There are a lot of pieces to manage if you want to run a successful racing program, from boat maintenance and scheduling to coaching and crew work. We’ve tapped our team of experts for their tips to get you and your team ready for the starting line. Over the next few months, we’ll release installments of our Ultimate Sailing Playbook with templates, articles, and blueprints to set you up for success. For this first installment, we talked to Quantum’s Andrew Waters for a look at the bones of the operation: the boat and sails.
Creating a comprehensive maintenance plan is key to running a successful program. Yes, getting a good crew and mastering important maneuvers are important, but it all starts with the boat and sails. Use this guide to create a plan for your program and don't forget to enlist your team for help. A plan and participation builds pride in the program and commitment and also lessens the burden on you!
Start with a List
Create a checklist of tasks you need to do and organize them by what makes sense to do preseason, mid-season, and post-season. Think about the service and maintenance you’ll need to address. A few examples of boat equipment require regular inspection are:
- Rudder bearings
- Blocks and fittings
- Hull and foil condition
Being proactive is going to set you up for a much better experience on the water, not to mention reduces stress on the docks!
With regard to maintaining your sails, you have to take into account the fact that sails change shape over time. One thing I highly recommend is to take photos of your sails at periodic points throughout the season and sending them to your sailmaker. The photos can become a database, or timeline, and kept on file. Your sailmaker can then make suggestions for minor adjustments needed to assist in maintaining the most desired sail shape.
It is also critical to take care of your sails after use. Your sails will last much longer if you make sure they are dry when you put them away after a day on the water. If you plan to store them on board your boat, consider running a dehumidifier. Along with correct flaking and storage, running a dehumidifier will lengthen the life of the sails.
Once the mast is in the center of the boat and in-column, determine what a good “average” set-up is to work from. Unless there is a publicized, recommended base setting, mark these as your base settings by measuring the rigging tension, or distance measurements, at the turnbuckles. At the end of each sailing day, always return your rigging to its base setting; it may have adjusted on the water. This will allow you to develop dependable and fast set-ups throughout a range of different sea states and wind speeds. Start a reference guide to refer back.
A reminder for saltwater sailors: It is important to rinse the boat at the end of each sailing day to get the salt out of the fittings. If the boat is docked in the water, it is important to implement an anti-fouling/hull cleaning routine to keep growth off the boat . Speak to experts in your area about what methods and products work best for your region.
Next, consider your electronics and all systems on the boat. GPS, radio, life jackets, safety equipment, water on board, and other items that you may need to rely on in the event of an emergency, or to satisfy class, club, event, or local authority requirements. This checklist is an important part of your annual maintenance plan. Involve your crew in this process so there is less worry.
If sails aren’t your only form of power, make sure to have your engine serviced regularly with routine checks of the oil, belts, impellers. Post a pre-sail checklist on the bulkhead so that important steps don’t get skipped. For boats in northern climates, winterizing the engine and water tanks onboard is a critical part of winter storage. For specific details related to your engine, make sure to read the owner's manual that came with your boat. Follow the instructions and maintenance schedule as closely as possible. Keep the manual on board at all times, and when in doubt, refer to a knowledgeable marine mechanic.
Taking all these factors into account will add to the enjoyment of the sailing experience, and keep you and your crew safer, and reduce the chances of a breakdown on the water. Enjoy, sail fast, and be safe.
A tip for the new Program
If you’re just starting out and are in the market for a new race boat, keep in mind long-term maintenance when selecting the right boat. This often isn’t given enough thought when purchasing a boat, but it can make a big different down the road. It is also important to make sure the boat you buy matches your abilities and knowledge. For example, if you don’t have an in-depth background in racing, you don’t want a boat that is extremely technical. You want to make sure your boat is something you can handle.
Next, you want to consider the type of sails for the boat. Ask yourself what you can afford and find out how often the sails should be replaced. Your local Quantum sailmaker will be happy to help you with this decision. You’ll want to discuss:
- Your goals
- Whether or not you’ll be racing One Design events
- What races you are signed up for
- How frequently you plan to change sails
- What inventory is currently available on the boat, what is worth keeping, and what requires replacement.