Have you ever wondered what makes one sailboat go faster than another? Lots of folks have a rough idea—better design, better crew—'but few really understand the mechanics. Two who do are Gary Jobson and Mike Toppa, and they've written Speed Sailing (Hearst Marine Books, $19.95) to explain the hows and whys.
Not just another learn-to-sail manual, Speed Sailing is a reference book filled with the fundamentals of going fast—and faster. It covers most aspects of sail, including grand prix racing, casual cruising, practice and tuning tips, crew organization, electronics and night sailing.
Jobson and Toppa are world-class sailors who have years of ocean-racing experience. Jobson has raced everything from prams to maxis, winning numerous championships, but it was the 1977 America's Cup victory with Ted Turner aboard Courageous that launched him into the limelight. Toppa, too, is an esteemed racer and sailmaker who has participated in the last two America's Cup campaigns.
Unfortunately, Speed Sailing is marred by uninspiring graphics. With the exception of the dust jacket and 16 pages of color photographs, the illustrations are unimaginative and textbookish. The authors and their readers deserve better.
The last book that put the intricacies of sail into one comprehensive volume was Wallace Ross's Sail Power (Alfred A. Knopf, 1975). Speed Sailing has a similar aim, but its writers take a different tack. As the dust jacket claims, "The sport of sailing has undergone a significant revolution during the past decade and Speed Sailing is the first book to detail these changes fully...."
That it does. Despite a recent revision, Sail Power has become dated in the last 10 years. Speed Sailing, on the other hand, offers sailors a look at the hottest aerospace materials and sail-handling techniques. Although Sail Power is still essential for any yachtsman's library, Speed Sailing does a splendid job of augmenting and updating the basics.