Should We Train More and Race Less?


Racing sailboats is addictive and for many of us, the more we race, the more we want to race.

The potential for us to improve our racing results though, grows the more we practice our skills.

We need to look forward to and enjoy training, if we don’t it becomes a chore to be discarded. Knowing the end results of your time, and developing skills will ensure that this will be the case.

Few top sailors got to where they are, without a serious amount of time on the water honing their craft.

Why don’t we train more?

Lack of time is probably one of the greatest reasons. Even if you are time-poor, getting out on the course an hour before the start to go through a few drills will see a noticeable improvement.

Another reason is that it is difficult to measure progress. The race course is never the same, conditions are always different, so it’s very tough to measure progress in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, if you want to get better race results, there is no substitute for practice.

Types of Training

Thinking about your last race, where did you lose the most places on the race course?

This will form the basis of what you should concentrate on. You should identify your greatest weaknesses and ascertain where the biggest room for improvement is.

Is it being behind on the start line, going slow in a straight line, or capsizing during a tack, a gybe, or a mark rounding?

A couple of ideas to get you started are:

  • Practice slow boat handling such as hovering at a mark.
  • A figure of 8s – great for practicing tacks, gybes and mark roundings.
  • Two-boat tuning.
  • Sailing without the tiller.

Two Boat Tuning

Find someone in your fleet who wants to improve and partner with them for side-by-side lineups. Initially set your boats up the same and have a plan on what you are going to change before each run.

Set up a couple of boat lengths apart and sail for a couple of minutes. Compare notes and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Keep a record and build on findings all the time making adjustments so that your speed keeps improving.

Two-boat tuning is a way to test out technical and technique changes, risk-free. You will find out more about how to make your boat go faster in 30 minutes of two-boat tuning than you might discover in a whole year of racing.

Training Tools

Many classes do not allow GPS-based instruments while you are racing.

Having said that, there is no restriction when using these tools for training. If you can’t always find a tuning partner, a way to measure your progress is to fit an instrument like a Velocitelc, Sailmon or Vakaros Atlas 2.

These instruments not only measure boatspeed but also show pitch and heel. By making adjustments to how you sail your boat, the instrument will show how the changes you have made affect your speed.

When you get back to the beach or marina you can look at the data to further reinforce what worked and what didn’t and learn from it.

If you have been training with a partner and they also have the same instrument as you, by downloading and overlaying your tracks, you can debrief and further learn from the session.