Many cruising sailors are never interested in racing, why bother I just want to leisurely cruise around the lake with no destination in mind. When I go racing it is so stressful and not fun at all. I only go out if the weather is right. If I cruise I will only go when I have great conditions.
All of those arguments are valid; I am a sailor that prefers cruising to racing most days. It is great to come out of the harbour and let the wind decide where we are going today. Unfurl the sails set and forget for the next few hours, sit back and relax.
But someday you decide to go out there to explore and find new places across the ocean or down south or even just to a new lake. This is where the problems can start and turn a nice sail into an epic adventure. Sometimes when exploring new area’s we tend not to pay attention to wind and the waves as we are too busy looking at the new sights around us. Then, suddenly the wind picks up and the weather starts looking ominous, and we need to do something fairly soon. This is where some cruising sailors may start to get stressed which in turn tends to make us not use all of our brain cells. We then make a minor error in judgment that leads to more until we could be very frightened because we have not experienced this before.
When we are involved in even low level club racing as crew or in our own boat we have many safe learning opportunities. Club racing involves a group of people that you know mostly doing it for the fun. You will not be out of site of most of the boats; there will be a committee boat close by.
Most racing will not be stopped unless conditions could cause a real problem. This will give you an environment to learn how to handle your boat in less than ideal conditions. It will also teach you the best way to get from point A to B when the wind and waves are not going your way. When you have had some experience in bad weather it will assist you in making better choices when you do not have a choice.
Club racing and LSIS are also great to meet other sailors who have been there and done that. I find some great ideas for my boat, talk to people that have cruised where I want to go and generally have a great time with like mined people. Now what could be better than that?