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Thought for the day - The Tricks of the Mind

This will be the last post until the next ranking event but I think it is one of the most significant observations I have made so far.

Before I settle into winter training and working up two Epoxy glass Alternatives for sale I wanted to put some thoughts out on the tricks that the mind can play when we sail and this is from recent personal experience.

I remember reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. A man who interviewed many successful Americans in a variety of careers and pulled the reasons for success into a series of golden rules. Its a book well worth reading for anything you want to achieve in life.

One of Napoleon's comments:

"Thoughts that are mixed with any of the feelings of emotions constitute a magnetic force which attracts other similar or related thoughts."

So my IOM journey to starting oblivion (well that's how it felt) this summer started at an open meeting at Chipstead sailing club in July. A pattern of bad starting emerged and was repeated at the Nationals and the first day of the recent ranking event. I think I have broken the pattern now and thought it worth sharing the journey.

The day at Chipstead started well with 3 good results. In the forth race I was over the line at the start and began to recover well until I picked up weed. I was demoted to B fleet and there I stayed for the day. In the next race I had a bad start and picked up weed so could not recover. I was over the line in another, Missed an early wind shift in another. In the last race I had a great start, was in the top 3 on the beat and then the boat stopped dead with a clump of weed. Now whether I was tired or suffering from a victim syndrome or anything else for that matter, every minor error became magnified in my own head.

I was a mess. Negative thoughts were filtering into my mind from everywhere and my blood was beginning to boil. I was thinking, I am better than this, but it did not help.

So when I stepped back to look at the facts, my challenges were simple. I was starting badly and picking up weed which prevented rapid recovery. Others were starting well and picking up weed but they were ahead.

Mentally, my mind was saying the bad starts and the wind shifts weren't my fault and I was the unluckiest person with the weed. Clearly I was building a picture in my own mind that was false and I reinforced the negative picture with every race.

Fast forward to the Nationals. I spent the practice day at the back of the fleet. Practice racing is a bit like sailing in the wild west. It can be intimidating as there are so many boats on the start line and it is not uncommon to incur damage in the melee as no one worries about the rules. By backing off on the starts, little did I know I was reinforcing a mindset for starting at the back of the fleet. Lacking aggression did not do me any favours.

The formal racing began and my starts were average for the first 2 races and then poor from then on, which I described in a previous post. As the event went on I got worse and worse moving between heat b and c and I am not one usually one to shy away from a start but failed to get one decent start. The only positive was I was getting a ton of practice by moving between heats.

Clearly it was time for a rethink.

So what to do about the starting.

I looked back at the trends in my sailing.


Firstly I nailed every event sailed in light weather including Bourneville 1st, Frensham 1st and the recent Sunday ranking event 3rd where I was starting well and sailing fast so I know that given time to think, I can win races in any weather once I have tuned my technique for more wind. In addition I won the days I sailed at Emsworth, Gosport and Frensham so it is not as bad as I portray and I am in the top 20 in the national raking

Second , in wind I know that I am heavy handed on both sail and rudder control and I have a tendency to luff the boat just after the start which stops me dead. Once I am away from the excitement of the start I settle down and have good speed but I am always in catch up mode and unless your name is a Gibson, Stollery or Walsh, that is quite a challenge.

Third, I need to practice better positioning myself and the boat on the start line so at the very least I can see it, which maybe means moving away from the most favourable side of the start line.

Forth, I need to practice holding the boat in position on the startling line by practicing the techniques mentioned in a previous blog

Fifth practice sailing fast off the start line.

Sixth, rest between races once the race patterns are clearly understood.

Lastly I need to shed the emotion from my performance and develop a more positive attitude. I either start well or badly, weed affects everyone in the end and if I sail slowly it is due to my lack of ability not bad luck or the boat.

One last observation is I noticed that the top guys just sit back and relax between races. I have a tendency to watch and see what I can learn. Over the course of a couple of days that becomes quite tiring so I tried resting between races at the last ranking day and felt more refreshed and less anxious for each new race.Put these pieces of the jigsaw together and I will be ready fo the top boys.

So my winter training program will involve working on the above, getting out racing whenever it is windy to create a lighter touch on the control stick and to practice manoeuvring and starting in a breeze until proper control becomes second nature.

There is a saying that you are only as good as your last race. So I must be a winner.

Will report back after Milton Keynes Ranking event in October as to how I am getting on.

I wish you all good sailing and good winds for the Autumn and would love to hear if you had a similar experience and what you did about it.

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