Boat handling mechanics include all of the little movements, timing, and coordination required to execute good maneuvers. Where do you put your feet? Who carries the sheet through the maneuvers? Which teammate initiates the tack? Mechanics can be incredibly complex because each component of each maneuver can be broken into hundreds of tiny details, which often leads to a lengthy learning curve when it comes to boat handling. To avoid boat handling plateaus, and get through the learning curve as quickly as possible, one-on-one instruction from a class expert can make a huge difference. The Benchmark Evals are our tool for ensuring that you learn good habits from the outset so that we don't have to go back and make adjustments later. Here are a few thoughts on how to solidify good boat handling mechanics so that you can start thinking about the next topic on your checklist.
Breaking Down the Benchmark Eval
The Benchmark Eval is your main tool to keep you on track and progressing towards boat handling mastery, so let's break it down to understand how to get the most out of the Eval.
The broadest category of skill that we'll talk about are maneuvers. These are skills that involve lots of complex details - tacking, leeward mark roundings, upwind speed, etc.
Each maneuver has three sections: entry, middle, and exit. The performance of the boat typically changes in each section, and we compensate by focusing on different functional parts.
These are the nitty, gritty details that make or break the maneuver. For the fastest improvement, figure out how to isolate and work separately on each one.
Develop the Vocabulary
The first step in nailing down mechanics is to learn to analyze each functional part individually. A good start is to watch a lot of videos, preferably in slow motion, and talk about what's working and what needs work. The more you watch videos and focus on the details, the better you'll get at identifying issues in real time. Your goal is to be able to do a maneuver on the water, identify any functional parts that didn't work, and make changes on the fly. Eventually this will become second nature, and you'll do it without thinking when conditions change.
Isolate the Functional Parts
Improving one aspect of a maneuver without negatively impacting other functional parts is the hallmark of a great coach. If your footwork isn't working in a tack, fixing the footwork without creating bad habits in handwork or crew timing can be a challenge. The key is to come up with creative drills that isolate the focus to one skill. Instead of doing 100 tacks to correct skipper smoothness through a tack, have the crew tack around the bow 10 times. If the crew is having trouble hitting full extension out of the tack, work on tacking without clipping in.
For this month, we'd like you to focus on the vocabulary: watch as many videos of maneuvers as possible, and refer back to the Benchmark Eval sheet when you do to see if the maneuvers that you're watching check all of the right boxes. If there are any particularly challenging functional parts when you do your next benchmark, be sure to talk about them with your remote coach.