If you spend time sailing, particularly racing, you should also spend some time studying the weather. Obviously getting a forecast regularly is one way but what I really mean is actually observing the conditions change as warm and cold fronts pass through. The more time you spend developing your own database of weather conditions and their effect on your ‘race track’, the better you will be able to compete in your boat.
However, not all observations carry equal weight. One fellow sailor told me several years ago that he watched the flags on the top of the Harbour Bridge to gauge the conditions he’d face out on the water. The height above sea level (134 metres) would make those flags a very unreliable source of information for a skipper.
If you learn to pick up gusts and wind shifts before the main fleet recognises them, you will do well. In addition, your observations should make you better prepared for the arrival of weather changes, which may whip up the waves and bring with them rain squalls and strong gusts. If you are sensible and reef early, you will be in control and on course while the rest of the fleet struggles to shorten sail.
Weathercraft provides much more information for both the coastal and offshore sailor.