Over the years in general sailing, racing, cruising my own boats and working in the industry one of the most frequent comments I hear relates to performance, particularly sailing performance. Often you will hear people indicate that as a cruiser sailing performance is not relevant to them, they are cruisers after all and not racing boats with racing crews. Why should they care about sailing performance.
On the face of it that argument sounds feasible and even reasonable but like most cliched hackneyed phrases the reality is quite the opposite of the truism. Let’s examine some fundamentals of cruising in our part of the world.
#1 – PERFORM IS NOT IMPORTANT – I’M A CRUISER NOT A RACER
Sensible cruising is done without too large an eye on schedules, yes there are times when you just have to get somewhere but the whole idea of cruising is to take life at a simple level. Cruising under sail, fairly self evidently involves sailing. Let’s face it, unless you are sailing your sailing boat, you should have bought a motor boat. Sailing boats are very inefficient motor boats, if their hull shape is good for sailing it’s not so good for motoring, that mast is annoying and adds drag and doesn’t let you get some places and the sails, well they will pay for a lot of fuel.
The weather is important to a sailor and all jokes aside the Bureau of Meteorology does a pretty good job along with a range of other providers in forecasts for 5-7 days. There is little need to be significantly surprised,in a macro sense by the weather over a four to six day range. And that range will get you to a safe anchorage anywhere along the east cost of Australia.
Speaking of the Bureau of Meteorology, they have a range of excellent tools for sailors; one of the key sources of actual recorded data for this article was the Average Wind Velocity maps (Bureau Home > Climate > Climate Data Online > Average wind velocity) along with weather station historical records.
PERFORMANCE IS IMPORTANT – NOT IN OUTRIGHT SPEED TERMS, BUT CERTAINLY IN CRUISING SAILING
What my sailing experiences tell me and what the Bureau of Meteorology confirms is that the average wind speeds along the east coast of Australia are below 15kts and mostly below 12kts. Of course as cruisers we don’t leave safe harbour if it’s blowing stupid wind speeds, so by a combination of choice and nature the large majority of our sailing is done in light winds. What that means then is that if you own a boat that won’t effectively sail in 12kts of wind or less then you own a motor sailer. What that means is that performance is important to cruisers, perhaps more so that racers, performance to a cruiser means actually sailing whilst cruising and not motoring with the all the costs and frequent trips to marinas that is inherent in motorboat travel. Performance under sail is a cruisers life life performance under sail is a racer’s afternoon fun. If you need 20kts to get going then you aren’t going to sail too much, at least in this part of the world.