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HomeHigh Tech VS Sail

High Tech vs. Sail—It's Simple

By Manuel Gonzalez Mas Santiago,
Chile Fleet 490, Acueio Lake Fleet 1987
World Champion
, 1990 South American Champion

(Appears in Racing the Lighting)

The dilemma between the “high tech” and the "sail simple" approach has been in the mind of many competitive sailors in the past. It seems like, in order to win races, a top sailor should be an expert on complicated subjects such as aerodynamics, meteorology, fluids behavior, etc. Most sailors believe that a deep understanding of these subjects gives the “edge” that makes the difference between winning a race and coming in second.

It is clear to me, that when you sail more often, you race more often and, as you spend more time on the water, you begin to develop “feelings” that later on will help you feel the boat. In order to make it go faster you begin to develop certain abilities that help you react and even anticipate changes in wind, current and wave conditions. As your sailing progresses and you begin to win races you start to wonder, what am I missing in order to win a top championship, such as the Worlds? More often than not, you believe that the answer is in "high tech," that there lies the key for success.

From my perspective, the most relevant aspect of “high tech” is the psychological edge, when you believe that someone beats you because he knows something that you don’t. Of course, the easiest way to get rid of this “disadvantage” is to begin studying and reading “high tech” articles and books and to begin using this knowledge on the race course. More often than not, you will find that your scoreboard position is not improving and, even worse, you are going down the list. The main reason is, that it is extremely difficult to manage so many variables at once in a boat that only carries three crew on board. In big boats, it is easy to have on board specialists, a navigator, a meteorologist, a sail trimmer, etc. When you have few people dealing with lots of issues, they end up forgetting the basics, the “simple things” that help us win races.

I don’t believe that “high tech” makes one sailor better than others, I believe it is "time on the water" and the quality of the people we sail against that makes the difference. And concentration and keeping in mind “the simple things.”

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