Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses Stress-Free Sailing (2nd edition) by Duncan Wells
Certainly, the most appealing and characteristic image in Stress-Free Sailing is the author in his garden lassoing a cleat.
There will be readers who will challenge the idea that there is any such nirvana as ‘stress-free sailing’;
some will say that a bit of stress is part of the challenge that leaves us satisfied at the end of the day;
others will say that stress comes from aspects over which we have little control – an unreliable engine for instance or close quarters incompatibility.
Wells believes, pragmatically, that ‘no one was ever born a master mariner’ and that preparation and anticipation is the key to success – with a good dash of shared experience and reflection.
Stress Free Sailing is part of a series that includes Stress Free Mooring, Navigation and Motorboating and there is naturally some overlap.
The focus in this volume is techniques and tips that will be of particular benefit to the single- or short-handed sailor.
Hence the need to be able to lasso reliably.
The book features instructional videos accessed via QR codes or at westviewsailing.co.uk/stress-free-videos but the printed photos and explanations are admirably clear themselves.
Topics covered include ropes – because snagging ropes are stressful – and Wells has new insights to offer even on this frequently-discussed topic.
Some of his ideas, such as using a snooker colour code to mark an anchor chain, may make one smile but that’s also an effective encouragement to develop one’s own.
(Take Wells’ advice, though, and stick the code somewhere near the anchor locker for those who don’t have snooker colours in their DNA.)
Other of his ideas, such as the MOB Lifesaver, are really impressive and clearly the result of prolonged direct reflection.
Wells introduces a group of other yachts which helped him test his techniques – but were they so disparate, actually?
No multi-hulls, no gaffers, no small yachts powered only by outboards.
Exceptions to every rule
There are moments in his text when he pauses to say there are exceptions to every rule – a ketch will lie hove to or balance her sails quite differently to a sloop – but I begin to think that all writers of sailing skills books need to remind themselves sometimes of the diversity of sailing vessels, despite the evidence of too many marinas.
It’s no good assuming that everyone has a spinnaker halyard available when setting out an MOB retrieval strategy.
Although this may sound like a grumble, it’s one that Stress-Free Sailing can easily refute.
Wells’s overall approach is to offer his advice, demonstrate what method worked for him on his Hallberg-Rassy, then challenge others to take time to play and to practise until they discover the best techniques for their own vessels.
If there’s only going to be you available to lasso that cleat, you’re the one who needs to develop that individual flick of the wrist.
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