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How to Cruise Your Racer

As the sailing season approaches, we’re all realizing it may look different this year. Since we have already written about racing your cruiser, we decided to take a fresh approach and ask the question “How do you cruise a racer?” Quantum’s Todd Basch is here to teach all of you racers about starting on your cruising path.

"Slack up, brother, what's your hurry that so recklessly you scurry?" wrote my great, great grandfather, Samuel Ullman, on his 80th birthday in 1920. He was encouraging his compatriots "to spare a nod of greeting/Pass the time of day in meeting/swap a joke or smile a little/When a neighbor comes along...." Had he been a sailor, my gramps would have surely been a cruiser and plied waters more neighborly than found among racers. The magnificent J Class steed, Resolute, won the America's Cup that year, sailed with a crew of 35 to 40, all in a hurry. 

We are all slowed now, one regatta after another dropped for the sake of public safety, but this does not forestall sailing so much as it supports cruising, a less crowded activity. The good news is that transforming a race boat into a cruising boat is easy and requires only a few simple steps.  



  • CHILL OUT: Relax your schedule a bit and avoid strict report times. Instead of a specific dock time of 8:00 am, for example, (in order to leave the dock at 8:30 am, practice for an hour, and be prepared for a 10:00 am start) have a dock time of "about 9 am or around there." 
  • IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT BASE: Instead of tuning your rig to weather conditions between every race, assume baseline for the day. No tools necessary! 
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE: Choose your headsail according to which one is on top of the pile and easiest to access. If that sail is too light for the conditions, sit in your cockpit, drink coffee, and lie to one another. If it gets late, drink something else. 
  • NO NEED TO DRESS UP: Don’t wear out your nice race sails if you don’t have to; fly your practice sails or delivery sails. Stick to the more durable Dacron sails rather than racing laminates.
  • GET COMFY: You know those cushions you store off the boat because of their extra weight? Bring them aboard now. You and your guests will thank you for a more comfortable experience.

On the water

  • DON'T SPILL THE WINE: Racers can get a boat pretty heeled over trying to get to the weather mark first in breezy conditions. Save the hiking for the race course and avoid heel angles of more than 10 degrees.
  • AGAIN, KEEP IT SIMPLE: Adhere to proper course, which in the cruising world is the direction the driver is going. 
  • SET IT & FORGET IT: Trim the sails to your course and avoid constant adjustment. Fewer adjustments mean less noise and commotion as well.
  • MIND YOUR MANNERS: When you do adjust the sails, be sure to say please and thank you. Things can happen at a little slower pace when cruising, so there’s no need to get heated because you missed your lane.



The biggest obstacle to turning a racer into a cruiser is the racer themself. Racers are a mentally unstable lot, overloaded with adrenaline and technical knowledge that is sometimes useful but sometimes not. They are cranked up on figuring out the favored end of the line and if it matches the favored side of the course. They are committed to inflicting permanent scars on their midriffs when leaning to weather against steel lifelines. They eat soggy sandwiches, yell at each other, argue, and say mean things about people on other boats and even about each other. 


Generally, racers are hopelessly lost creatures, but consider the possibility that cruising could be a platform to satisfy the racing urge, and improve upon it. When was the last time you actually had the chance to practice driving without any distractions? Short-handed sailing−likely the norm this season−encourages efficiency and proper timing in maneuvers. Cruising takes the pressure off and allows for refinement and practicing precision. How good are you at getting in phase with oscillations and shifts? So good that you don't need to practice? Compete with your pals on the boat. Who makes the best calls? Place bets on which side of a "course" is favored.  

The boundary between racing and cruising is a false one in many respects. The slower pace of cruising has much to offer the racer just as racing has much to offer the cruiser. I have spoken with too many cruisers who discount their sailing as if always in the racers' lee. But exploring the performance of your boat, no matter what it is, increases skill and broadens experience−it also makes for safer sailors. You may not care about that extra knot or sailing as close to the breeze as possible, but these are good skills to develop for when you need them. Let's all share.  


Take the opprotunity to finally get your non-sailing friends and family out on the water. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who have told you for years they'd love to go sailing and you've always talked about taking them out. There's no time like the present. Not only is teaching a great way to help you grow confidence, you're likely to pass a good kind of bug, the sailing one - and our beloved sport is in definite need of growth.


Most cruising boats are set up to go on a minutes notice–or at least with minimal preparation. Headsails live on furlers with UV covers, snacks and drinks are stocked, safety gear is stowed, a set of extra gear is already onboard if it gets cold - you get the picture. If you're not able to race, think about how you might be able to set up your boat to limit prep time so you can score some extra points on date night with a last minute sunset sail, or take advantage of a hot afternoon at the sand bar without hijacking the whole day. However, if you're going to leave sails on your boat make sure they're properly folded, dry, and above all, protected from the sun! Ping your sailmaker for help and we can get you sorted with the kind of UV covers that are standard on most cruising boats.


A word of caution to the racers who go cruising: The keyed-up intensity of racing has the great benefit of encouraging focus and concentration. Well-raced boats have attentive crew. Easing up that attentiveness does not reduce the weight of the boom or the load on a sheet. Don’t let the relaxed atmosphere of cruising risk losing the attentiveness required of good sailors. Paying attention is something all sailors do.  

"Slack up brother what's your hurry,
that so recklessly you scurry?
You may lead a slow procession
E'er another year is past." 

Be safe. Have fun. 

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