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Best Boat To Learn How To Sail

The Com-Pac 16 is the best boat in the World to learn how to sail. Thatís a pretty strong statement. How can this be true? The next few paragraphs will explain why. The 16 has a moderate sail plan and 40% ballast to displacement ratio. Thatís good and good for a person learning to sail. The moderate sail plan means you can sail more often than other people that have racing or large sails on their boats. The ballast ratio means that anyone can see the ďcause and effectĒ while sailing. If a little boat is too tender (light ballast or no ballast), it will be too quick to tell whatís going on while sailing. Everyone sailing that type of boat needs to have already learned how to sail on a Com-Pac 16. Some people might say that the shoal keel is a shortcoming on a 16. I say that the shoal keel lets a new sailor know when he or she is over-powering the keel. A shoal keel will slide sideways and a deep keel will mush when over-powered. Both types of boat can be over-powered.

Why is the 16 so good at teaching sailors how to sail? Can you think of an airplane banking and doing tight maneuvers? Thatís what a 16 can do. A board boat like a Sunfish canít and a medium sized boat like 23 canít and certainly a big boat like a 27 or bigger canít. Can you think of yourself being on a 16 and sitting on the low side of the cockpit in light wind? You are making the sails hang in a position that gives them the right shape. Human weight in the cockpit of a 16 is moveable and shapes the sails and points the keel. Moving a human aft and on the low side points the keel in light wind. All boats follow their keel. You can see large boats with many, many people on the high side keeping it upright and driving the boat faster. The 16 can do the same thing with fewer people. A simple tack is a great maneuver. Some people do it well and others do it not so well. A POWER tack in a 16 leaves most other sailboats behind. A great tack is a graceful swing from one heeling attitude on one tack to the opposite heeling attitude on the other tack. Itís also the way small airplanes change direction. You should be able to get some exercise and look good at the same time if you practice.

What other sailboat can change its physical attitude to the waterís surface like a 16? I think the answer is none. Keep in mind, anyone can sail a sailboat in big winds, but it takes talent to sail one in the light stuff. Get good with a 16 and you can sail it anywhere. Maybe even in no wind. Learning to sail a 16 well can qualify you as a big boat skipper. I think of the 16 as a sports car and big boats as trucks. You have to know how to park a truck.

How will you know when you reach that point of perfection called ďgoodĒ? A good 16 sailor is one that can sail home when the engine fails. He or she can handle the boat like itís an extension of their being. You donít have to think about the physical aspects of sailing, you do it automatically. If you are an experienced driver, you donít have to think about driving your car down a road. You did in the beginning, but not after you got good at driving. Itís the same with sailing and that means you need to sail every chance you get.

I guess I had better tell you the easy way to get good at sailing. Just about every Com-Pac 16 has a compass. I'm not sure why, but most of them do. We normally don't use them for navigation and they get old and ugly with time. You also need a pencil and paper to record your bearings. Sail a course as close to the wind as possible while maintaining boat speed. Record that heading. Tack and sail for some distance on this new heading. Record that heading. Keep track of the location (approximate) of where you were sailing. When you get home, lay out a chart of the water you were sailing on. Transfer the course information to the chart from your notes. We know from experience that a well-sailed 16 can sail 45 degrees to the wind and maybe a little better in good circumstances. Do the math on your courses sailed. They should be about 90 degrees apart. That's 45 degrees to the wind on each leg. If that's not the case, you need to know why not. The terrain, current and waves cause the biggest pointing errors. Sailing well on the wind is 75% of sailing. The other 25% is getting good at a beam and broad reach. Just about everyone can go down wind with no practice.

Once you have the physical aspects of sailing down pat, you can start analyzing your surroundings to see how they affect your sailing. The terrain, current and waves will determine how well you sail. When I'm sailing, I think about which homeport is possible under a sail only situation. It has come in handy more than once.