Is night sailing the winning trick? Advice from the Race Clinic's experts.


Monday night’s first PIC Coastal Classic race clinic was intended as an information session on how to best prepare yourself, your crew, and your boat for the great race north, but it may have accidentally revealed this year’s race winning strategy.

The group of 45+ competitors in attendance received a special presentation from accomplished local yachties Damon Jolliffe and Josh Tucker, renowned especially for their long-distance two-handed sailing. Among their talking points was a rock-by-rock and corner by corner description of the race course, but then they narrowed in on what they described as the biggest opportunity to surge ahead of you competition: continuing your daytime race-pace and momentum through the night.

“There’s going to be a new moon on October 28th” said Damon at the very beginning of the session. “This means that it’s going to be an exceptionally dark night on the 25th, so its important to prepare for that”.

The duo showed a very familiar picture of theirs on the big screen: complete darkness broken up only by a few red numbers on their mast-mounted instruments. After a couple of around North Island races, and the last race around New Zealand, they learned one very important lesson from the monotony of night time scenery and that’s “don’t go into shut down mode as it gets dark”.

Damon describes “shut down mode” as when people ease off the gas pedal and switch into a more relaxed way of sailing as the crew starts to tire.

They say preparing for the darkness and doing a good ‘Deck Check’ before dark is important. “There’s nothing worse than having to get a torch out early in the night while trying to figure out how to put your instruments into night mode or trying to sort out a tangled genoa halyard that was in the wrong place” he says.

“Particularly right before dawn [which is when the bulk of the fleet may be in the bay], when it’s the coldest and darkest, its easy to cosy up and switch off as crew members focus on staying awake and staying warm” Damon continues. “If you keep your crew engaged by rotating positions often, and breaking up any 2am boredom with hot pies, they’ll be happy. Happy crew are the best performing crew”.

Guy Pilkington of Doyle Sails, presented information on sail and rig maintenance, but reiterated very similar tips for success:

  • Be well fed: stock the boat well with plenty of ‘easy to eat’ foods

  • Stay hydrated: keep your fluids up as it’s a long day in the fresh air and sun

  • Combat fatigue: Rest when you can during the day

  • Share jobs: Rotate positions to keep interest levels up

  • Dress well: Keep warm and dry

  • Most importantly: Have fun

The race organizers agree, having fun is the reason we’re all doing this… its more than a yacht race!


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