Ask the Right Question


Ask the Right Question – I have copied below excerpts from an interview I did with Aussie sailor Mike Quirk in order to find out what questions to ask in the boat park in order to get better.

Quirky is a successful businessman and that success has flowed through to his sailing. He regularly sails in regattas and championships in Europe and keeps the latest model Holger Jess 505 on the continent. 

Mike is not a one type of boat guy and also sails very competitively in the Tasar class and has been competing at the pointy end of the fleet at many Tasar world championships.

Mikes Club is Royal Prince Edward YC in Sydney Australia. Quirky has tackled the sport with a vengeance putting in many hours of training on the water. For much of his practice, he uses a top-notch coach.

Brett: You are constantly practising and using the services of a coach, I have also noticed that you are happy to help others and something you said about questions that sailors ask each other, particularly resonated with me.

Quirky: None of us gets enough time to go sailing regularly. We’re not Olympians and we’re not professional sailors. So we need to get the easy wins with our practice and with our learning. We tend to focus on stuff that’s way too complicated and we don’t focus on the basics.
The thing that’s changed my sailing from when I used to finish mid-fleet to being able to win a National Championship, is basically just sailing the boat fast all the time, keeping it flat, and keeping it in the right power range.

If you practice that, you get so much further up the curve than if you’re frig around with all the other things like buying new sails and trying to understand all the complications that to this day I don’t understand.
We all ask questions in the boat park. And people ask me and they ask other people. “Should I use more ram? And should I use more Vang? Or how much weight did you have? 

Every single one of those questions I’ve come to believe is the wrong question. And if anybody answers that question, you’ve really got to wonder why. I would argue that they don’t know what they’re talking about because all of those things are subjective.

More ram? Well, more ram than what? It depends on your weight. Depends on where you were to start with. It depends on a whole lot of things.
So when we’re all looking, particularly in Five 0’s we’re all trying to work out whether I should have more…how I should be setting my boat up, instead of understanding what it is I’m actually trying to do. All of those setup things are just trying to get towards a fast sail shape and a fast technique.

Many people in boat parks are willing to offer advice but 99% of them don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Ian Brown’s a good mate of mine. He’s got an Olympic medal, has done a lot of coaching, and was the head coach in the 2000 Olympics. So when he starts to tell me something about my rig and what I’m looking for, I sit up and listen. But most of us don’t really know.

So if we ask a question like, “Should I use more ram or should less ram or should I use more rake?”. It’s the wrong question. And if somebody answers it? They’re probably the wrong people to be talking to.

Brett: We tend to talk amongst people at our own level at a regatta because we’re too embarrassed to talk to the good guys.

Quirky: The good guys, in fact, are more than happy to give you any help you ask for.
 And I’ve heard this before where…I think it was the last nationals when somebody didn’t ask me a question up in Manly. Afterwards, he said, ” I just thought you’d be focused on winning and wouldn’t want to have to talk to me.”
That is very rarely the case. If you talk to somebody as they’re trying to put their boat in the water, perhaps. But most of the time, everybody’s really happy to help.

You’ve got to make sure you’re getting help from the people that have got the right advice.