By Rich Loesel
In sailboat racing, boats that are the same class or are so similar that they sail the same speed are rated even. In other words, who ever crosses the finish line first is the winner. This is by far the most fun way to race. Larger boats which have auxiliary engines and are the same builder and model are also class boats and rate even. When racing auxiliaries are of various sizes and different classes they have to establish a handicap. There are many formulas to create handicaps, but they all end up with a larger boat giving the smaller boat so many seconds a mile. For example, a larger boat owes a smaller boat 10 seconds a mile, then in a 10 mile race the larger boat must give the smaller boat 60 seconds or one minute. In a 20
mile race the smaller boat would get 120 seconds or 2 minutes. The handicap method is not always fair. For example in a light wind, slow race the bigger faster boat has the advantage. In strong winds, a faster, race the smaller boat has the advantage. On with the story.
One year in the early 70’s I was skippering a boat called the Enigma. Enigma was a 56’ wooden auxiliary yawl built in 1930. We sailed with a crew of 10 to 12 guys. Enigma was very fast down wind as she had a center board and very large sail area. Up wind she was a dog; center board boats just do not sail to windward as well as keel boats. We were sailing a race from Port Dover to Maitland a distance of about 40 miles and there were about 50 entries. The wind was extremely light and we sailed our butts off and left the fleet like they were anchored. When we crossed the finish line the other boats were not even in sight. It looked like we had a winner so we all had a swim and broke out the beer. As we started to motor into the harbor, a small breeze picked up and within seconds the wind was blowing extremely hard. Very soon we could see boats appearing on the horizon. This was not good for us. We had finished the racing doing about ¼
Knot while the fleet was now screaming toward the finish line doing 9 to 10 Knots. The smallest boat won the race and we were dead last. My favorite saying about sailboat racing was “I would rather be lucky than good”.