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High Performance Sailing Paperback – May 1, 1996

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"One of the most readable books on the complex subject of sailing faster, and without doubt, a must for every racing sailor."—Yachts and Yachting

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Frank Bethwaite has been at the leading edge of national and world class sailing for over fifty years. Apart from his own outstanding racing successes, he has coached every level of would-be champion from basic to Olympic standards. Within his own family, three are Olympic champions and three are world champions in four classes.

From a background which included aeronautical engineering and meteorology, Frank spent thirty years in military and civil aviation and finally in scientific flying. His leisure pursuits, other than sailing, have been model gliders (twice open world endurance record holder) and also flying high performance gliders, which he used to explore the detail of some of the atmosphere's movements.

When he retired from flying he decided to find out how sailboats worked, so that he could try to make them sail faster. The experimental years followed, in which a combination of controlled experiments and fleet evaluation released a surge of creativity and the average speed of small sailboats increased from about one third the windspeed to about one half. This work then blended into a period when Frank and his family became involved with very high performance boats, partly the eighteen foot skiffs of Sydney and partly a series of twenty much smaller and progressively faster experimental craft. That the average "round the buoys race" speed of two thirds the wind speed has now increased to windspeed or faster, is in no small way due to Frank's theoretical and experimental input.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; 1 edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070057990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070057999
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.2 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,731,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is about high performance sailing, and how to go
as fast, under sail, as you possibly can. It doesn't
matter if you race keel boats, or sailboards, or dinghies
or multihulls; if you read, understand and practice what
is written in this book, you will be a faster sailor.

Frank and his family have include three Olympic competitors,
four World Championships, as well as several Grand Masters
(over age 60) World Championships by Frank himself. Frank
has been a coach on the Australian Olympic Team since 1972
and also pursued pastimes with model gliders (twice open
world endurance record holder) and full size sailplanes.
His latest accomplishment is that of codesigner (with his
son Julian)of the latest sailboat to be selected for the
2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the Bethwaite 49er.

The book itself is laid out into four distinct parts; wind,
water, the boat, and handling. Nothing is made in the book
of tactics or rules. Frank assumes that once you get out
in front, you stay out front.

In all, a deeply technical book on how to sail faster.
Highly recommended to serious sailors interested in
performance. A must for any technical sailors library.
Only once every 30 years or so does such a book come out,
the last being C. A. Marchaj's "The Aero-Hydrodynamics of
Sailing" from the 1960s. Don't miss it...
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Format: Paperback
Frank Bethwaite and his son Julian are probably best known for their role in developing the Australian 18 skiffs and the 49er.
However, Mr. Bethwaite's background as a meteorologist, engineer, and pilot gives him a unique perspective in analysing the sailor's wind and how to maximize performance. His studies of hull drag, sail drag, and sail drive give the serious racing sailor valuable new information on how to maximize performance in a variety of conditions.
This book focuses on high-performance sailcraft, but the lessons are applicable to almost any racing boat.
Mr. Bethwaite provides many charts, graphs, and illustrations to support his observations on maximizing performance. Although this is a technical book, it is written for the layman.
This book significantly advances understanding of wind, sail trim, and boat handling. It is a must-read for anyone racing the new generation of planing sportboats like the Viper 640 or Melges 24, new high-performance racers like the Mumm 30 or One-Design 35, and the high-performance dinghies like the 29er, 49er, 505, Flying Dutchman, etc. But serious sailors of all sorts will benefit from the book, and the chapters on the development of the Australian 18 foot skiff are very interesting and not found in North American or European sailing texts.
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Format: Paperback
I thought I knew about meteorology, waves, boatbuilding and sailing. I have a first class Cambridge degree in physics, have sailed and raced various boats (dinghies and sailboards) for 30 years and designed one fast dinghy. I thought I was one smart dude. Words begin to fail me. Wow! I wish I had known this lot 30 years ago. It turns out that I was pig ignorant. The book is the best I have ever seen on what the wind does. It's the best ever on how to handle it. It's extremely good on rigs and how to adjust them. It's not just the best ever, it's streets ahead. Don't expect to read it quickly. There is a vast amount to take in. If you really know your stuff you might get through it in a few weeks. Better to plan on a whole winter.
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Format: Paperback
Just what is going on in a sailboat race (perhaps a regatta where everyone is sailing their 505 dinghies, and wearing t-shirts with comments on them such as the one in the title of my review)?

This book tells us plenty about what is going on.

The first part is about wind. And at once we're told about the various surface wind patterns, how they arise, and how often they repeat. The light air patterns are called "steady, unsteady, oscillating, and ribboning," while the breeze patterns are "steady, wandering, pulsing, convergent/divergent, channeling, and harsh." There's an enormous amount of specific advice about how to spot what is happening and how to react to each of these cases. We also see a discussion of the "stability index," which incorporates a number of factors that control predictability.

There's also some general race preparation advice. If your boat can match the speed of all the other boats in all conditions and you know what you are doing, that makes you the favorite, and you ought to sail conservatively. You pick three or four other boats that might win, ignore the others, and if those boats (roughly speaking) stay together, you stay in touch with them. "If you don't sail away from them, they cannot sail away from you." You beat them one by one by using the wind patterns, but only by enough to gain "the tactical advantage you need to be ahead of or inside of the selected boats at the next mark." Similarly, if you can't figure out a pattern, you can guess that a few others (perhaps with better "local knowledge") may know what they are doing better than you do. In that case, you should sail defensively, staying with the top boats.
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