Preparing For A Big Event

We are coming to the time of the year when many classes and clubs have their State, National and World Championships. Quite often travel to events both locally and Internationally adds a layer of difficulty and preparing a packing list is an important part of being ready to race.

In every case, preparation is one of the key ingredients to your chances of a great result. Champions succeed because of the preparation made well ahead of time.

Selecting and training with the right people as crewmates is perhaps the single most important factor as part of your lead up preparation. They must bring skills that you may not possess, be ferocious competitors plus have tactical and boat handling skills.

For those with the luxury of time before an event, there is no substitute for time on the water, this improves physical fitness and gives you a psychological edge based on being at one with each other and the boat.

There is nothing worse than turning up at an event feeling as though you are “underdone” and it would have been better to have trained as hard as the teams that you will be competing against. In many cases, some competitors are  afraid of the competition because of their preparation and see their potential result being poor accordingly, as is often said, “where you aim is where you end up”

In one design racing, you will be pushing your boat to its limits so all the checks and tests you do with your gear prior to turning up to an event give you the confidence to reef on the extra inch of sidestay tension or other control knowing that everything can take the loads.

I have seen many teams turn up at an important event only to spend the first couple of days working on their boats whilst the better-prepared teams are out sailing, getting used to the local conditions, lining up against rivals, tweaking their boat and generally getting their head in the game so that when the first gun fires they are as good as they can be.

Fitness counts for more than most sailors realise, a current world champion once told me that his fitness was his main “secret weapon”. He said that he would be hiking just as hard on the last windward work as he was on the first, he also went on to say that his less fit rivals would be sitting up, no longer able to swing hard, the result of this was that he would be faster.

Great preparation guarantees you will be more relaxed, ensures a good result and as a bonus makes the regatta fun.

FINE TUNE YOUR STEERING

 

Steering well is an art, and particularly steering well across a wide range of conditions is something that only the best have mastered through countless hours on the water.

It’s important to have a steering position where you can see as much of the sails as possible and when sailing upwind you need to have your head as far outboard and forward as you can while still being able to steer comfortably.

You need to view the luff of the jib upwind and the edge of the spinnaker downwind.

In light airs, the telltales should be your primary focus and it’s imperative to keep them flowing constantly, wind shear (the wind twisting or changing direction vertically) is common in lighter airs and the telltales can behave quite differently as they go up the sail. This is where twist becomes very important so that the telltales all break at the same time for the full length of the sail.

As the wind builds and the boat is moving through the water more easily, we can begin to work more on height and VMG  toward the mark. The helmsman can now afford to let the windward telltales lift a little.

In heavier conditions, the helmsman must concentrate on the angle of heel, the flatter the boat the better, and easing the mainsail, lowering the traveller or pulling on the backstay if fitted will depower the boat.

The important point for the helmsman is to keep the water flowing over the foils and to not slow the boat by pinching. When a gust strikes many helmsmen feather the boat then ease the mainsail when the right response is to ease the mainsail in anticipation of the gust, gain speed then trim back on once the gust has passed.

Downwind it’s the helmsman’s job to work with the trimmers to keep the spinnaker, whether Symmetrical or asymmetrical, operating at the optimum angle for the best VMG.

It’s common for inexperienced helmsmen to pull away when they see a collapsing spinnaker when in actual fact the sail has collapsed from lack of pressure.

The key to good helming is concentration and to focus on telltales, sail shape and angle of heel. One excellent drill practised by many top flight coaches is to get their sailors to either practice without the rudder fitted and to sail the boat with balance and sail trim alone.

What we as sailors need to be always aware of is the fact that excessive rudder movement acts as a brake and the more manoeuvres we can do with a minimum of rudder movement will ensure that the highest possible speed is maintained throughout tacks and gybes and on the course in general.

 

 

 

Strive To Be Lucky

In memory of the great and eloquent Dr. Walker who died on Monday aged 95.

Luck, wrote longtime columnist Dr. Stuart Walker (1923 – 2018), is a fundamental, but a manageable element of every race.

When Paul Elvström raced with Aage Birch for the Dragon Gold Cup at Marstrand, Sweden, in 1958, he decided that Sergio Sorrentino, of Italy, was the fastest and that they were the next fastest. The Cup would be won by whoever won the final race, and on the final beat of that race, they alternately crossed each other until, “by pure luck,” according to Elvström, Sorrentino crossed the finish line ahead.

“When things go like that, and it is luck who would win, then we know that and we don’t have to be disappointed,” he said. Elvström’s confidence, his trust in himself, his remembrance of all the times he had won, assured him that he should have won, that only luck could enable a competitor to beat him!

The attribution of an outcome to luck is a means of expressing an unwillingness, on the one hand, to assume responsibility for a success or on the other hand to take the blame for a mistake. But it is also a means of retaining power. It’s not that I lost control and that you controlled me; it’s just that this time luck [a higher power, totally unrelated to me or you] usurped my usual control.

We give lip service to the fun of participating in a story filled with surprises and of accepting the role of luck in the outcome, although our actual purpose—disguised, deep down, hidden from view—is to control the entire game and to beat the hell out of our opponents. (Just don’t let anybody know.) We do not actually believe in luck, but we know that it’s better to have luck on our side than against us.

The confident feel lucky; they presume that things will go their way. And expecting the best, they assume that whatever has happened has happened for the best. They rig the past to make themselves look good and after a mistake or a failure, they proceed to get on with the race and the series without undue condemnation. Free of preoccupation with irrelevant matters, they are alert to what does matter.

Consider, for instance, the luck involved in the winning of the Olympic gold medal in the Dragon Class at Kiel, Germany, in 1972. After the racing was over, John Cuneo, wishing to show his appreciation, invited the team meteorologist to come aboard his boat to see how he had used the plastic overlays that the met man had provided. But the met man was horrified to find that Cuneo had won the gold medal by overlaying his daily wind predictions on a deck mounted chart, upside down!

 

Hailing for Mark – Room is Not Required

SS Rules Tip 1

Rule 18 (Mark-Room) begins to apply between two boats when the first one enters the zone at a mark, and it says the outside or clear astern boat must provide mark-room.

Note that rule 18 never requires an inside or clear ahead boat to make any kind of hail for mark-room.

There are only two rules in the rulebook that require a hail: 1) Rule 61.1(a) when you must hail ‘Protest’ to another boat, and 2) rule 20  when a boat must hail if she needs room to tack at an obstruction.

So a boat that is required to give mark-room must provide that room whether or not she hears a hail.

However, it can be helpful for the boat entitled to mark-room to make a hail to that effect.

Even though it is not required, a hail can remind the outside boat of her obligation to provide mark-room, and it can help avoid a messy situation where both boats think they may be entitled to mark-room.

Communication between competing boats is often helpful even when it’s not required, especially in tight situations such as mark roundings.

By proactively talking with nearby boats you can often clarify each boat’s rights and avoid risky situations.

Staying Out of Trouble

This one’s a classic: If you’re the outside boat of a group approaching the leeward mark and blindly carry on with pace, you’ll sail extra distance in bad air, carry wide around the mark, and then exit in a terrible lane.

This is one of the rare times when it pays to slow down and let other boats move ahead.

To kill speed, take your ­spinnaker down early and steer a little extra distance. If you’re slightly advanced on the group and they barely have room, you can slow down a lot by steering hard, swerving back and forth, and swinging wide to slow your boat and kill time.

Once you’ve slowed, let the pinwheel unfold, and watch as the boats swinging around the outside become pinned and stuck in bad air. These boats had room on you, but because they are now pinned wide from the mark, they can no longer make a tight ­rounding and close you out.

When you can round the mark tightly without fouling those boats (because you don’t have room), sail toward the mark, ideally reaching a little bit before rounding so you have speed.

You will now be on the inside track going upwind, no doubt passing a boat or two. More importantly, you’re setting yourself up on the inside track for a nice beat.

One cautionary note: When slowing down and waiting for your opportunity to round inside, there might be boats coming up from behind with no room who want to speed into the gap you’re ­shooting for.

 

They might not slow down and wait their turn, so be sure to communicate to them that they have no rights, thus saving yourself the drama of an ugly foul and big pileup.