May Notes from Commodore
Lessons Learned from the Regatta Circuit
One of the best ways to improve your sailing skills, meet fellow sailors and have a lot of fun is to participate in regattas and sail at different venues. Here are several lessons I’ve learned over the years that I believe are critical to success.
Get in shape. Preparing for a regatta starts long before the actual event. Regattas require strength and stamina. My daughter and I recently sailed in the Thistle Districts at the Savannah Y. C. There was current and heavy breeze (18 to 20 with gusts up to 28 – conditions we typically don’t sail in during our regular club races). The weekend was taxing and a good reminder of why I bike, run and do floor exercises in advance of the regatta season!
In addition to being in shape, the old adage is true – you are what you eat. I can certainly tell a difference in my alertness and stamina when I am eating what I know I should. For me, that includes loads of vegetables, fruits and salads with beans or other protein as well as water – plenty of it!
Practice is important. Success in anything requires practice – lots of it in lots of different conditions. It’s important for the crew to practice as much as possible also in order to build muscle memory and learn how to stay calm under pressure when the unexpected happens. To prepare for a regatta, we participate in as many club races as possible, so we can be razor sharp at the start.
Get on the water early. It’s important to get on the water early and practice a few tacks, continuously watching the wind to see if there are any identifiable patterns. It also helps to work out the jitters.
Be confident in your system. Do not make any major equipment change right before a regatta. If you’ve sailed long enough, you likely have a story to tell about making a major change before a regatta. For me, it was Thistle Nationals in Sayville, N.Y. Throughout the previous 24 months, our team had been doing really well – finishing among the top in the regattas we entered, and I started tweaking with the boat before Nationals. I switched all the lines and reduced the size of the blocks in an effort to reduce the overall weight of the boat. When I arrived at the regatta, my crew couldn’t believe what I had done. Needless to say, the changes caused us issues. Not making any changes prior to a large event is definitely wise. I learned my lesson.
Obtain local knowledge. If you are going somewhere you’ve never sailed before, or if you are sailing in conditions you are not accustomed to, at the minimum seek out a local sailor and ask what to be mindful of given the expected forecast.
Don’t give up. Stay in racing mode, regardless of a bad start, penalty turns or when you are just deep in the fleet. Stay positive and keep your head in the game. Focus on what you can do.
Sail like a Corinthian. I recently read an article titled, “Corinthian Sailing: Critical to the Growth of the Sport,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Also, know the rules, respect your competitors, and treat others how you want to be treated. A quick acknowledgement of a foul and subsequent penalty turns clears the air, enabling you and your team to get back to racing.
Lastly, there are skippers known for their tendency to initiate fouls or be verbally explosive. A top finish is futile if in doing so one has lost the respect of fellow competitors.
Make it a point to attend a few regattas this year, have fun and sail fast!