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Fall ODP West Debrief

Fall ODP West Debrief

Hello everyone,

It was awesome to have 6 boats out on the water and to work on speed and boat handling in heavy wind conditions. I’m going to review the specific techniques we talked about to execute gybes in heavy air, and then I will switch focus to discuss some elements of speed. Please read both the skipper and crew sections so that you know what is going on in your sailing partner’s world. 

Boat Handling

For gybes both skipper and crew need to be extremely stable, and putting their bodies in a position where they can push themselves across the boat, against their momentum that wants to throw them out of the boat as it turns. If you do not provide a centripetal force (a “center seeking” force) in the form of pushing yourself off the windward rail towards the new windward side, then you will fall out or get stuck on the weather side of the boat (new leeward side).

Crews are especially susceptible to being thrown out of the boat in a gybe. Skippers should be aware of this and give a countdown so that the crew knows when to go in, and so that they know that the turn will not start before they are ready. When you are ready to go in, you should lead with your shoulders and end up standing with your feet, butt, and shoulders all lined up. If you do not do this one part of your body will be left behind! It is really good to be standing on the rail and leaning inwards. Your weight is still on the rail and you can push off with your feet at any moment. If you are perfectly vertical or leaning outwards, the turn could throw you off balance. 

It is very important to make sure that the spinnaker sheet does not ease excessively as you come into the boat. This means that you will have to do something to trim in the sheet as you come in. Dane and I seemed to agree that the best way to do this is to keep the sheet in your back hand and raise it above your head and outward as you come in, then once you let go of the puck you can use your front hand to grab the sheet again and trim in even more if necessary. Once you are in the middle of the boat you will need to “check” the kite. The idea is to pull the old sheet in quickly just before pulling the spinnaker over so that the leach of the spinnaker is straight and under control before you pull it over. If you check too early in the turn the wind will immediately fill the spinnaker again and it will be useless. If you check too late the top half of the spinnaker has likely already twisted and crossed in front of the luff. The result of checking too early or too late is basically the same, the spinnaker will come out twisted.

Footwork

Proper footwork for a crew in a gybe is front, back (optional shuffle step) new back, new front. Visualize the footwork as I describe it. Front foot slides forward and in, planting on the wing inside the rail but outside the outermost toe bar. Back foot steps across to the hiking strap area on the new side. After pulling the spinnaker across you can do a little shuffle so that you new front foot is on the outer toe bar, or you can just stay in the middle. Either way, as the boat loads up on the new side jump out onto the trapeze landing with your back foot just before the front on the rail.

Skippers have to get the tiller under the mainsheet before they cross the boat. There are a few different ways to do this, but I prefer to hold my tiller extension close to the end, get up, and as I move towards the center I push my mainsheet hand forward. This keeps the main from easing too far and gives me room to pass my tiller extension under/behind the mainsheet and under the boom. My mainsheet hand then goes on top of the boom and my tiller extension hand goes outward so that my tiller extension is pointing at the new rail. My feet are wide, I have full control of steering in both directions, and I have the main pinned in the center right above my hand. I often pull down a bit on the main to further support myself and too keep the leech tight so I can further depower the main. Once the spinnaker comes across I can let go of the boom, take a seat on the new rail, and switch my hands. 

Footwork: Just before the gybe pull your back foot out of the hiking strap so that it is ready to step across. As you stand up push off of your front foot hard and step all the way across to just inboard of the hiking strap area with your back foot. Then do a small shuffle step, new back, new front, and hook that front foot under the new hiking strap. As you hit the rail you can hook your new back foot under the strap too. 

I hope this helps you all think about gybes in a more detailed way. Always start with the big picture: flat boat, full speed, smooth turn, and then focus on how to achieve that with very specific details. Please try to go through this process with tacks and ask me if you have any questions. I look forward to working with you all at the next training opportunity.


- Coach Neil


Three (Better) Metrics To Evaluate Progress

Three (Better) Metrics To Evaluate Progress

Whether you are a coach helping an athlete learn to focus on that process, or an athlete figuring out what feedback you need from your coach in order to sail to your potential, here are three metrics that don’t require any fancy technology, that can help to shift the focus back to the process.

Summer Is Coming!

Summer Is Coming!

The sun is back, and the breeze is up; summer is right around the corner! This summer, Skiff Squad and 2Niner will be teaming up to offer coaching support on the West Coast as well as internationally, and we hope you'll join us! To make the most of your summer, we want to help you craft a personalized schedule that fits your experience, and goals.

The majority of North American racing this year will take place on the West Coast, so we have put together a program to support that circuit with an all-star coaching cast, while offering coaching at several other National and International events.

The West Coast Circuit

Early Summer Training - June 18-21

Start the summer off right with a Southern California Skiff Squad clinic, June 18-21. Willie and Neil will be coaching, and helping to get everyone dialed in for a great summer! Details on venue will follow shortly, but we’re hoping to hold this in San Diego or Long Beach.

29er North Americans in Squamish - July 2-6

Squamish, BC is known as the windsurfing capital of Canada, and while we’ve never sailed here before, we’ve heard it’s beautiful! The event should be a great experience in a breezy venue with top level coaching!

29er Nationals in the Gorge - July 9-14

The 29er Nationals are in the legendary Gorge venue, in Cascade Locks, Oregon this summer. Whether you’re still figuring out heavy air skiff sailing and are looking for the ultimate windy practice venue, or you’re a veteran looking to rip around on one of the best race courses in North America, you don’t want to miss this one.

Southern California Training - August 10-14

At the end of the summer we’ll have teams coming home with national and international racing experience, and we need to solidify the skills in our local fleets to ensure that we’re building a solid training environment for next season! We hope everyone will join us for one last summer Skiff Squad camp in Long Beach.

Pricing

Reserve Your 2019 Summer Package*
300.00
Quantity:
Reserve Package

The calendar above includes 20 days of coaching up and down the West Coast of North America, designed to help teams perform at events this summer, and head into next season with new skills, new confidence, and a solid learning process in place to be at the top of the fleet next year.

For teams participating in the whole circuit, the coaching cost will be as follows:

Reserve your spot on or before May 27th: $1650 per sailor
Reserve your spot on or after May 28th: $2300 per sailor for the whole summer

For sailors interested in participating at individual events, the cost can be viewed on the registration page for the individual event.

International Racing

29er Worlds

After the Nationals, many of our teams will be heading to the open 29er Worlds in Gdansk, Poland for the peak event of the summer. Coach Phil will be leading the charge in Poland, to get the US squad onto the podium. The logistics for this event are currently in the works, and will be coordinated with all interested teams, so if you’re interested in heading to Poland, send Phil an e mail.

CORK Regatta

Due to conflicts with various other events this year, we expect the US contingent to be smaller at CORK this year than in years past, but for those unable to attend Worlds, and looking for some international experience, this is an option. If you’re interested in attending the CORK event, send Willie and e mail.

April Skiff Squad Debrief

April Skiff Squad Debrief

Last weekend the squad made big improvements in the light conditions on day one, testing those skills in the morning of day two, and finishing it off with some nice planing conditions. This debrief will focus on those light air lessons, and what we’d like to see you solidify before the next training camp!

Flattens

Across maneuvers and across conditions, one of the most important aspects of good boat handling is the flatten. Teams that are the best at boat handling have the best flattens. If you can master the flatten in light, medium, and heavy air then you will have a huge part of your boat handling locked in. Flattens generate all the power for you boat handling and they are the single most important move to generate speed. We talked a lot about the goals of a flatten and how to do them, but simply knowing this will not be enough. I urge all of you to spend as much time as you can focusing on perfecting your flattens. The difference between a good one and a bad one is monumental. When teams had bad flattens this weekend they were rushed, unbalanced, aggressive, and jerky. When you were able to have a long, smooth, balanced, powerful flatten, your boats shot forward and the maneuver was very good. I hope you all felt this difference at one point or another. I’m going to link two clips from my videos. One is of a bad flatten (click here), and one is of a very good flatten (click here). Your job is to identify the differences and make a list for your team of improvements you can make to have a better flatten.

Check out the playlist from the weekend here to compare your own technique.

The Bell Curve Flatten

Remember the discussion we had about cavitation on the foils? Below are two videos of a paddle slapping the water. In the first, the boat is moving forward, and you can see water fill back in around the paddle. In the second, the boat is stationary, and a big hole appears in the water. In both cases here, the paddle ventilates, but that’s because we’re swinging the paddle at the water HARD, and not moving very fast. Hopefully with the way the water fills back in around the paddle in the moving boat video, you can imagine how flow stays attached more easily at higher speeds. This is why our rate of flatten actually needs to increase as the boat accelerates.

Slow down

One of the easiest ways to improve your boat handling is to be patient and take it slowly. You can practice doing tacks and gybes at half, or quarter speed. You may find that slowing everything down actually makes your average boat speed faster. Going slower means that you will find it easier to get in sync and stay in sync with your partner. You will also have a slower rate of turn, which means less rudder movement to slow your boat speed. Flattening slower is a good way to practice being smooth. A really helpful drill is the entry-exit drill. Start a 1 minute timer, and each time it goes off practice just the entry to your maneuver. Stop in the middle and then practice an exit to get back up to speed. Once you have isolated and mastered each piece of the maneuver you will be able to add all the pieces back together and do a perfect maneuver at a faster speed. At the least, you will know that you got better at one part of your maneuver.


Videos from the weekend can be found here.

The next event will be at Mission Bay Yacht Club, May 4-5. For more information, click here.

Photos from the weekend can be found here. Please be sure to tag @skiffsquad when you post!

March SoCal Squad Debrief

March SoCal Squad Debrief

California has been a hub for skiff sailing since the first 29ers were brought to the US, but we’re in a rebuilding phase right now, and there’s a lot of work to be done to get back to the top of the fleet! One of the keys to success is getting the top talent together from around California to push each other, and to raise the bar in everything from technique to training approaches. This weekend was a good step forward, and it’s exciting to see so many enthusiastic young teams getting involved in the class. This debrief will focus on a few major takeaways from the weekend to help you keep making progress in the next few weeks until we can do it again!

Mechanics Then Racing

In the skiff classes more than any other class, nailing down good fundamentals before ratcheting up the difficulty is key, as there is such a huge difference between good maneuvers and great maneuvers in these boats. To play the game, you need to develop the tools, and that starts with knowing your footwork and handwork forwards and backwards. We did quite a bit of tacking and gybing in a range of breeze this weekend, and saw some great maneuvers, but there is still refinement to do for everyone.

If you’re new to the mechanics check out this playlist, about 29er maneuvers.

Whether you’re new to the mechanics or a veteran, take a look at the boat handling videos from the weekend, and do a little technique dissection. How was the handwork? Footwork? Was the boat stable through the maneuver or did the movements shake the rig around in a lot of unnecessary movements? Was the turn in sync with the weight? Was the sheet in sync with the turn? You’ll get way more out of this debrief if you actually do the analysis yourself rather than me giving you all of the answers!

 
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Starting Practice

What goes into a good start? When people think about starting practice, the number one thing I hear teams talk about is acceleration on the starting line. How fast can you get from parked to full speed? Undoubtedly this is an important skill to work on, but there are many other factors that go into starting, which I would actually argue are more important than the mechanics of the acceleration itself.

Positioning plays a huge role. If you can put yourself in a nice spot with a hole to leeward to accelerate into, your acceleration move will be much easier, as you’ll have space to put the bow down. Positioning requires good down speed control, good time-distance awareness, and a toolbox of tactical moves. To work on this, there are a few drills that you can do to jumpstart the learning curve, and start to see the game from a new perspective:

  1. Time-distance drill: Set a watch for two minutes, and get into position 1:30 from the starting gun. Try to pick a spot where you think you’ll drift down onto the boat end or the pin end just in time to pull the trigger in the last few seconds and start right next to your mark. Fight to avoid sliding for the final minute and thirty seconds and see where you end up. Adjust your positioning and try again!

  2. AMWOT drill: Check it out here. This one is huge for mastering the down speed boat control.

  3. Two Boat Time Distance Drill: Same as the first drill, but one boat is assigned to be a windward boat and the other is the leeward boat. The goal of the windward boat is to force the leeward boat down the line without going for the hook. The leeward boat is trying to stay up the line, and eventually end up on a mark at the gun. This is a great one for practicing the tactical game. As the windward boat the goal is to stay out of phase with the leeward boat, while the leeward boat is trying to get in sync with the windward boat.

Master these skills, and you’ll start to view the starting line game in a totally new way.

Focus On The Details

Getting to the top is all about refining your learning process to improve faster than those around you. Figuring out how to ask the right questions is critical, and it starts by getting more specific about the questions you’re asking. Rather than targeting improvement in “steering” as a whole, we need to be digging into the details. “I want to work on the down turn at the tops of the waves, and ensuring that the boat stays loaded through the troughs,” gives you a clear target - a goal that you can come back to when reviewing video or looking at gps tracks to see if you moved the needle. Refining your focus to emphasize specifics like this is a skill that takes practice, but if you make a habit of setting daily goals, and then evaluating your progress at the end of the day, you’ll improve very quickly, and when you do you’ll see your skills respond accordingly.

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.

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.

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.