5 Sailing Tips

Tip 1: Stay Focused

A lapse in concentration at a critical time in a race can cost you several places and although this sounds obvious it is impossible to give 100 percent concentration all the time. 

If sailing in a crewed boat don’t let conversations wander away from the race and this is just as important for the time on the water before the start.

A similar situation is relevant in a single hander, once you are on the water get in to race mode and avoid seeking out mates for a chat prior to the start.

This concentration on the job in hand is equally important as the race nears the finish line as it is prior to the start and those competitors who stay focused to the end are the ones that often pull a rabbit out of the hat in the closing stages of a race.

Tip 2: Nutrition and Hydration

Whether you are racing around the cans in a dinghy or one design keelboat or doing a Sydney to Hobart the correct food and fluid intake is essential to your performance.

Without the right type of energy in the form of carbohydrates to cope with the job in hand, you won’t be able to perform at your best.

After a period of intense effort and concentration followed by relative inactivity even the fittest sailor will feel tired and make poor decisions.

Remaining correctly hydrated is really difficult if you are working hard on the boat and quite often by the time you are thirsty you have generally been dehydrated for some time and dehydration affects your mental acuity.

If you have ever watched the Tour De France notice how often the riders take sips of fluid and have a snack. Our sport  is no different to the riders who tackle climbs and then downhills when they can rest a little.

Sailing also requires bursts of energy followed by periods of relatively less energy needed, so fuelling reularly throughout the race is essential for peak performance.

Tip 3: Develop Your Knowledge

Be a student of the rules and read articles and books on tactics, sail trim and class specific blogs and articles. 

To get better results in your sailing, learning should be incremental and ongoing, many of us get stuck and turn up each week expecting better results without having put in any effort to improve our knowledge.

Most of us have busy lives and have little free time for studying our sport so each week concentrate on one specific topic and work on that.

Tip 4: Mix It Up

Sail on different classes of boats, sail with different people, swap positions on the boat and sail at different clubs wherever possible.

You will be amazed at what you will learn and bad habits and weaknesses developed from sailing against the same people at the same club in the same waters will become obvious.

When you come back to your regular boat and crew you will re-evaluate many aspects of your sailing and the new found skills and knowledge will re-invigorate the whole crew.

Tip 5: The Blame Game

Sailing like many other sports is as much about mental preparation as it is about the physical and many wins, decent regatta places or potential miraculous recoveries have been thrown away by blame causing arguments in the boat which distract from concentrating on the race.

If you believe that your boat is slow, you aren’t fit enough, you are too heavy or too light or you or your crew is tactically weak and you have a bad result, it is easy to fall back on those reasons to justify what happened out on the water.

Blaming a member of your crew for a mistake that cost you places, through to anger at the sailor who barged you on the startline putting you at the back of the fleet is counterproductive and takes your focus away from the race, get over it quickly and get on with sailing.

In those situations, an after race de-brief away from the heat of the moment will prove to be an awesome learning  exercise and help to ensure that when a similar situation arises again that you will be mentally prepared to dig out and sail hard to negate the damage caused to your race.

 

 

 

5 more Sailing Tips

Tip 1: Don’t line up on the Starboard Tack Layline too early

Hitting the layline early means you will probably end up overstanding and the bigger the fleet the more damage you will do to your position.

In many fleets it’s possible to make the mark if you tack on to port just underneath the boats that are overstanding – but if you are going to do it make sure you are outside the three boat length circle and if you need to luff to shoot the mark, be careful not to go beyond head to wind. 

This tactic generally doesn’t  work on the first beat in a big fleet as the fleet is still relatively bunched up, although, if you can pull it off you can gain a large number of places.  This is where planning and keeping you eye out of the boat and up the course is really important.

As a word of caution, watch out for any gamblers piling into the mark on port and be prepared to sail round the resulting carnage.

Tip 2: Pick the Correct Gate

When you bear away at the windward mark you should have already worked out whether the left or right side of the course  is favoured.

In a big fleet, picking the right leeward mark will be essential, where possible pick the mark that is closer or is on the side that you believe will be favoured on the next upwind leg.

If you don’t have a plan you could end up pinned on the wrong side of the course at the same time losing places to dozens of boats.

When approaching the mark keep your head out of the boat and work out where the boats in your vicinity will be at the mark, be prepared to consider the other mark if you end up having to deal with a sudden wall of boats.

Tip 3: Continually evaluate weight distribution

Correct Fore and Aft trim is critical to boat speed and especially on light air days where dragging the transom or the large flat sections aft can create severe drag  which will, slow you down.

Weight distribution athwartships should not be ignored either and be mindful of the boats lines and work out the perfect angle of heel to get the best maintainable speed.

Just because you sail on a heavy boat, don’t ignore weight distribution. Roll tacking a 12 or 15 metre boat will be guarantee that you will be fast out of tacks at the same time maintaining the highest possible boatspeed .

Tip 4: Acceleration from Gear Changes

Avoid getting caught in another competitors windshadow or getting buried in disturbed air especially after a poor start.

To get out of either of these situations sheeting in and attempting to point high is always counterproductive, even in a lightweight boat.

You need to ease sheets and bear away until you’ve gained some boat speed to get clear or found clean air.

Tip 5: Practice to find your boats high and low upwind modes

Being able to maintain VMG while pointing higher than usual – or lower than usual – gives tactical control over other boats around you and helps to keep clean air.

Don’t be tempted in a race situation to overdo it, any more than 3-5 degrees in each direction will put you on the conveyor belt towards the back of the fleet.

Five further Racing Tips to Improve Your Sailing

When you want to kick your sailing performance up to the next level, many sailors think first of spending money – buying new sails, replacing gear, or even buying a new boat.

In most cases a number of small and easy improvements in your technique can yield great results using the gear that you already have.

Tip 1: Be Consistent

Always try to balance any risk you are thinking of taking against the potential gains, fellow competitors who have inconsistent results tend to be those that take too many risks.

When they get a run of good luck they are at the front of the fleet, but all too often the risks they then take don’t pay off and they end up mid-fleet or worse.

If your own results aren’t consistent, there’s a good chance you are being let down by a small number of mistakes and identifying these can be very revealing, helping you to finish  a long way further up the fleet.

Tip 2: Duck or Tack

When heading upwind on port tack you need to know well in advance whether to tack or duck upon meeting a starboard tack boat. You should always be thinking about what you would do if you meet a starboard tacker and so this emphasizes the importance of having your head out of the boat and knowing where the boats around you are at all times.

If you’re on starboard and want to continue on that tack, don’t let a port tack boat that’s on collision course with you tack under your lee bow, call them through and duck their transom if necessary.

Tip3: Post race Analysis

Always analyse your days performance in a race when you get back ashore. When you have a great result make a list of the major contributing factors to that success, conversely when you have a bad day, list the reasons why and then learn from your mistakes.

If sailing in a crewed boat, this process helps to improve communication with the team and is an excellent opportunity to air issues that may have arisen in the heat of competition. A bonus of this is that if there has been a problem during the race, there is a chance to air the grievances when blood pressure has subsided and everyone is in a more relaxed mood.

Tip 4: Sort the boat out

Everything in your boat must work flawlessly. You may train hard working on weaknesses but if the boat is not up to scratch any gains made by crewing improvements you have gained  may be lost during a race if a fitting or system fails or jams.

An advantage here is that psychologically, your team knows that if they push extra hard that the boat will not let them down.

Make sure that the bottom and foils are fair and smooth and that the rig is properly set up to class specs. Sails need to be as good as they can be given their age and past use.

Having the boat looking good and presenting well will make the crew feel good about sailing it and that is important for crew morale and performance.

Tip 5: Look After Yourself

Have the right clothing and equipment for the boat you are sailing on and for the conditions. Make sure that the gear you bring with you will cover the full range of conditions that you expect to encounter, the key being preparation. 

If you are cold or wet and not comfortable, you can sail at nowhere near your best and in fact if you become really uncomfortable you probably wish you were somewhere else as well.

Good quality gear can sometimes cost a bit more than inferior stuff but generally lasts quite a lot longer with the bonus being that you will enjoy your sailing more.

 

 

Week One – 5 Sailing Tips To Improve your Sailing (of 20)

When you want to kick your sailing performance up to the next level, many sailors think first of spending money – buying new sails, replacing gear, or even buying a new boat.

In most cases a number of small and easy improvements in your technique can yield great results using the gear that you already have.

Over the next four weeks I will give you some sailing tips to help improve your performance, this is by no means an exhaustive list but will give you some worthwhile things to work on.

Tip One: Practice Boat Handling

This does not need to involve hours of drills and practice – 15 minutes spent practicing your weakest manoeuvre before the start of each day’s racing will rapidly pay dividends.

Once this first manoeuvre is nailed, you need to find another weakness  to work on.

Buy or borrow a  GoPro camera in a waterproof housing, this is an ideal self-coaching tool and will reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when played back after a race or training session.

Tip Two: Hoists, drops and gybes

Getting gybes right in a single-sail boat in all weather is an essential skill as is perfecting hoists and drops in a boat that carries a spinnaker. Practice done outside of race conditions will always give excellent returns.

The boats with polished crew work in this area always gain an advantage on their rivals in a race especially in pressure cooker situations whatever the weather. Practice manoeuvres using a mark or some other point to replicate race pressure.

Tip Three: Mark all Settings and build up a tuning Guide

Your tuning guide will be a work in progress that will be continually refined over the course of your racing life.

A great starting point is to get a guide for your class or type of boat from your sail maker and then refine it to suit yourself and your crew. This refinement will come from your own on water experiences.

Everything should be marked – halyards, sheets, vang, outhaul, shroud tensions etc. Like the tuning guide, it’s the beginning of an ongoing process that sees both sail trim and boat handling improve as you gradually refine the markings.

Tip Four: Mark Roundings

You will be amazed at how much time is lost at mark roundings and this even goes for some great sailors. One of the biggest mistakes is failing to follow the basic ‘wide in, narrow out’ principle and thereby allowing other boats inside, added to that  uncoordinated sail handling by not planning ahead or leaving it too late will cost you plenty.

Sometimes an early drop will set you up to pass the boats in front, the small amount of time that you lose without the extra will be more than compensated for by an orderly roundng.

Planning ahead for your mark rounding will also pay dividends, plan where you want to be in relation to the boats around you least halfway down the leg.

Tip Five: Practice Starting

Getting away with clean air and runway below you at the start and on the first beat gives a valuable early advantage plus starting without being boxed in allows you to re-jig your plan if something changes immediately after the start.

Get a reliable transit and don’t be afraid of being half a length ahead of the boats around you as most hang back too far. Have a dedicated yachtrace timer and know how to use it.

Do time on distance drills and get to know your boats head to wind, tacking and gybing manouvreability and above all know the rules.