed unit, make sure it’s clear and in good working order. Make sure the trailing edge of the hull is properly shaped. If you’re not sure what that should look like, walk the yard for some comparisons or consult an expert. If your boat lives in the water all season, this is the easiest time to make these important adjustments.

Clean It Out

Check the deck and down below for dead weight, then get rid of it. Consider what non-essentials are on board and if they’re vital to carry all season or if you can bring them aboard only when necessary. A light boat is a fast boat, so don’t be slowed down by unimportant, heavy objects on board.

Inventory and Calibrate

Now that you’ve gotten rid of excess weight, you have room for the necessary tools, including safety equipment (click here for one of our safety guides), a hand-bearing compass, hand-held VHF, navigation aids with a paper backup, a starting countdown device (like Pro Start), and a wet notes pad to remember important information. If you use apps on the water, make sure you’re set up with navigation, weather, and any other pocket tech you plan to use during the season. Chances are you won’t have time to log in or update an app on the way to the course, so sort that out now. Need a good weather app? We put together our favorites in this article.

Tune Your Rig

When you re-rig your boat, start in a neutral rigging position and adjust from there. Set the mast rake to one percent, set the diagonal shrouds accordingly, and head out in medium breeze. Most one design boats provide a standard tuning guide, but it can’t hurt to get to know your boat again and make one of your own. You can do this by starting with the neutral rig and adjusting tensions for every two knots of wind speed and marking the position of the headstay, lower shrouds, and any upper shrouds. Take note of the halyard position for each wind speed, and mark the position of the backstay, vang, inhaul, leeds, and the traveler, as needed. By recording each variable based on wind speed, you’ll be able to create your own tuning guide and can make easy adjustments on the fly. You’ll also be able to use the base parameters to adjust within a wind speed zone if you find yourself needing more or less power.

Mark the Moving Parts

Once your rig is properly tuned, you can start marking your sheets and lines and making notes where needed through maneuvers. With the spinnaker, jib, and main halyards, mark on the line with permanent marker, indicating when the halyard is made. This will take the guesswork out of future hoists and trimming (it’s important to do this every season to account for both new lines and stretching). In addition to the rigging mentioned above, also mark the boom vang, outhaul, cunningham, spinnaker sheets, spinnaker guys, jib/genoa tracks, main tracks, sheets, and spinnaker pole uphaul and downhaul, as well as any other adjustable lines.

Build Your Team and Look the Part

If you don’t have a go-to team that’s already committed, start the group communication threads and make sure you have a robust team for the season. If you’re having trouble finding a few good crew, click here for some ideas.

Once you have your team set, consider ordering some cool new matching outerwear or shirts for everyone. When a team looks like a team, they’ll act like one, and your crew will appreciate being treated to a new tech shirt, hat, vest, or jacket. Nothing like starting the season with some new threads!

Starting your racing season out on the right foot is essential to success. By spending extra time in the early days preparing, you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises during racing days. A prepared skipper and boat will always perform better than one who has not cared for his boat, gear, and crew.

Click here to download a printable checklist.


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