You may not be the fastest in the fleet, you may not like the 'shouting' and the general bad manners we sometimes see and that's just in club racing! However, racing regularly (even if you are always last) is the best way to increase your cruising dinghy handling skills. Uffa Fox the Cowes legend once said,
“If you want to cruise you must first learn to race.”
What's so special about racing? Well, where can we start?
1. Knowing your rights on the water, honing your reactions to being close to other boats. The prevention of collusions (sometimes)!
2. Holding course direction when close hauled without losing concentration. Improves your boat handling skills having to do things like tacking and gybing. Making good across the water in what can sometimes seem to the beginner impossible directions.
3. Importantly, understanding the wind and practising your reactions to quickly changing circumstances.
Every capsize in the 'safer' enviroment of club racing is a practise capsize for when it really can be an issue!
With these skills being practised comes the best way to have a safe and stress-less sail at other times! The more you race the better you get as time on the water increases your skill level and understanding. Other sailors are there for you to speak to and to seek advise re equipment etc..
Inexperienced sailors do not always see the dangers lurking behind that approaching weather front nor the perils of a particular state of the tide. We have all seen boats being launched in conditions that make us concerned for safety, I encourage all to race for that reason, but with the bonus that if you enjoy it enough you have found a new pleasure if not you will be much safer afloat. Following the fleet around until confidence grows is the next step. Simply watching experience helms can also teach you a lot. Try even helping out at running races. There is not many Racing Duty crews that do not have an opinion of how to race a good race and will not be held back at pointing out the good and and bad sailors.
Sailing alone means you cannot take risks so you must sail within your skill level for survival, therefore improvement, that requires personal experience, can take years!