Yachting World


The more I practice, the luckier I get,” the golfer Gary Player used to joke. This old saw became famous because it rang so true. The more you do something, the better you get, and the easier it is.

It’s the same with ocean sailing. Whenever I have sailed in, or covered, round the world rallies, I’ve seen this in practice. Passage times tend to get quicker as crews progress through the Pacific and onwards. Yet when I talk to skippers and crews, they frequently say they became choosier about when they set spinnakers, and recounted easier crossings with fewer breakages. Why?

It was clear that repeated ocean passages had refined their decision-making. Over time, they were better able to determine the right point to make or reduce sail, and sailed shorter distances. At the same time, they became more adept at interpreting weather, and crew manoeuvres were slicker. With fewer mistakes and a clearer pattern of sailing, they needed to invest less time in making choices, especially when tired. Consequently, those were probably also better decisions.


So I began to wonder if this learning curve continued beyond first-time round-the-worlders, and if there could be principles that the super-experienced could teach us. In the process of getting better at anything, we usually let go of the least beneficial tasks. What might those be? What should we be doing more of, and what less of?

I asked some of our most experienced columnists and contributors, sailors I have met again and again and see the videos on the Yachting World YouTube channel. Of his total sailing miles, he says: “I stopped counting decades ago, but I think I totalled 400,000 at some point.”

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