Over the weekend we saw each of you sail for the first time, and we're really excited for the potential in this core group of teams up in the Bay Area.  Each of you showed some moments of great things over the weekend, and because you are all thinking about the Worlds this far in advance, we think that you guys are in a good place to realize the goals that you shared on Saturday morning by the time the summer rolls around.  With that said, it is very important for everyone to keep the big picture in mind; the Worlds this summer will be the top teams from each little training group like this one, in each state, in each country, all around the world.  All of those teams will be on the water quite a bit between now and then, so accomplishing your goals will require a smart plan, and a firm commitment to logging hours on the water.  

Our goal this weekend, and at future training camps will be to hold you guys to higher and higher standards to help you all see the bigger picture.  We have a long way to go, but we can tell you from experience that if you’re willing to put in the time, it will be a super fun and rewarding journey!

The Big Picture

As you set your sights on Worlds this summer and beyond, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.  At the top of the sport of sailing, everyone is talented.  Everyone was the best in their regional fleet and had a good feel for the boat.  The big distinction between who is good and who is great, is who is able to improve most quickly for the longest.  To this end, it is important to work on creating a system for improvement that will keep your learning curve steeper, for longer than anyone else’s.  This is a good article about this idea that was written by an AC guy, Kevin Hall. Here are a few ideas that all three of your teams can put into practice right away, to learn more effectively.

Perfect Boat Work

We mentioned this several times over the weekend, but your first homework assignment for the next month is to clean up all of the lines and rigging on your boats.  Think of this as free points on the race course: you can do the work at home, at night when you couldn’t be sailing, and it will without a doubt improve your scores.  A few themes to keep in mind here are:

  • Simplify: Get rid of unnecessary knots, clean up tails of lines so that there isn’t any more line in the boat than there needs to be, etc.  Make the boat look clean!
  • Reduce friction: In general, all rigging in sailing is about reducing friction.  Friction makes the spin halyard harder to pull up, and prevents you from pulling on vang hard enough.  Reduce friction by tapering halyards, by using skinny lines where possible, by ensuring that there are no twists in the halyards inside the mast, etc.

90% of this work will not require any money, just elbow grease! The parts that do require some money to be spent though are usually worth it, as they will ensure that you’re making the most of your time on the water, so don’t skimp on your gear; make it perfect!

Count Hours

This is a good exercise that will help you keep track of how your training is going.  This spreadsheet is one that Dane and Willie used during their Olympic sailing, and one that all of our teams fill out at some point.  It is a tool that we strongly recommend each of you spend some time looking over and figuring out.  This document will help you get started shaping your training plan for the next few months between now and the Worlds.

Drilling Into Techniques

The first few hundred hours that you spend in the 29er develop the habits and foundation that you will carry into all of your future techniques and skills in all kinds of sailing.  All of you guys are still solidly in this phase of your sailing careers, and during this time it is crucial to focus on building good habits, while learning to understand why we’re asking you to do things certain ways and not others.  Here are a few lessons that you should all noodle on a little bit to see if you have any questions about for the next clinic.

Know Why You Are Easing Main Sheet

There are two reasons to ease your mainsheet: either you are over trimmed, and thus stalling your sail, or your are overpowered, and thus heeling 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)

Find The Correct Rhythm In Side Force Conditions

For reasons we’ll get into later, good boat speed requires constant adjustment of the mainsheet, so probably the most important skill that you can master is the skill of feeling the rhythm of pressure in the boat as you sail through puffs and lulls.  Your reactions in driving force conditions (over 12 knots or so) will probably be pretty intuitive, and most of you looked solid on this front, but the reactions in side force conditions are the opposite of their driving force counterparts, so you’ll need to be very careful not to create bad habits here. To remember the correct reactions to each change in pressure in light and side force conditions, always remember, “In and ease; trim and squeeze.”  In lulls you should be moving weight “in” and “easing” the sheet.  In puffs you should be “trimming” the sheet and “squeezing” the boat flat with your weight.

Your second homework assignment for the next month will help you work on developing a feel for this rhythm without you having to think about it! The assignment is to get on the water as much as possible, and to invest some hours into practicing the heeled to windward progressions that we talked about over the weekend.  You’ll probably need to log several hours of the drill before you feel super stable, so plan on spending the first 15-20 minutes of every practice warming up with this drill, no matter what the conditions are.  

If you think that you’ve mastered the HtW drills, then replace your tiller extension with a piece of line, and work on sailing around a race course without being about to push on the tiller; this will be the next step in your jedi training!

Get Fit!

You are all looking to step up your level of sailing, and a big part of that is starting to get stronger and fitter in a way that compliments your sailing.  It sounds like several of you have a few activities that you do outside of sailing for fitness already which is great, but we highly recommend tracking your performance on a few simple exercises so that you can understand how you are progressing like we did with the plank workout.  We have all of your scores stored in a spreadsheet, and we’ll be tracking these over time.  Mike Kuschner at Sailing Performance Training put together our workout this weekend, and if you guys ever see him around the Bay, you should definitely pick his brain on what it takes to compete at the pro level from a fitness perspective. Give his instagram some love, here.  

Videos from the weekend can be found here
Photos from the weekend can be found here

Please register for the October NorCal Skiff Squad Clinic before September 30th to avoid late registration fees.