15 TIPS FOR GETTING INTO LOCAL RACING

Entering the local racing scene can be both exciting and intimidating, especially for those new to the sport. However, with the right approach and mindset, even beginners can find opportunities to join racing crews. Many skippers will take beginners with no racing experience at all, just a positive attitude! Brendan Huffman of UK Sailmakers Los Angeles shares fifteen practical tips to help newcomers, whether they are new to the sport, or just new to the area.

The ATARA crew successfully defended their 2022 title at the 2023 1720 European Championships in July. ATARA, sail with UK Sailmaker Ireland sails and represent both the Howth Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo credit: Bob Bateman.
The ATARA crew successfully defended their 2022 title at the 2023 1720 European Championships in July. ATARA, sail with UK Sailmaker Ireland sails and represent both the Howth Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo credit: Bob Bateman.
  1. Create a resume with an honest assessment of your sailing experience and physical abilities. This should reflect your prior roles onboard and types of boats you sailed and raced. Ask yourself what kind of value you add to a racing crew. You probably won’t submit this document to anyone, but it’s a good mental exercise that will help you present your value to a racing boat if asked.
  2. Decide the type of racing you prefer (e.g., weeknight “beer can” races, weekend regattas, offshore racing) and the specific type of boat you’re looking for (e.g., racer, cruiser, small one-design, large sled).
  3. Share a photo of yourself, ideally while sailing, along with a brief bio, on local Facebook crew finder pages or online crew lists available on yacht club or event websites.
  4. Attend racing and rule seminars at your local yacht club.
  5. Look for speaker programs at local yacht clubs that attract racers and are open to the public. These are perfect events for networking.
  6. Consider taking a class or course that includes some racing content.
  7. Check out the local racing calendars on your local yacht club’s website.
  8. Weeknight “beer can” races held during spring and summer present great opportunities for finding boats to race on and gaining experience.
  9. On race days or evenings, show up at local yacht clubs two hours before the scheduled race starts to walk the docks and ask if anyone is looking for crew. After the race, hang out with the crew and other racers.
  10. Once onboard, offer to help rig the boat or unload gear off the boat. If you are unsure about any rigging tasks, ask an experienced crewmember to check your work or show you the correct configuration. Be friendly and courteous but not chatty. Ask questions about your role and what you’re expected to do.
  11. Consider the conditions and length of race when packing. Arrive as ready and geared up as is reasonable. For a day race, your bag should be no larger than a typical backpack, as most boats are weight and space conscious. Bring your own water bottle/thermos, snack, and personal safety gear if needed. Leave a change of clothes in your vehicle or the boat’s dock box for after the race.
  12. After the race, help put the boat away by folding sails, flaking sheets, packing spinnakers, wiping down counters and floors below, etc.
  13. Provide your contact info so that they can invite you back or refer you to other boats.
  14. Continue to improve your knowledge of racing by reading articles and books, and by watching videos. Check out UK Sailmakers’ “Lessons Learned” podcast on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts & Amazon Music.
  15. Always arrive at the boat on-time. Be positive, and be helpful!
The MATA HARI crew celebrate their IRC 1 Division win at the Royal Langkawi International Regatta earlier this year. MATA HARI was also the proud recipient of the esteemed Tunku Abdullah Sportsmanship Award for 2024.
The MATA HARI crew celebrate their IRC 1 Division win at the Royal Langkawi International Regatta earlier this year. MATA HARI was also the proud recipient of the esteemed Tunku Abdullah Sportsmanship Award for 2024.

By following these tips and staying committed to learning and improving, you’ll increase your chances of finding a crew and enjoying the thrill of competitive sailing. With time and dedication, you’ll become a valued member of the local racing community, building skills and connections that will serve you well on and off the water.

Brendan Huffman
Brendan Huffman

Brendan Huffman is a lifetime sailor and accomplished cruiser and racer with eight races to Hawaii under his belt including a solo race in 2021. He works with UK Sailmakers Los Angeles and is active with many local sailing organizations working to grow our sport through more participation among youths.

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