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Put Down the Stopwatch and Start Racing!

Leeward End of the LineOK, you just cleared the finish line… how’d you do? If you’re in a handicap race, you have to check your stopwatch and do some math. If you’re in a one design fleet, you just look around. Instead of racing against the handicap clock, you’re racing against each other -- and the first boat across the line wins.

For a pure test of performance, there’s no beating one design racing. Competing in a big one design class generates heart-pounding excitement that handicap racing just can't provide (unless you count the way your heart pounds when you get a letter from the handicapping organization announcing that your rating has been hit!).

Not so in one design racing. The more you practice, the better you get and nobody can hammer your rating – period. When you’ve spent extra time on the water with your crew, going through drills and practicing the fine art of tacks, sets, jibes and take downs, you deserve the reward of crossing the line first and knowing you’ve won.

No matter what your skill level, competing in a one design class is rewarding. Experienced sailors like the closer racing and increased emphasis on tactics. On the other hand, new racers find it easier to learn tactics and sail trim by racing against identical boats from which they could make comparisons and glean racing knowledge more quickly.

Keep it Close

Fleet Shot

In any given race there will always be 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers. Does this mean they are the only ones having an exciting race? Hardly. In a strong one design fleet, there is a competitive race going on throughout the rank and file. Because the boats are capable of going roughly the same speed, the fleet tends to stay close and everyone, from the leader to the bottom of the fleet, has a challenging and exciting race (although let’s be honest, everyone’s favorite place is first). When a one design class attains "critical mass", it's not unusual to have eight or nine boats vying for the podium positions with tie-breakers deciding who will garnish the hardware in the end. Now that's sailboat racing at its best!

Time to Pick a Class

The fact is that some one design fleets thrive, some go through popularity swings, and others perish. There is any number of reasons for this, but the most common is that when one boat comes to dominate the class, it isn’t fun to compete anymore. This happens when weak class rules undermine the fundamental premise of one design racing: it’s about skill, not about the boat or equipment. Without tight regulations, deep-pocketed boat owners can install all the go-fast hardware, buy all the new sails, and hire all the pricey tuning gurus they want -- and then the tricked-out boat’s owner shines everybody who asks how he goes so fast! If you look for a set of tight class rules, a really great boat and sailors who enjoy sharing their knowledge, you will end up with an enjoyable fleet that is certain to thrive.

Snapshot of a Thriving Fleet


Going to WindwardFor the last 24 years, a diverse group of sailors have been quietly building a strong Martin 242 class in Vancouver, B.C. and Marina del Rey, California. They openly share their knowledge on how to win races, and they organize clinics taught by world-class sail makers on sail trim and boat handling. They are pro-active and intelligent in modeling a set of class rules that would be the envy of any one-design builder. They enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow sailors after the race, and they have been known to actually go do something in a group other than sailing. (Please don't tell anybody). Many have owned the same boat for twenty years, and a few really crazy ones have owned more than one (one fellow has had ten over the last 23 years). This speaks volumes about the people and the boat.

What a surprise to everyone! It made the fleet more fun. It provided a common ground and identity, and the close racing gave people more to talk about. Fleet socials became the norm and stern mounted grills started appearing out of cabins and lazarettes. The fleet has raft-up parties after some races, and sponsors several parties throughout the year. At the very least, the post race discussions on the dock can go on for hours.Before Start


Crew members also reap the advantages of a one design fleet. They find it’s easier to meet people when they are part of a fleet within the club. To race and build your skills on one boat means you’re instantly welcome on any of the other boats within the fleet. M242 crew are very popular, as they are known to have strong skills. Iif you don’t know anyone, simply walking down "C" dock, which is lined with Capri’s, and ask for a ride.., don't be surprised that it will always produce a positive result.



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