How do I get started Racing?
Dinghies are smaller boats, without a heavy keel. They are less expensive, usually sailed by a crew of 1 or 2, but can provide a lot of thrill for the buck. Plan on lots of spray and going for the occasional ducking.
Some people buy a boat, then figure out how to sail it, but you'll get up to speed much quicker with organized instruction. Another approach is to find a friendly, experienced sailor who wants a crewmember on an on-the-job-training basis.
Most racing is organized by yacht (or boating) clubs, but you don't have to be a member to join in. There are many youth programs that focus on racing as the end goal. Some high schools and colleges have racing teams.
Larger boats generally have a heavy keel, which gives them more stability. They are usually sailed by a larger crew, 10 or more on the larger yachts. Races will generally be longer, including overnight or longer on ocean races.
The usual way to learn yacht racing is to go out on a race and learn-while-doing. This may seem a bit intimidating, but many yacht clubs hold casual races or cruising rallies, where the stakes aren't high and relaxed, safe, fun is the priority. Most yachts call for a crew with a range of skills, including a couple of crewmembers whose primary duty is to provide a bit of extra ballast. The main thing is to be prepared for spray and wind and to listen for instructions. Once you get used to working your way around on deck, you may be asked to lend a hand with stowing sails or hauling lines.
There are some very good training programs, but most sailing clinics are aimed at those who know the basics of racing and want to hone their skills. Most sailing schools are aimed at teaching cruising skills, which are very useful, but not all you need to be able to race successfully.
Should you happen to own or be in a position to buy a keelboat, your best strategy might be to find an experienced sail racer to help you campaign the boat. Your broker, sailmaker, or local yacht club are good resources to get in touch with experiences sailors.
Next Chapter: Bits and Pieces