The 8 Best Sailing Books to Read at the Start of the Season

It's the start of the season and I think that all of us that race dinghies would like to think that we'll do better than we did last year. There are lots of ways to improve, and one good way is to read and learn.

But in the midst of the sailing season, and with real life going on at the same time, it can be hard to sit down and read big, heavy, almost academic style books, useful though they might be. Personally, I think books like that are better for the winter months, when you can't be out on the water.

So with that in mind, I've picked what I consider to be the eight best sailing books to read as you get into the new season - helpful, practical, easy-to-read books that provide you with things to work on as you move through the season.

And, because I'm super-generous, I've thrown in a bonus, non-sailing book that will help you improve your sailing. It is undoubtedly one of the best sailing books you can read that isn't actually about sailing.

So here, in reverse order, are my 8 best sailing books to read at the start of the season.


8. Tuning to Win

You can read my full review here.

The beginning of the season is obviously the best time of year to get you equipment organised and make sure everything is set up porperly. Tuning is an ongoing process, but making sure you're starting from the best possible position is important. Ian Pinnell's book will help even the most reluctant boat tuner, and it is a resource that you will go back to time and again.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


7. Sailing Fitness and Training

You can read my full review here

I know, I know. You meant to start your fitness work in January to be ready for the new season. But life's busy. And now the sailing season is here and so you might as well hold off until the end of the year because you'll be sailing loads anyway.

Or...

You could get stuck into some fitness work now. It's never a bad time to do a bit of fitness work, and there really is no time like the present. And even if you don't get started now, this book will get you prepared and motivated to get stuck in when the time does come to start.

There really is no better book on sailing fitness than this one.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


6. Race Training with Jim Saltonstall

You can read my full review here.

Improving your sailing needs a good understanding of all the areas that affect sailing performance. In this book, im Saltonstall breaks sailing performance down into 10 key areas, and then systematically elaborates on how to improve performance in each area.

Does it work? Ask the British Sailing Team - he turned them into a medal-winning machine.

Where to Buy

United States
UK and Ireland


5. Fast Handling Techniques

Frank Bethwaite is probably best known for his other two books - High Performance Sailing and Higher Performace Sailing, and both are incredibly good in-depth books on the art of top-level racing performance. But they are tomes - big, heavy, almost text-book style books, and they require concentration and study. They'd be on my reading list for the winter months more than for the start of the season.

Fast Handling Techniques was Frank's attempt to condense some of the important stuff from those two books (as well as other useful material) into a more easy-to-digest book.  The result is an excellent handbook for improving your technique to keep the boat moving fast, with good explanations of what to do and why you should be doing it.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


4. Helming to Win

You can read my full review here.

Helming to win is, when you think about it, what we're all trying to do. Nick Craig's excellent book covers all aspects of racing, with tons of great tips, illuminating examples and anecdotes, and some top-notch illustrations. In terms of improving your sailing over the coming season, this book is fairly indispensable because it is full of practical, usable tips for actually developing aspects of your sailing whilst in the midst of the sailing season.

In the future, it will be called a "classic text".

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


3. Sailing Smart

And speaking of "classic texts"...

Sailing Smart really should be on every sailor's bookshelf. Sure, it's a little dated. And yes, the line drawing illustrations are old-fashioned. But Sailing Smart makes you realise that some aspects of sailing don't really change at all, and also that Buddy Melges was ahead of his time.

The best thing about Sailing Smart is just how readable it is - old fashioned it may be, but out of date it most definitely is not.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


2. Coach Yourself to Win

Read my full review here.

Every sailor needs to be their own sailing coach. Even if you do get regular coaching, being organised and set up to get the most out of your sailing requires the ability to go into coach mode. Jon Emmett lays out a number of simple things that will help you define the areas you need to work on most, and then provides the information to be able to actually make the necessary improvements.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


1. Sail, Race and Win

This book is my number one book to read at the start of the season.

I really love this book.

One of the hardest things about improving your own sailing is figuring out where to start, and then how to keep moving forward and progressing. This book makes that first step a lot easier.

And then it is full loads of really useful information - there is so much straightforward, actionable advice and so many tips that there is always something new every time your re-read it (and you will re-read it).

And there are lots of useful anecdotes and stories that help illustrate points and avoid common pitfalls.

But the thing that I like most about Sail, Race and Win is that it is just so motivating. I don't know what it is about Twiname's writing, or the way he approaches each area, but he makes improvement seem so achievable. Even enjoyable.

If you haven't read it then I really cannot recommend it enough.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland


And finally, a bonus non-sailing book that will help with your sailing:

The Inner Game of Tennis

You don't have to like tennis. You don't have to like strawberries. You don't have to like the grunting noise that tennis players make when they hit the ball. You don't have to like the squeaky noise tennis shows make on hard courts. You don't have to like furry balls. You don't even have to like guys called Timothy (although I know a lot of really sound people called Tim, so personally I think you should re-think your attitude to them).

Even if you hate all these things, you will still love this book.

It has (almost) nothing to do with tennis. Not really. What it is is a book that helps you understand how to get better at skills that involve your body - like sailing.

And it is especially useful for learning skills where you have time to consciously think about what you are doing. Like sailing.

And it is so short (it is only 122 pages long!) that you can read it in a couple of lunch hours, or on a train journey or two, or in an evening. But it will give you genuine insights that will help you forever.

So get over your anti-Tim attitude and read this book. You will thank me.

Where to Buy

United States
UK & Ireland

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