The Value of Effort

Sport sailing is all about getting the most out of every puff of wind. Coastal sailing is about getting from one place to the next as quickly and comfortably as possible. Ocean sailing is about making it to the other side.

While the goal in all three types of sailing involves getting somewhere, and quickly, the first two categories can be viewed as sprints where the latter should be viewed as a marathon.

Ocean sailing is an endurance sport, there is no way around it. Every action you take requires energy, and you have to be able to keep up that pace for the entire ocean! This leads to different decision processes as to sail selection and trim, as well as course.

If the winds are light, but you have clouds building around you, you are presented with a few options:

Option 1 would be to take down the working sails and put up the light air sails. When the winds change, then take down the light air sails and put the working sails back up.

Option 2 would be to grab a book and wait for the stronger winds to reach you so you can keep sailing with the sails you already have set.

This choice came up on our third day of ocean sailing, when our crew member got frustrated that we were ghosting along at 2 knots on a broad reach under mainsail and staysail. He suggested that we swap the sails out and put up the drifter. I attested that this would require a lot of energy and that it would be the same result in the end: we would move slow.

Being how he is rather Type A and in a rush all the time, I told him that we would do it as a learning exercise, to see when something is worth the work.

I was relaxing and reading my book as we ghosted along at 2-3 knots and recommended that he do the same. Instead, we all got up, sleepy and tired since we just finished our night watches, and swapped the sails over. The entire conversion took about 15 minutes to complete and a fair amount of effort. The light air filled the drifter and we began moving along once again, at 2-3 knots.

So, was it worth all that effort?