“Ten seconds of focus” refers to the period of time immediately following each maneuver that plays a critical role in getting back up to speed and racing. Whether tacking, gybing, setting, dowsing, or accelerating, the ability to settle quickly, and immediately lock into race mode is a skill that requires you to ignore distractions, and adopt a sense of urgency to get the boat sailing fast again. In practicing this skill, it is important to know what to focus on and what to ignore. Once you understand the basics, you’ll need to practice, practice, practice, until the intense burst of focus and urgency becomes a natural part of every maneuver.
The idea here is really simple: focus on the factors that contribute to speed, and ignore everything else. In practice, there are only three factors that actually matter:
Steering - Steer the boat smoothly, adjust for sea state, and nail the exit angle. Eliminate any bobbles in steering in those first ten seconds.
Weight - If you’re underpowered, immediately lock in the heel of the boat with active weight movement; if overpowered, hit full extension on the wire as quickly as possible.
Trim - Shift through your gears quickly, going from an eased acceleration mode, to a tight-leech point mode. If the maneuver was good you’ll be able to trim tight immediately.
Ignore anything that doesn’t directly contribute to the three important factors. For example, things that don’t matter include:
Passing mainsheet from skipper to crew (as long as skipper is trimming well)
Trapeze bail clipping (as long as your weight is fully extended/regulating heel)
Cleaning up spaghetti, or untangling feet from sheets
Tiller hand switch (as long as you can steer behind your back)
How to Practice
The following progression of drills should be used to master ten seconds of focus out of tacks. Once you’ve solidified tacking technique, the same drills and concepts can be applied to any maneuver.
Crossed Up Sailing - Practice coming out of a tack and sailing the boat for 10 seconds without the skipper doing their hand switch. This means they will be steering behind the back with their front hand, while trimming the mainsheet in the back hand. After 10 seconds, do the hand switch, pass the sheet to the crew, and prepare for the next tack.
Tack Without Clipping - This drill can be run like any regular tacking drill, but instead of exiting the maneuver and clipping in and handing off the mainsheet, the skipper should keep the mainsheet, and the crew focuses on precise weight placement while hanging from the trapeze without hooking in.
Heeled To Windward Tacking - This drill is run like a tacking drill, but the goal is to always have the boat heeled to windward. Focus on exiting the tack and flattening as hard as possible (if overpowered, this will be max hike; if underpowered, it should be the hardest flatten you can manage without getting the wing in the water), and then locking in the new heel with no bobbles.
Line Tiller Tacking - Take your tiller extension off, tie a piece of line in its place, and use the line to steer the boat. Run a tacking drill, and work on steering the boat perfectly straight as close to flat as possible as you exit the tack.
Rudderless Tacking - Pull your rudder out, and work on tacking, paying special attention to locking in your exit angle out of the tacks.