Race Ready – SJ 21 and Others. What does it really mean?

Race Ready

Race Ready is a common term used in advertising to sell a sailboat that may have been raced by somebody. What does it mean? Different things to different people… trust me. To a stereotypical used boat salesman, it may mean labels on cleats, and a bunch of holes drilled where rigging used to be. The next level includes cam cleats instead of horn cleats, maybe an adjustable backstay, or a traveller. Generally, I would say that Race Ready and Rigged for Racing are assumed to be the same thing, and that means the running rigging has been altered from the original configuration. I apply “Rigged for Racing” to upgraded running rigging, but “Race Ready” is a good bit more ambitious.
This list was developed based on a San Juan 21 but I suggest it is applicable to the Catalina 22 and many other sloop rigged monohulls. The intent is to include the things that are important to make a boat “race ready”, ideally each item would be rated by how important it is and the associated cost and person hours to implement. We can get to that later. If we are diligent we may very well come up with something usable, want to help? Leave a comment.


Basic Assumptions are: the boat is complete… Hull, rig, rudder, sails

1.The Hull

  •  smooth, smoother the better, down to the point where you can argue that maybe small grooves in the direction of water flow to increase laminar flow are better yet. Note: since I first wrote this I have come to the conclusion that sanding with finer than 400 grit paper may be past the point of diminishing return.
  • fair- all bumps and dips removed, ALL DIPS AND BUMPS REMOVED, all curves at least as failr as the hood of a brand new Lexus. I this is probably more important than smooth, but quite a bit more challenging to accomplish.
  • stiff- flexing takes power, causes turbulence, and eventually will cause cracks maybe even leaks
  • weight- minimize, try not to sacrifice, stiffness, fairness or smoothness but weight is super critical. Acceleration is equal to the Force divided by the Mass. In a class where the boats have the same waterline and therefore the same theoretical hull speed…. Acceleration rules.

2. Appendages: Keel and rudder,

  • fair and smooth, even more critical than the hull.
  • alignment of appendages also important, side to side, in line with the hull and the mast, etc. Commonly this alignment is left to the manufacturer with varying degrees of success. It is worth checking.
  • The rudder- very critical in my opinion- optimized shape within the class rule, remove all possible wiggly-ness by making sure gudgeons and pintles are secure and in good condition, lightness is important, don’t want excess weight on the transom. Tiller must be dependable and a good fit to eliminate slop. The same for the tiller extension.
3. The Rig- transfers power from the sails to the hull
  • strong
  •  light
  •  dependable
  •  adjustable
  •  aligned
  •  tunable and tuned.
4. Sails – the power generator- Shape, shape, shape
  • I have three old mains, and I think the best is a thirty year old rag that actually holds a decent shape when the flattening reef is tied in, other than that, it is junk.
  • New sails are usually best but not always, sometimes last years best is better than this years best
  • Good, Better, Best sails are a must have.

5. Controls- here is where everybody has different ideas-bottom line, controls have to work…

  • Too complicated is no good, not enough control is no good. During a discussion the other day it was said that the mainsheet has to pull the sail in and let the sail out, the trick is knowing when and how much to do either.
  • Sheets are the most important, main and jib. Large enough to be comfortable, small enough to run freely, light enough to not influence sail shape unduly in light air, strong enough to work in a blow.
  • Jib car placement and adjustability is critical,
  • Traveler is important. My first boat did not have a traveler and I learned to compensate with the boom vang and the topping lift.  Not as efficient but can be effective. If you have a traveler it has to work well and you have to work it well.
  • Adjustable backstay, second only to the sheets in my opinion, has control of the entire rig, changes the draft, changes the draft position, changes the power, the shape, and is excellent for shifting gears.

The SJ 21 websites and forum have a lot of tips, see the SJ 21 link, I will add some more as the interest increases and time allows.

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