Saturday, July 23, 2005

Small Sailboat Performance

Small Sailboat Performance

Of late, there’s been quite a bit of discussion on various Yahoo! groups about ‘performance’, but mostly in terms of speed, particularly to windward. Perhaps we could focus on a broader definition of ‘performance’ as defined in the Oxford Concise Dictionary, ‘the action or process of performing a task or function’?

Now, a small sailing boat could be used for pottering, day sailing, cruising or racing - all in a variety of conditions and locations, and the boat may have one or more crew members. Considering these aspects, there are several factors to look at when measuring performance. So much depends on what the owner requires; does he want comfort, Spartan accommodation, the ability to sail in shallow water, a deep draught boat for ocean sailing, or a trailer sailer etc.?

With a boat not specifically designed for racing, efficiency to windward is only one aspect of her overall sailing performance. When measuring sailing performance one should also consider fine-reaching, broad-reaching and running. How easily can the sail(s) be reefed, and can the boat sail in winds up to force 3, 4 or 5 without the need for reefing? Is it necessary for the crew to go on deck to reef sails, or can the operation be carried out from the safety of the cockpit, if there is one? (Hasler’s famous ‘Jester’ did not have a cockpit, and all handling of the boat was carried out from inside her cabin, just as with ‘Paradox’!)

For me, performance is a measure of how a boat satisfies ‘me’ while cruising. Am I happy with her overall speed in a variety of sea conditions? Is she an energy-saving craft, whereby I can conserve my strength? For this objective she must be easy to work, with the minimum expenditure of energy on my part. Can my boat protect me from the elements? Does she have the sort of comfort I require? Can I retrieve her anchor when there’s a raging gale?

The main point I’m making is that for me, measuring performance, other than comparing like for like in racing boats, is about my personal satisfaction. Does my boat match my expectations?

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