If you have been pining for the race course as you watch the events calendar evaporate, the answer to getting back out on the water and possibly even racing, may be closer than you think. And it’s your B&G autopilot that could not only hold the key, but provide a legal advantage that few are exploiting.
Covid-19 may have forced us to look at our sport in a different way, at least for the time being, but the shutdown has provided an opportunity to capitalise on a big change in offshore racing while providing an incentive to get back on the race course and try shorthanded sailing.
Just a few months ago, a full crew hiking off the weather rail looked completely normal, now it is unacceptable under the current social distancing rules, unless of course you are all from the same household. For most crews, adhering to the current rules with crew spaced 2m apart is clearly not practical. Neither is the prospect of reducing the crew of say a 40 footer from eight to say just three.
Or is it?
Shorthanded sailing has become increasingly popular in recent years. When the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race was won overall by a double-handed entry the sailing world took note. Since then, shorthanded fleets have grown in size and their teams have become increasingly competitive as they square up to their fully crewed rivals. All of which has led some to wonder whether an answer to the current crisis facing yacht racing lies with shorthanded rather than fully crewed racing.
With so many racer/cruisers being fitted with autopilots that are frequently only used for the delivery home and the odd family outing, there are plenty of boats that are already equipped to take advantage of the changes.
The benefit of taking the current down time to understand your pilot goes beyond shorthanded sailing.
Interestingly, even before the Covid crisis took a hold, the issue of autopilots had already become a hot topic in the racing scene. This year was to see a big change in RORC races where autopilots would be allowed to be used aboard fully crewed boats as well as their shorthanded competitors.
Furthermore, there are plenty in the shorthanded scene who believe that their autopilots sail faster at night than tired humans that are struggling to see the waves or the tell tales.
So, if kit that is already fitted to your boat could get you around the race course more quickly than your competitors, there is plenty of incentive to spend the Covid downtime understanding how the pilot can get you back out on the water and up to speed for the season.
With our lead in this field and the considerable knowledge, technology and links that lie within B&G, we asked some of the experts in the shorthanded scene for their tips, tricks and advice for getting the best out of an autopilot.
In the grand prix world, aboard some of the most advanced high performance machines such as the IMOCA60s and the Ultim trimarans, advanced autopilots are allowing teams to achieve speeds that manual steering simply cannot match. At this point, when their beasts are on the boil, the sailors need to have complete faith in the autopilot. Getting to this point takes a great deal of planning and experience.
But the technology trickle down is also having a big effect throughout the rest of the sport too as modern autopilots demonstrate how the game is developing quickly in mainstream racing.
To find out how to get the best out of your B&G autopilot we talked to some of those who regularly rely on their silent systems. So in this mini series Henry Bomby, Will Harris (Team Malizia) and Nigel Colley (Solo Ocean Racing Club) talk about how they set up and use their pilots. In addition, B&G product director Matt Eeles explains how to set up your autopilot accurately and understand the key performance functions to ensure that you can exploit the benefits.