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29er Midwinters Roundup

29er Midwinters Roundup

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By Willie McBride
US Sailing Team Olympic Coach

 

 

Wow, what an awesome weekend of racing in Coronado! With 50 boats on the line, this was by far the most competitive 29er fleet that we've had in the US in over a decade, with some really impressive performances, and some very tight competition at the top of the fleet. Right now there are generally two different groups of teams on the race course - those who have the speed and handling to race, and those who need to focus 100% on developing those skills. Usually I focus on aspects of how to sail a 29er well, but because we had such great competition, this debrief will focus mainly on tactics and strategy.

Weather: Build Your Mental Model

Every day when I drove down to the Coronado venue from Point Loma, I drove over the Coronado Bridge, and my mind switched into race mode. Getting to see the race course from high up gives you a great vantage point to start thinking about what the wind is doing, and how the weather will effect the race course for the day.  Observing where the light patches are in the morning, where the breeze develops first, how the angle evolves over the course of the morning, what the clouds look like, where the blue sky appears first, etc. can give you a really good idea of what side will pay, later in the day. If you haven't read it yet, go read Wind Strategy right now! 

This weekend we saw perfect sea breeze conditions on the first day. Saturday, we saw a fog bank that sat offshore, probably with a warm top, causing the sea breeze to fight with the gradient, and delaying our nice racing conditions. Sunday was more of our normal sea breeze conditions, but with a colder temp on land, and a stronger gradient component from the north, causing a bit of a tricky transition on the water. Along with the Silver Strand geographic effects on the race course - a left bend in the wind as the wind passes over the land - all of these factors played into building a mental model for what the wind was doing. All of this is described in detail in Wind Strategy.

Once you have a mental model of what the wind is doing on the race course, the next step is to start building your strategy.

Strategy: Keep it simple

The first step here is asking yourself whether or not you can predict what the wind is doing. In a few of the races over the weekend, confidence was high, but in other races, the key realization was that you could not predict the wind's behavior, and that it was therefore better to stick to a more conservative, fleet management game plan.  In either case, simplicity is the name of the game, and sticking to a simple track based strategy is a good way to keep things simple.

 Image from McBride Racing Tactical Playbook

Image from McBride Racing Tactical Playbook

The 5 tracks that I generally ask teams to stick to are:

Tracks 1-4: Inside/outside + right/left - These tracks select the side of the course that you think will ultimately come out ahead, and then select whether you think gains will increase on the edges more quickly than risk.  The McBride Racing Tactical Playbook goes into a lot more depth on these, but the bottom line is to select the side you like, and then to choose your level of risk vs. reward on each side.

Track 5: Minimize decisions - I wrote a blog entry on this a while back, that outlines what to do when you're uncertain what the wind will do next.  This is more of a fleet management strategy, and was definitely appropriate for a lot of races at the Midwinters.

Once you know your track, the next step is to execute, and adapt to situations that arrise around the course using your tactical playbook.

Tactics: Build Your Playbook

There were so many tactical plays that occurred around the race course this weekend, and I don't have time to get into them all, so if you're interested in really drilling into this, please go buy the McBride Racing Tactical Playbook.  A few general observations to help guide your decision making in the future:

1. Use the top middle of the course to survive when your lanes aren't great.

 
 

2. Stay on the outside of the diamond at the beginning of the downwind, and the inside in the second half.

 
 

3. Center up in the commitment zone, then own your side coming into the leeward mark.

 
 

3 Elements Of A Successful Training Program

3 Elements Of A Successful Training Program

In the past we've written a few articles highlighting the importance of logging hours on the water, we've talked about the importance of getting out on the water without a coach, and we've given some tips on how to get the most benefit from a coach, but today we're going to back up one step...

The Skiff Squad Track

The Skiff Squad Track

Over the last several years, the Skiff Squad has helped to develop some of the top sailors in the country including College National Champions, ISAF Youth World and 29er Open World medalists, and Olympians.  From a coaching perspective, the path from getting into the boat to the top of the fleet is somewhat straightforward, and for sailors who are able to dedicate the time, the process is fairly methodical, so we're going to break it down for you below.

November PNW Debrief

November PNW Debrief

2016 November PNW TC

Debrief

With a solid group of ten sailors in the PNW region, there are a few goals to keep in mind before the next event. I strongly encourage you guys to grow your region whether that is through adding younger kids or joining up with Canadian teams. I also think it is important to push your local clubs to let the 29er fleet become privately owned.

Share the Fundamentals

It is important that the group starts to create a culture of teamwork and sharing. It would be beneficial to organize days where you practice as a group even if you don’t have a coach. Go practice the footwork and handwork we learned for maneuvers until it is muscle memory. Front, Back, Back, Front.  

Main Trim

Be aggressive with pulling the boat into and out of maneuvers. A good tack can be completely done by the crew pulling on the trap into and out of the tack. The keys to pulling is to wait till the boat has maximum heel, then drop your butt hanging on the wire, and then pull your body to a flat trapping position and go straight to hooking in. The power in your sails come from precise sail trim, so focus on being consistent with where you put your sails. More info on that from the last debrief below….

There are two reasons to ease your mainsheet: either you are over trimmed, and thus stalling your sail, or your are overpowered, and thus healing the boat.  If one of those things is not true, you should always have your mainsheet two-blocked!  Here are some generalizations that can be made about the 2 reasons to ease main.

Main is stalling

  • Wind is lighter (light to side force)

  • Vang should be loose (goal of easing is to open leach)

Boat is heeling

  • Wind is stronger (driving force to windy)

  • Crew weight should be all the way outboard

  • Vang should be tight (don’t want leech to open off)

LEARN THE BASICS THROUGH VIDEO

There are about eight videos that have been posted from the weekend. All have some really good information in them if you watch closely and break it down to step by step videos...first watch main trim….then watch body movements...then watch leaches….then watch rig movements...etc. Videos from the weekend can be found here. Compare and analyze like we discussed. Here is a good video of  Ryan and Wells at CalYC from the SoCal Squad in light air.

 

Spread the word to make the squad happen. If there are any questions always feel free to reach out.

November NorCal Debrief

November NorCal Debrief

2016 November NorCal TC

Debrief

With the NorCal region starting to flourish, it will be important for all the teams to nail down the basics of boat handling before the new year in order to put us in a strong position for strong results at Worlds.

Lessons Learned

Saturday - A good rabbit start is crucial to productive training and the learning process. When you line up well it allows you to judge how well you are doing at different aspects that each line up focuses on.

Sunday - If you can sail well in light air everything else gets easier. As you add more wind you are given more options of what you can do. For example, in light wind if you need more power the only option is to lean into the boat and power up, but if there were wind you could also adjust sail trim in order to get power on.

Light Wind - 0 to 5 Knots, Less is More

For most teams every movement in light air shakes the rig, boat, and blades. Shaking is not fast. The goal is to simplify movements and let the boat get moving. All you are aiming to do is to help the boat move. Prioritize getting your weight forward, slowly transitioning weight to each foot, and thinking out your movements through boat handling. Check out the video below and decide which movements are smooth or not….

 

Side Force - 6-12 Knots, Harness All Power

Be aggressive with pulling the boat into and out of maneuvers. A good tack can be completely done by the crew pulling on the trap into and out of the tack. The keys to pulling is to wait till the boat has maximum heel, then drop your butt hanging on the wire, and then pull your body to a flat trapping position and go straight to hooking in. The power in your sails come from precise sail trim, so focus on being consistent with where you put your sails. More info on that from the last debrief below….

There are two reasons to ease your mainsheet: either you are over trimmed, and thus stalling your sail, or your are overpowered, and thus healing the boat.  If one of those things is not true, you should always have your mainsheet two-blocked!  Here are some generalizations that can be made about the 2 reasons to ease main.

Main is stalling

  • Wind is lighter (light to side force)

  • Vang should be loose (goal of easing is to open leach)

Boat is heeling

  • Wind is stronger (driving force to windy)

  • Crew weight should be all the way outboard

  • Vang should be tight (don’t want leech to open off)

Learn the Basics Through Video

There are about eight videos that have been posted from the weekend. All have some really good information in them if you watch closely and break it down to step by step videos...first watch main trim….then watch body movements...then watch leaches….then watch rig movements...etc. Videos from the weekend can be found here. Compare and analyze like we discussed. Here is a good video of  Ryan and Wells at CalYC from the SoCal Squad in light air.

Please register for the December NorCal Skiff Squad Clinic before October 31st to avoid late registration fees.

October SoCal Debrief

October SoCal Debrief

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...

2017 Calendaring

2017 Calendaring

One of the biggest developments in 2017 compared to years past is that we are working hard to lock in a schedule for the full year, so that we can be in sync with the US Sailing ODP program, as well as other events throughout the year....

Passing On The Legacy

Passing On The Legacy

In 2011, Tyler MacDonald asked me to sail the 29er Europeans with him in Switzerland, and I told him that I would be remiss to commit to a summer of sailing in Europe without putting in a full effort to prepare before hand.

October NorCal Debrief

October NorCal Debrief

This weekend’s stormy weather created a way for sailors to push their limits and preparation on day one, with lighter wind on Sunday to focus on being calm and smooth....

September SoCal Debrief

September SoCal Debrief

This weekend’s range of wind speed in the ocean provided an awesome opportunity to focus on the finer point of sailing in lumpy conditions.