Books on Sailing and Sailboat Racing
I’ve spent the last several years reading every book about sailing and sailboat racing that I could find. At present, very few of those books remain on my bookshelf, and they’re the ones I refer to time and time again. On this page, I’m including the books that really made a difference in my understanding of racing and sailboat handling. These are the books I recommend to friends and interested sailors in our fleet. I hope you will enjoy them, too. For my “ultimate” personal list, please read my blog post: Take the Tiller’s Top Picks: The Best Books for Sailboat Racers.
The Complete Sailor – David Seidman: I’ve read this book from cover to cover, several times. There are so many little nuggets in here for the new sailor, but it’s also a handy reference guide for the more experienced. I use this book when teaching sailing, as it’s easily readable, and has some of the best basic sailing explanations I’ve seen anywhere.
Getting Started in Sailboat Racing – Adam Cort & Richard Stearns: This book was my bible as I was first learning to race. I can’t tell you how many times I read it through, from cover to cover. I had started off with some other, more advanced books, but much of the information in those books was too complicated for a racing novice. This was the perfect introduction to sailboat racing for a newbie, with great graphics, and an easy-to-read format.
Winning in One Design – Dave Perry: I think that this is one of the best guides to sailboat racing there is — it’s imminently readable, and organized so well that you can refer back to the appropriate sections when you’re trying to improve a particular weakness. You can use it like a “workbook”, as I did in my second season of racing, and I improved quite a lot by implementing the suggestions and techniques outlined in the book.
Sailing Smart: Winning Techniques, Tactics and Strategies – Buddy Melges & Charles Mason: This book abounds with lessons on racing tactics and boat handling (be sure to remember that the RRS have changed a good deal since its publication), sportsmanship, and is sprinkled liberally with engaging tales of races won and lost. The book is clearly organized, and Melges’s personality shines through the pages. I’ve read this one again and again.
Championship Tactics – How Anyone Can Sail Faster, Smarter, and Win Races – Gary Jobson & Tom Whidden: This is a great workbook for any serious racer, and can be tailored to your individual needs in that you can study the topics in the order that’s best for you. It is an excellent source for the learning the skills needed for more advanced racing. I consult it now and again as a reference; it’s a great addition to any racer’s home library.
Gary Jobson’s Championship Sailing: The Definitive Guide for Skippers, Tacticians, and Crew – This book is probably best for intermediate racing teams who want to improve their standings. It looks at the different race roles and how the team should work as a unit. It might be a little confusing for the newer racer, as it assumes a certain level of knowledge, but it’s one that you will want to have on your book shelf for when you are ready!
Sail, Race, Win: How to Develop a Winning Attitude – Eric Twiname: This book is perhaps my favorite of all the books, in that Twiname teaches us how to self-coach, and explores the winning mindset – mirroring closely my own approach to improving my sailing, one learned through many years of being a professional singer.
Start to Win – Eric Twiname: Many consider to be the finest book they’ve read about sailboat racing, and I would have to agree. Actually, both of the Twiname books that I suggest are my favorite sailing books, as he approaches improving your sailing in much the same way I learned as an opera singer to improve my singing technique. You will definitely want this book on your shelf, and I promise, you’ll consult it often!
Be Your Own Tactics Coach – Jon Emmett: Be Your Own Tactics Coach is a great book for racing tactics, and includes lots of tips. It covers multiple skill levels for each tactic, and organizes them based on the different legs of the race, with clear, easy-to-understand visuals. Definitely a must-have for the bookshelf!
Speed & Smarts – The Newsletter of How-To Racing Tips for Sailors – Click on the image to go to their website and get your own subscription! This is, quite simply, the best thing I’ve read for the racing sailor – it thoroughly covers a subject per newsletter, and I really look forward to it’s showing up in my mailbox every couple of months. Our entire fleet subscribes! Don’t miss out!!
Books on The Racing Rules of Sailing
These books are your most helpful tools for learning the Racing Rules of Sailing – start with the Rules book by US Sailing, and concentrate on Part 2 “When Boats Meet.” The rules for right of way, and mark roundings, will be the rules you use the most.
The definitive guide from US Sailing – Updated every four years – be sure to check and see that you have the latest version! The current one covers 2013-2016. Don’t be daunted at the size of the book – for sailboat racing, you really need only focus on part 2.
100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes 2013-2016 – Dave Perry: This is not a replacement for the Rules book, which every racing sailor should have, but it’s a great compendium of little quizzes designed to get you thinking about the racing rules in action. It’s settled more than one “discussion” at the Club after racing. . .
Paul Elvstrøm Explains Racing Rules of Sailing, 2013-2016: This is a handy little guide, which features a durable waterproof book jacket, and nifty little plastic boats which come in really handy if you are trying to discuss a rules question. I keep mine in my sailing bag, and we consult it aprés-racing at the Club, when we debrief.
Books on Mindset
Never under-estimate the power of mindset, because the right perspective can most definitely help make you a winner! Here are a few books on the subject that I’ve particularly enjoyed reading, and which have been useful in my work toward improving my own sailing. I’m still doing a lot of reading on the subject, so stay tuned for updates.
Sailing Photography, Adventures and Stories
These are wonderful books to curl up with – amazing photography, stories of sailing adventures and personal accomplishment, and a look at why we sail. I promise you’ll enjoy them all!