2016 October SoCal TC
Over the last two weekends, we have had a great group take part in the SoCal training camps with 12 teams lining up on the water. We touched on many different topics, and we hope that everyone took good notes from the weekend about what each of your teams needs to work on the most before the next event. Below is a debrief from both weekends that highlights a few key ideas that we think are important to think more about, and internalize to help keep your learning curves steep. In particular, the veterans in the fleet need to work on developing feel through intentional focus on feeling various aspects of the boat, while our younger teams will make the biggest strides right now by carefully comparing their techniques with those of the top teams, and working towards imitating those techniques.
Round Robin Racing - Feel the boat differently
Round robin racing is all about bringing as much value as you can to each new pairing of teammates, and challenging yourself to assess, and then to support your teammates' weaknesses as quickly and effectively as possible. For our veterans especially, this is an opportunity to think about aspects of boat speed, boat handling, and racing that you might normally take for granted. While boat handling and boat speed skills will contribute a lot to this drill, probably the most important skill is the ability to communicate clearly, to get in sync with a new teammate quickly, and to get comfortable as a team so that you can pick your head up and start thinking about racing tactics and strategy.
"Feel" is something we talk about a lot, but it can often seem very abstract. Improving feel requires us to focus on a variety of different things such as pressure in your feet, pressure on the helm, pressure in the sheets, etc. One way to feel the boat in a different way is to do a drill like blindfolded sailing, where you are forced to use different input than vision to figure out what the boat needs. Another way is through round robin sailing, where you are forced to pay attention to different sensations depending on who you are sailing with. There is lots to learn in this drill, but you will only improve if you are intentionally looking for the lessons and TRYING to learn. Remember: the best sailors are the best because they learn from those who are better than them, as well as those who are worse - do your best to find lessons in everything you do.
One last note on round robin racing: In short races like these, it is critical to avoid pile ups at the marks. The most consistent teams always set themselves up to be on the inside at the leeward mark and outside at the windward mark unless they are looking to gybe set. Top teams should use this drill to learn from the other top teams; find subtle differences between who you sail with and your sailing partners to decide what is more beneficial for tactics or boat speed. When you are paired with less experienced teammates, prioritize boat handling practice in any time that you get before the start so that you can get on the same page. Less experienced teams should use this drill to imitate (more information on this in the next section). Below are the round robin scores. If two teams have the same score for a race this means one boat was penalized.
IMITATE, IMITATE, INNOVATE
In other words, copy the best until you are close to being the best, and then change things depending on how they feel to you and what you have tested to find is better. The first step is to observe others. A good time for this is when you are in the coach boat or sailing with other sailors like in the round robins. Observe, ask question and listen all throughout the clinic. A great time to learn more about what the best guys do is to ask specific questions in debrief talks... “What does your turn look like through a gybe? Where are you turning faster versus slower?”
Once you know what to do, work on perfecting the details. Make your sail setups match all the time. Make movements of body weight and sails deliberate and precise. Once your mechanics are sorted out, feel and timing become the keys to good maneuvers. Feel when the boat responds well to a movement, or when the boat stops because your flatten was too early or too late. Become very critical of yourself until know why you are slow or fast, and then innovate.
In the video below Dane is running a moving weather mark drill. Watch the top couple teams closely. All the tacks look very similar, but when you look closely you will find some tacks look better because of the timing of the tack starting and the crew pulling the boat through the tack as well as some crews nailing the flatten or some going to soon or to late causing the blades to stall. See below….
Imitating the Playbook - 80%
It is easy to watch teams trim and move in the boat and slowly get better at copying them, but when it comes to racing, things get complicated quickly for newer teams who are still focusing on boat speed and boat handling. The 80% rule allows you to execute simple tactics most of the time with a few simple steps. Step One: decide if you want to go left or right. Step Two: decide if you want to take the outside track and lead into the corner or be the inside track and lead out of the corner. Step Three: Bring it back to the middle of the race course at 80% of the way to the lay line. Step Four: Decide if you gained or lost. Step Five: Take one more opportunity to go left or right and then start setting up to round the top mark. We'll talk about this a lot more at Hamlin #2, but if you're interested in reading more about the philosophy, you can check out Willie McBride's book on the tactical playbook structure by clicking here.
Please register for Skiff Squad Coaching at Hamlin #2 as soon as possible to help us plan for the correct number of coaches and motor boats.