Crew Weight

What does optimum weight mean for college sailing and how much does it matter?

College sailing dinghies are small by design. Our coed teams are motivated by weight concerns to find enough women sailors to roughly match the number of men. Title IX requires college athletic programs to provide equal opportunities for men and women proportional to the male/female ratio in the student body. Small boats in college sailing does this, at least for our sport.

A good all around optimum weight for college sailing in doublehanded dinghies is 270 pounds. A practical maximum is 290 though at 290, you have to be real good to be competitive in most conditions.

Before any college sailor goes on a crash diet to achieve “optimum weight,” here are a couple things to keep in mind. Accept the general body size you were given; you are what you are. If you are fit, you are reasonably lean. To make yourself more lean than your normal state of athletic fitness is unhealthy and counterproductive to your overall performance potential.

Many sailors yearn for the perfect wind to compete at optimum weight. This is the wind where you are on the rail at full power when others are slightly overpowered (either depowering sails or worse, heeling), or under powered (up and down off the rail). This velocity is about 11 knots for 420 teams weighing 250, 15 knots for 420 teams weighing 275. A definite speed advantage occurs when you hit this perfect velocity but don’t count on it. First of all, the wind in most college venues is variable. Even on a relatively steady wind day, figure the high end wind to be twice the low end wind. For example, light air might be 4-8; heavy air might be 15-30; and those are the steady days. Closer to land the wind could be 0-6 on a light air day or 5-25 on a windy day. Given that the force of the wind is proportional to the square of the wind speed, the amount of power you have is extremely variable. Crew height can be an advantage for hiking in straight line situations but this advantage too is overrated. When the wind is real variable, the short crew with incredible quickness has an advantage.

During the off season stay fit. Anyone can be competitive on most days sailing between 250 and 290 pounds. If you are fit and still need to lose weight during the off season to get in that range, find a smaller sailing partner for yourself and your old sailing partner.

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