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Racing thought processes

The art of simple thought

When you are racing do you ever start a stream of negative thinking.  If you read my blog you will have seen the impact on negative thinking on my results at a ranking event at Manor Park.  Instead of thinking about what matters to getting around the racecourse in the fastest way, I was thinking, "don't be in the last 4 in the A fleet".  Nearly every time I got what I wished for.  I won a few races so I knew that I could compete at the top but I started wrong thinking or over thinking as one of my competitors suggested.

Perhaps the best way to explain what I mean is to use the analogy of thinking in golf and apply that to sailing.

The physchology text books for golf talk about focus.  Use the warm up session to loosen the body and nothing else, when preparing to swing at the ball, pick the smallest target you can see whether it be a leaf or a blade of grass on the green.  The smaller the target the better for your brain.  Ignore everything in between.  What lies between, don't go in the bunker, don't slice into the trees, don't pull the ball into the heather on the left.  These are examples of negative thinking and of course the brain interprets negative throughts as positive commands, so if your last thought before you hit the ball is don't go in the bunker, that's where your ball will end up.  Simple.

So how do we apply that to sailing.  There is so much happening on the race and the situation is changing all the time we do not really have time to think.  If you find yourself with a stream of negative thinking then try repeating the three questions below.  If nothing else wit will distract you from thinking the wrong way.

The fundamentals

I recently came across an article on the sailing Zing website Link Here when researching for a future dinghy sailing web site

I particularly like the focus on 3 questions you should constantly ask yourself when on the race course. 


Where are you on the race course and where should you be heading?

This question is about how you are in relation to to your tactical plan 

Imaging it is just after the start and you are in a reasonable position.  Ask yourself if you are heading to the favoured side of the course and if not how do you get there.  If you are blocked heading in the wrong direction, how do you bail out to get to the right side.

On the run, be decisive when you round the spreader mark so you head into clear wind and not the dead zone behind the fleet.  Like the beat, one side may be favoured and you need to stake your claim for that side, unless it means sailing back through the beating boats

Where are you in relation to the fleet?

There are many answers to this question, so here are some scenarios to think about.

If you are tacking up a shoreline on the left side of the beat, is it worth staying to the right side of the fleet so you have control when you come in on starboard.  Being on the shoreline could see you trapped by a never ending stream of starboard boats.

When you near the windward mark, will you make your approach so you tack onto starboard well outside the zone, keeping right of way.

In a recent meeting we had a bias first beat so you could almost lay the first mark on port from the port end of the start line.  Instead of starting at the favoured port end, I started in the middle of the line, which gave me freedom to tack first and then sail fast across the middle of the course.  This got me in front of the fleet and then I had freedom to tack at will with the advantage of being starboard boat.  All I had to focus on then was the lay line for the mark.

The boats at the port end of the line had to wait for other boats to tack and many overstood the mark.  The line was so biased I did not have to worry about tacking ahead of the boats behind me.

Where are you in relation to the wind?

Off the start line your tactical plan will determine where you go to take advantage of any wind bends or local shore effects, trees, bushes etc.  You should be looking up the course for the 1st significant puff and assess if it is going to lift or back you.  You need to take action to account for this but bear in mind the answers to the questions above.

And one more question

If you limit your thought processes to the above, you will have a significant advantage over others who wing their way round the race course.  I would add one question before all of these and that is, What do you see on the water?  E.g. Is the water darker on on side or the other, might there be favourable wind and a shift in an apparent calm area on the course, what are the other boats doing? etc


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