The Complete Guide for Dinghy and Yacht Racers

By Mason Stang and Udi Gal

Adlard Coles, an imprint of Bloomsbury 304 pages
Flexiback $35

Review by Joe Cooper

The literature of sailing is well supplied with books intended to further the goals of the aspiring racing sailor, or even in some cases, the expert. Mainly they are by the usual suspects: Melges, Jobson, The Daves (Perry and Dellenbaugh), Elvstrom, and even Manfred Curry. The Sail Racing Bible is a new addition to the genre by two guys I have never heard of, not that that means much.

Mason Stang is at Brown University, and as a high school sailor met his co-author, Udi Gal, in San Francisco Bay. I don’t know how many college athletes have managed to write a book on their sport while still in college. But frankly the sailing racing community ought to be glad he has.

Stang was fourth at the 2019 C420 North Americans. He won the 2020 C420 Midwinter Championship, and placed second at the 2021 C420 Midwinters. He (and longtime crew Timmy Gee) obviously knows the right way around a fast boat. Gal, Israeli by birth (and accent apparently – I can relate), is no slouch either. He’s a four-time Olympian (two sailing for Israel and two coaching the 470 for Team USA) and a three-time bronze medalist in the 470 Worlds.

The facts of success in sailboat racing are not unknown. Win the start and extend your lead to the finish. All else is details, as they say. Well, these two guys have done a great job highlighting the details and fleshing out the nuances of those details.

Anyone who has ever started a mildly competitive race is well aware of the original bit of wisdom, “regattas are won or lost before the first race even starts,” but what does that really mean if you are new on the racing scene? …even not new. These guys break it down into bite-size parts each incorporating very chewable chapters.

They give some of their plans a fun name. Eagle Watch comes to mind. This, as a high school coach, discusses a subject near and dear to me. “We are all accustomed to everyone reaching around burning up time from 3 minutes to 5 seconds.” The Eagle Watch is the process of keeping your eyes open until the last possible moment for that position; the right deck chair on the back porch of your house, on the block of starters if you will. The micro-assessment of your launching spot. One detail of this one-word thinking is that it can be communicated to the crew quickly, clearly, accurately and everyone will know what the message is. The Eagle Watch is a powerful addition to racing’s vocabulary: stand by to tack, gybe, luff, etc. There is also the Shark call. I’ll let you read up on that critter.

Not only is there a solid collection of good, “new” or repeated and refreshed, reclarified existing information, but also a paragraph of bullet points, i.e. “Why we get bad starts.” Such as: In position too early, too late, outside the laylines, in too much traffic, mistiming hitting the gas. These points are “unpacked” in good detail, with Stang and Gal providing information and experience on not only “how to,” but also ideas to fix errors.

Another GEM for me is, “Make plays that are high percentage.” I am forever telling the kids, “Consider the risk/reward.” It is even on the shirt, fer heaven’s sake. The reality is, just go and get this book, read it, nay STUDY IT, mark it up, bring it to regattas to contemplate after racing. I am certain you will not regret it. ■

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