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Published by BBYRA, 2017-02-13 23:02:00


S&S Issue 139

SPEED&smartsDavid Dellenbaugh’s ™

The newsletter of how-to tips for racing sailors July/Aug 2016

Practice drills, and philosophies “There may be people
who have more talent
I n sailing, like every other sport, practice makes perfect. It’s not than you, but there’s
impossible to win occasional races without doing much training, no excuse for anyone
but consistent success in competitive events requires a certain to work harder than
amount of work to improve your racing skills.
you do.”
Most sailors are obviously not able to train every day as if they
were heading to the Olympics. That’s OK. But a lot of sailors could – Derek Jeter, NY Yankees
get better results if they spent just a little more time practicing.
That’s what this issue is all about. ISSUE #139

The next 15 pages contain a lot of ideas for running effective PRACTICE DRILLS
practices, including more than 30 specific drills you can use during
THEME Practice makes perfect............1
your next training session or pre-race warmup. These PREPARATION Training tips.................2
drills are designed to be easy. They don’t require ONE BOAT Drills for one boat .............4
a coach, a coachboat, any money or more than TWO BOATS .........................................8
a couple marks. As you will see, the drills are THREE OR MORE BOATS.....................12
organized according to the number of boats DRILLS ON SHORE ..............................14
in your training session (1, 2 or 3+), so you FOLLOW UP .......................................16
aren’t dependent on having other boats but
you can include them if you want.
The drills are also designed to be fun and
challenging. My belief is that sailors learn the
most when they enjoy what they are doing, so
many exercises are presented as competitive
games. Of course, the ultimate goal is for sailors
to improve their skills, and thereby their results.
That will make everyone feel good about the sport.

Drill 1.6 uses a short windward-leeward figure eight (see page 6).

JH Peterson photo Many sailors think it’s difficult to
run good practice drills without
a coach, but that’s definitely not
the case. It’s true that a coach
makes life easier. He or she can
bring out and set the marks,
take video, blow the whistle,
and run your debrief. But most
people can’t afford a coach, and
even if they could, it’s not easy
to find one that you like who
is available on your schedule.

That’s why all the drills in this
issue assume that you will be
running practices without a
coach or coachboat. All these
exercises can be organized by
sailors with one small mark they
can carry in their sailboat, and
a big desire to work hard and
improve their racing skills.

Speed & Smarts #139 1

PRACTICE DRILLS: Philosophy and preparation

Tips for organizing a good practice

W hen it comes to training sessions, it’s true Make it challenging and . . .
that you usually get out of them what you
put into them. If you simply head out one day When training is boring or repetitive, it’s
without much forethought, it’s likely you won’t hard to maintain the enthusiasm needed
learn a lot. But if you devise a logical plan about to keep learning as much as possible.
what you want to accomplish and how best to That’s why you should always incorporate
do it, you’ll increase your chances of success. some fun into your practice sessions.
If your team is not having fun, change
There’s a lot that must be done ahead of what you are doing!
time for a good practice session: make a plan,
find marks to bring out, decide whether you • Always try to do at least one new
need a training partner, choose drills, organize exercise or game during each practice
your team, buy lunch and so on. session. This should be something fun
that you have never done before.
No matter which specific drills you select,
remember that the requirements for a successful • Include your entire crew in helping
training session remain the same: The exercises plan your training sessions. Ask each
should be challenging for the sailors, and every- person to organize and run a particular
one should go home feeling like they had fun exercise – when they are part of the
and improved their individual and team skills. planning they will be more involved.

Begin with an organized plan Quality, not quantity

Just as you shouldn’t start a race without a strategic plan in mind, you Training sessions don’t have to be long
shouldn’t sail out for a training session without some goals and a good to be valuable – what’s important is how
idea of how you plan to accomplish them. Don’t just pick a few drills that well you use your time. Most of the
sound good. First, you should have a long-term plan of what your team teams I’ve coached in the last few years
is trying to accomplish. For example, you may have decided to work on would much rather do a focused session
boatspeed this season. Or if you have a relatively new team, you may be of 2.5 hours than a rambling afternoon
spending most of your time practicing boathandling. that lasts 4 hours or longer. That’s at
least partly because there is a point of
With your overall plan in mind, figure out how the upcoming training diminishing returns as sailors get more
session fits into the big picture. For example, you may want to spend the and more tired. Shorter sessions with a
session working only on spinnaker sets and takedowns. Or perhaps you defined cutoff time tend to keep sailors
will be fine-tuning your upwind speed with another boat. Finally, select more attentive and willing to work hard
some drills that you think will help you accomplish your goals for that while they are on the water. So always
session. If you plan to work on starting skills, for example, you might try a err on the side of quality over quantity.
combination of Timed Runs (Drill 1.1) and Slow-Speed Starting (Drill 1.3).

BYOM (Bring your own marks) You can usually find a channel
buoy to use as one end of a start
The goal of this issue is to explain a bunch line or a windward/leeward mark.
of practice drills that you can do on your
own, without a coach. Since many of the
drills described inside require one or two
marks, this means you have to bring your
own buoys. This is actually not too difficult.
Use one buoy that is already anchored in
your training area (e.g. a government navi-
gational aid). Since you seldom find two
permanent buoys lined up with the wind,
bring one mark on your boat (I recommend
a small inflatable orange buoy and mush-
room anchor). Set this mark relative to the
permanent buoy as needed for each drill.

2 Practice drills

Incorporate competition into your training Switch on or off?

Sailboat racers are, by and large, a competitive group of people Here’s a technique I learned a while back (while
so it makes sense to bring this spirit into some or all of your training for the America’s Cup) that helps keep
practice sessions. By turning drills into competitive games you sailors focused during training sessions. Explain
can make any training session more fun and keep sailors focused to your team that there will be only two modes
more intensely and for a longer period of time. Here are some during your practice time – either ‘switch on’ or
ideas on how to do that: ‘switch off.’ When the switch is on, they are to
be focused 100% on whatever drill you are
1. Compete with yourself. If you don’t have another boat to doing, as if you’re in the critical part of a race.
compete against, use your own team and the clock. Here are When the switch is off, they can relax, eat, drink
some things you could try: time to do one or two circles (see and talk with each other about what happened
below); time from ‘Hoist’ call until your spinnaker is filled; how the night before. Too many teams blur the line
long your crewmembers can stay fully hiked; if you have a knot- here – as a result they are not focused entirely
meter, what is the least amount of speed you lose in a tack; etc. on each drill, and they don’t get enough time
to completely relax. Just be very clear at all
2. Compete against another boat(s). It’s relatively easy to set times whether the switch is on or off.
up competitions against one or more other boats because that is
what we normally do in races. Try to compete in certain isolated
skills that you are working on such as: who can do eight tacks
fastest; who can turn more quickly around an oval (see Drill 2.1);
who is fastest upwind on port tack; etc.

Practice Two-Turn
Penalties – One fun
challenge is to see
how quickly you can
spin two circles. You
can compete with

yourself by doing
this against
the clock, or

with another
boat by starting
turns at the same
time and seeing
who gets done first.

Be your own coach 3

One of the most valuable skills that
any sailor can have is the ability to
act as his or her own coach. Most
sailors aren’t lucky enough to have an
actual coach, so they must perform
this function themselves. It’s not easy
because you need the competitive
passion of a sailor and the calm
demeanor of a coach. But you can
definitely get better at this over time,
especially if you practice by coaching
other sailors occasionally.

Here I am in my coachboat at the
2012 Olympics in England. I’ve
spent a lot of time around coaches
and I know how valuable a good
coach can be. But when I’m racing
I seldom have a coach, and I know
it’s very possible to be successful
when you are coaching yourself.

Speed & Smarts #139


Ideas for training by yourself 1.3 Slow-speed starting

You must always be prepared to practice by yourself. It’s great when- The start is a critical part of any race,
ever you can arrange to have another boat train with you, but often and one key to getting a good start
this is impractical, so you need to be self-sufficient. (for small, lighter boats) is the ability
to control your boat at slow speeds
There are quite a few constructive things you can do when no other as you approach the line. You can
boats are around. This is a good time to work on boat- and sail-handling improve your ability to do this with
maneuvers like tacks, sets, jibes and takedowns. It’s also a perfect time to a range of exercises using one buoy.
practice specific skills like accelerations, time-and-distance drills or how
to turn your boat. When you’re alone, you should take care of anything Hold position The goal
that requires much talking or explaining among members of your crew. of this exercise is to keep
That is not the kind of thing you want to do while you have another boat your boat in one position
waiting for you. Also, sailing by yourself is not a good time to work on as long as possible with-
boatspeed or tactics since you need other boats around for comparison. out moving forward or
to leeward. Begin this by
‘parking’ your boat next to a mark on
a heading that is somewhere between
closehauled and head to wind. Using
a combination of sail trim and rudder
movement, try to keep the boat in this
spot. Figure out what works best.

1.1 spaDecicesetdalentorcaetfuenllferseopdmeeedndoto
Timed runs
The ability to know how far accelerating
you’ll travel in certain amounts From a luffing position
of time at various speeds is a key close to the mark, accelerate
skill for getting off the starting line in to full speed on a close-
the front row. Therefore, you should work hauled course. The goals are
on this regularly. One simple exercise that I have to: 1) get to speed as quickly as
used at the highest levels of coaching is what I call a 5- or 10-minute possible; and 2) find out how long (in
‘timed run.’ All you need is one buoy and a watch set at 5 or 10 minutes. time and space) this takes. The ability
The goal is to be at full speed with your bow at the mark each time the to accelerate is critical for getting off
watch counts down to the next minute. Start by doing this on a reach on the line, so experiment with how to do
both tacks. When you can do this consistently, approach the mark on this. It’s also key to know how long it
a closehauled course. Go as far away from it as possible in the time takes to accelerate so you know where
you have, try to call the layline perfectly, sail at full speed upwind to position yourself and when to sheet
and see how close your bow is to the mark when you hit the next in. Note these are affected a
minute. This is also good for a pre-race warm-up. lot by wind and waves.

1.2 Time-and-distance game #1 ttHhwopeoioltmlwhtiatbtltotouacnokgrgyaee?bt Do-si-do
If you’re feel-
There are many ways you can practice your time- ing very good
and-distance skills in a sailboat, and often it’s fun to about your
make a game out of it. When you’re sailing to or from low-speed
the course area, ask everyone on your team to guess boathandling
how long it will take to get to a certain point ahead skills, try this:
(e.g. a government navigational buoy). Give the Park next to the
winner a prize, or at least a little recognition. This buoy and try to
is a great activity because it’s fun and helps you use maneuver around
your time constructively. You can play this game it (staying as close as
whenever the boat is moving, even if you’re in the possible) without jibing.
harbor or motoring.

4 Practice drills

1.4 Boathandling warm-ups 1.5 Crew ‘musical chairs’

These exercises are great for a team warm-up any time. They require two If you’re a helmsperson, do you know
buoys set on the same ladder rung (like a short starting line). Begin with every move your bow person makes in
the buoys far enough apart so you have plenty of time to prepare for each a set, jibe and douse? If you’re a trim-
rounding maneuver (especially if it’s windy). There are two goals here: mer, do you know exactly what the
1) to keep as much speed as possible through the turns; and 2) to find helm feels like when the boat has too
the shortest, fastest course around each buoy. much, or too little, windward helm?

One key to success is using primarily sail trim and crew weight to turn A big part of good teamwork is
the boat. This allows you to turn the rudder less, which reduces drag and understanding what the other mem-
helps you maintain better speed. While you work on speed through the bers of your team are doing. And a
turns, also focus on steering around the buoys. Cut each mark as close as great way to learn this is by trading
possible without touching it, and experiment with the radius of your turn to places during a practice session (or
see what’s the best way to maintain speed. (Check out Drill 2.1 for a way to even during a race!).
measure how well you are doing.) As you get better at handling your boat
through this exercise, move the buoys closer and closer together. I recommend switching only two
Oval Loop Start by rounding each mark to port in a counter-clockwise path. people at a time. If you race a two-
This way you will practice making one tack and one jibe in the normal direction. person boat, that’s all you can do. If
Tacking Figure 8 Once you are confident on the oval (top), move to a figure 8 you have three or more crew, it can be
where you tack around both marks. This path is more challenging because it confusing to put everyone in new posi-
requires you to make a sharper turn around each buoy. It’s great practice for tions at the same time. Instead, switch
tacking quickly around a mark and then immediately bearing off. just two (e.g. main trimmer and bow
person), and leave everyone else in
their usual positions.

If you have enough time, rotate
every crew member into each position
on the boat, and discuss what you
learned in that day’s debrief.

tlohIatbcnsmaatcnewokeshretreehinennegoraI!e’wm otIotbn’seahacewkalohrhteeeenrveaeIs.’rmiye-r

Jibing Figure 8 When you are tired of tacking around the marks, switch to jibes.
This is a great chance to practice your approach to (and the way you turn around)
a leeward mark; it’s also good for the boathandling moves required for jibing. A helmsman - bowperson switch!

Speed & Smarts #139 5


A 1.8 The shrinking loop
The basic windward-leeward course is
1.6 Mini windward-leewards a standard go-to drill for practice ses-
sions, but it can become pretty boring.
This is a great warm-up exercise that’s slightly different than the oval or figure 8. For a bit of variety try this: Anchor the
Set up two marks so they’re just a few boatlengths apart on a windward-leeward leeward mark as usual; then put the
axis. In Drill A, round both marks to port as you would when sailing a typical W-L windward mark in place without an an-
course (but without a spinnaker!). The focus here is finding the fastest course chor (but use some type of sea anchor
around each mark and picking the right layline for that approach. to keep it from drifting too fast). Then
sail to windward and leeward around
In Drill B, round the windward mark to port and the leeward mark to star- the buoys as usual. The unique thing
board (as if it was the right-hand gate mark). This is a challenging exercise be- about this exercise is that the wind
cause you must do a jibe right after the windward mark and a tack right after the pushes the windward mark toward the
leeward mark, both of which require different approaches to each mark. leeward mark, so the legs get shorter
each lap. This makes boathandling
more and more of a challenge as the
drill goes on. Keep using your chute
until the marks get too close together;
then stop, take a break and review.



1.7 Run silent 3

Here’s something you would never do in a race, but it makes a great exercise. As the unanchored
Pick any drill that involves some tacking and other boathandling maneuvers (a windward mark drifts to
simple windward-leeward course is good), and explain it to your team. Then tell leeward, the legs get
everyone that you are going to do this drill without any talking. The goal is for shorter and boathandling
crewmembers to focus on non-verbal ways of anticipating what the boat will do becomes increasingly more
next (e.g. sense of feel, awareness of tactical/strategic situation). Execute the challenging. This is also a
drill without saying a word, and then have a group discussion about 1) the value good way to simulate
of clear verbal communication, and 2) how to function effectively without any current going against
communication. A variation on this drill is the complete opposite: Ask every the wind at the
crew member to verbalize a stream of consciousness about what is happening windward mark.
during the drill. Then discuss how to find a happy medium between the two.
Practice drills

1.9 Sail rudderless 1.10 Sail without seeing

Most sailors use their rudder too much for Racing sailors rely heavily on their
steering. Any time the rudder angles off sense of sight, which makes a lot of
center it creates drag and slows you sense. But this also means they often
down. Work on this by removing your don’t pay enough attention to their
rudder (if possible) and practicing how other senses, especially feel. Work on
to turn the boat using only the sails and this by sailing with a blindfold or with
your weight. For a fun challenge, set your eyes closed. Tune in to the feel of
up a short course and sail around it. the boat and what this tells you about
its performance. Let every crew member
give this a try.

wt‘oIiyflwlewballeeordwjhibtehteareedwebine.i’gg 1.11 The layline game
Speed & Smarts #139
This is a fun guessing contest that will help
you make better layline calls while racing.
Every time you are planning to tack or jibe
during your training session, ask your team-
mates to estimate the layline you will be on
after the maneuver. In other words, once you
change tacks, where will you be heading?
Use other boats or objects on shore as refer-
ence marks for your new course. For exam-
ple, you might say, “After tacking we will be
fetching that blue motorboat to windward.”
Or, “After jibing we’ll be aiming just to the
left of the red bell buoy.” If you wait to call
laylines only when you’re headed toward
actual marks you won’t get much practice
at all, so make this game a constant theme
during training sessions. It’s also fun!




Ideas for training with one other boat

T he chance to participate in a training session with However, training with two boats requires a level
another boat is extremely valuable, so look for any of communication and coordination that isn’t needed
opportunity to do this. A second boat 1) allows you to when sailing by yourself. You must keep both teams
compare your performance to theirs, which is key for focused so you don’t waste scarce and precious train-
improving boatspeed; 2) makes it possible for you to ing time. I highly recommend meeting beforehand
start working on boat-to-boat tactics; 3) provides the so both teams can discuss their goals for the training
chance for competition; and 4) brings in a whole new session and the specific exercises they’d like to do.
perspective on tuning, trim, boathandling, etc. Once you go on the water, use radios to communicate!

2.1 Warm-up boathandling games

When you have two boats there are lots of fun exercises you can do to get
warmed up and build a bit of competitive spirit. One of my favorites is to use
Drills 1.4 and 1.6 with two boats instead of one. Start the drill with each boat
just outside one of the marks. The goal is to chase and catch the other boat.
This gives you good, immediate feedback on whether you are using good
turning technique and carving the best path around the marks.



2.2 Starting a tactical Rabbit ‘Slow’
drill with two boats Rabbit
(with sails
When you are planning a tactical luffing)
or strategic exercise that involves
two boats, the best way to begin is P
usually with a classic ‘rabbit start.’
This approach has several benefits: Rabbit start ‘Slow’ rabbit
1) it’s easy to organize without wast-
ing a lot of time; 2) it puts the boats To set up a rabbit start, the two boats should Sometimes when you’re training
close together at the beginning of be luffing, at least several boatlengths apart, you’d like to start a drill with the
the drill; and 3) it simulates a situa- on roughly the same ladder rung. The boat boats bow to bow (e.g. Drill 2.6).
tion that happens all the time while to the right (the ‘Rabbit’) trims in first and The problem with a rabbit start
racing. Here are some notes on how starts sailing closehauled on starboard tack. is that the rabbit begins the drill
to make this work. The other boat then trims in on port tack, at least one boatlength ahead
bears off to duck behind the rabbit and of the ducking boat (P). Fix this
heads up to a closehauled course. Now by using a ‘slow rabbit.’ This
the tactical/strategic drill begins. begins just like a normal rabbit
start, but the rabbit luffs her sails
It is also possible for the rabbit to start while she crosses P. As soon as
on port tack, but your default should be for P’s bow reaches the rabbit’s
the rabbit to always begin on starboard tack wake, the rabbit trims in. By the
unless told otherwise; this way there is less time she reaches full speed the
chance of confusion. Also, a similar rabbit boats should be even.
start can be used to begin a downwind drill.

8 Practice drills

2.3 Two-boat testing upwind Ideal position
for upwind
Whenever you have a chance to train with another boat, speed tuning
one of the most valuable exercises is a side-by-side boat-
speed test. By sailing alongside your training partner, you The key to successful two-boat
will learn a lot about the boats’ relative performance, and testing is starting with the boats in
you’ll have a great chance to work on and improve your the proper position. In most cases you
speed and pointing. Getting an accurate measurement of want them about 2 or 3 boatlengths apart,
speed is possible only when you have another boat nearby, with the leeward boat anywhere from bow-even
so make efficient use of the time when you have a chance. to one boatlength ahead. This position keeps both boats
This exercise is a perfect example of how two boats can close enough so they are usually in the same breeze, but it
work together to help each other improve. puts them far enough apart so they have enough room to
Before you start speed-testing with two boats, make a sail their normal fast upwind course.
plan for your training session. Discuss what will you be Try to sail on both tacks long enough to see if there are
testing, how long you will sail together and so on. Also, any differences in speed. Ideally you should switch positions
I highly recommend using a handheld radio on each so each boat is to leeward and to windward about half the
boat. Even though you can often get close enough to time. Between tests, talk with your crew and the other boat’s
talk, there will be a lot of times when you’ll want to crew about what you observed.
communicate from farther away.
JH Peterson photo You should not usually start or continue D
a speed test when the boats are in any NO
of the positions shown here. If the lee-
ward boat (A) is too advanced, it will be
hard for B to hold her lane. If the wind-
ward boat (D) is too advanced it will be
tough for C to avoid being rolled.



2.4 Starting a speed The Blue boat starts off in a position
drill with two boats (1) that is too advanced, so she slows
3 and the Purple boat sails fast.
Two is the perfect number of boats
when you’re trying to test boatspeed. Once Purple gets to the right
To get in the right position, both testing position (2), Blue
boats should begin by luffing on A good speed test. trims in and goes.
roughly the same ladder rung. One 3
of them will most likely be behind 2
the ideal position described above.
This boat should trim in and start Purple is now in a good 1
sailing upwind. Once this boat gets position for speed test-
close to the right position, the other ing, so Blue trims her
boat trims in and they go off together.
sails to get going.
The Rabbit Start option: You can also start a two- Purple sees that
boat speed test with a rabbit start – see page 12.
2 Blue is advanced so
Purple trims her sails
to get going.


Speed & Smarts #139 9


2.5 The ‘Chase Race’ JH Peterson photo

This is a fun and challenging version of the basic 2.6 ‘Close encounters’
windward-leeward boathandling drill. By making Here’s an upwind drill that we use a lot when training for match
this a competition between two boats you get to racing, but it’s great for fleet racers too. The goal of this exercise
practice maneuvers under pressure, and you have is to give each boat a lot of practice in situations where two boats
a good chance to measure how your team’s speed sailing closehauled converge with each other on opposite tacks.
and boathandling compare to the other boat. Begin this drill with a ‘slow rabbit’ – the object is to have the
boats even with each
There are at least two good ways to begin this other going upwind so
game and two ways to structure how long it lasts. that when they come
How to begin together they are roughly
bow-to-bow. After the rabbit
• Use a rabbit start near the leeward mark. This start, each boat should sail for
could be a normal rabbit or a ‘slow rabbit’ (if you a maximum of 20 seconds
want the boats to start bow-to-bow). Switch rabbit before tacking. Then they
positions each time you begin a new chase. must decide what to do Don’t go more than
about 15 or 20 seconds
• Follow-the-leader around one of the marks. when coming together. before tacking and
Start the boats on a reach, one right behind the This is a great way to coming back together.
other, go around either mark and begin racing.
How to end practice ducking a star-
board tacker, tacking into a
• Agree on a certain number of laps (e.g. one or leebow position, judging whether
two) and stop the chase just after both boats round or not you are crossing, and so on.
the leeward mark. Once the boats make a maneuver,
they repeat the drill by sailing for
• Agree to keep going for a certain amount of no more than 20 seconds, tack-
time (e.g. 10 minutes or the length of a typical race). ing and converging again.
If boats get far apart during the game, you could If either boat crosses
also agree to have the leader do a Two-Turns cleanly ahead (or if both
Penalty (or two) to make it close again. boats end up on the same ‘Slow’
tack), stop and re-start the Rabbit
WIND drill with a slow rabbit.

The boat that is
behind chases the

other boat and
tries to pass them.

Be sure to switch positions
frequently so each boat has a
lot of chances to converge on
both port and starboard tacks.

10 Practice drills

2.7 ‘Musical’ crews 2.10 ‘Hold your lane’ drill

When you are training by yourself you can play ‘musical The standard position for two-boat
chairs’ by swapping your own crewmembers into different testing (see Drill 2.3) works well for
positions (see Drill 1.5). When you have two boats, you can comparing upwind speed, but you
actually switch crewmembers between boats! often don’t have such clear lanes while
racing, so it’s smart to practice sailing
It’s hard to over-state the potential value of doing this. By closer to other boats. One way to set
switching into another boat, you will learn how another team this up is with a rabbit start – the boat
communicates, handles their boat and trims their sails. A lot of this is bound to that ducks sails about one or two
be different from the way your team does it, and hopefully you will go back to lengths beyond the rabbit, tacks and
your boat with new ideas on how to sail faster and more smoothly. Plus, if you tries to maintain this position as long
switch helmspersons during a speed test you’ll have a good indication whether as possible. When the ducker falls into
speed differences are due to the boat itself or the way it’s being sailed. the rabbit’s bad air, stop the drill and
start over, switching positions. Do this
2.8 Dueling circles on both tacks. This is a good exercise
for learning the adjustments you need
Sometimes it’s fun to include a few 360° circles in your training session. This to make to survive in a ‘thin’ lane.
helps you prepare for taking penalty turns, of course, and it’s also a great way
to practice the skills you need for turning your boat while maintaining speed. ‘Thin’ lane
To make this exercise more challenging (and to get immediate feedback on your
circles), try doing it in competition with your training partner. Start by sailing on
a reach, one boat behind the other. Then make a sound signal, have both boats
do a circle as quickly as possible and compare.

Also try doing two Sometimes it’s
turns. It’s harder good to put yourself
to maintain speed, in difficult positions
and you’ll see a while training so you
bigger difference will be better able
between boats. to deal with these
while racing.

2.9 Do a ‘strategic split’ 2.11 Match racing

Before a race it’s important to figure out which Training with two boats is a perfect
side of the course is ‘favored,’ but this is difficult to chance to do some one-versus-one
do by yourself. That’s why, on race days, it’s helpful to match racing. You can begin with an
have a partner to test the course. Begin with a rabbit actual match-race start, or just go with
start near the starting line, and sail toward opposite a rabbit start; then race around a short
sides of the beat. Then both boats tack at the same windward-leeward course.
time and sail back together until they see who’s ahead.
You should also do splits downwind, especially on Match racing is a fun game by itself,
boats that sail wide angles, since this will give you a but it’s also a great way to prepare for
fleet racing. Even when you are in a
better idea about pressure differences. Try this on large fleet, you’re almost always near
practice days as well to improve your ability one or two other boats – if you can
to predict which side will be favored. take control of those situations you
will be much more successful overall.

Speed & Smarts #139 11

PRACTICE DRILLS: Three or more boats +

Ideas for training with multiple boats 3.2 Fight for the ends

W hen you add a third or fourth boat to a training session, you can A fleet of three or four boats is just big
try a range of new drills that are closer to actual racing. Multiple enough to simulate the fighting for
boats are better for starting drills, simulated races and certain games. position that usually happens at each
However, once you go beyond two boats you have an added layer of end of the starting line, so take advan-
complexity that is even more difficult tage of this opportunity. Even if you
to manage than going from one boat don’t normally set up near an end,
to two. If you’re doing a speed test it’s good to work on the skills that are
with three boats, for example, it’s needed to start there since these will
hard to keep this many boats lined up help you anywhere along the line.
in clear air. If one boat falls behind,
the other two have a choice: 1) keep Start this exercise by creating a
going (which is bad for the third starting line with one end favored by
boat); or 2) reset the drill (which can 5° to 10°. Then do a bunch of starts
be costly time-wise). The way your (I suggest using a two- or three-minute
group handles this will be very telling. rolling countdown) where the goal is to
The bottom line is that success comes get the best start at the favored end
only if you work especially hard at (getting a good conservative start is
communication and coordination. not part of this drill). To add a bit of
competition, keep track of how many
times each boat gets the best start at
the boat and pin ends.

3.1 Speed testing with three or more boats Starting line

When boats want to do an upwind speed test they normally line up in pairs, but Committee boat favored – Every
it’s certainly possible to accomplish the same goals if you have three (or more) boat fights to get the best start at
boats training together. The easiest way to get multiple boats lined up in the the windward end of the line. When
proper position is with a normal rabbit start. Pick one boat as the rabbit (this boat you set the starting line, the length
can sail on either tack), and have the other boats duck her; then the Rabbit tacks. doesn’t matter (if you have only one
In order to avoid a bad lineup (which wastes time), it’s important that the duckers mark available you can use a point
are at full speed, not too close to each other, and very close to the Rabbit when on shore for the pin end), but favor
they pass behind her. A few other notes: the boat end by at least 5° so the
• Make sure you rotate positions from test to test. Being in the middle is usually boats that start there have a clear
the hardest spot, so this boat typically loses more tests than the others. advantage as they come off the line.
• With more than two boats, it’s relatively easy for one of them to fall into the
bad air of another. As soon as this happens, stop the test and do another rabbit Starting line
start. It’s a waste of time when any boat cannot sail at full speed.
• If you want to simulate the typical speed line-up that happens right after the
start, have the rabbit begin on port tack with other boats ducking on starboard.

After the Rabbit
crosses the last boat
and goes just far
enough to have a
good lane to wind-
ward, she tacks.

The Rabbit can start on The boats that duck Pin end favored – Every boat fights
either port or starboard the rabbit should to get the best start at the leeward
tack, depending on which space themselves far end of the line. The boat that starts
way you want the boats enough apart so they closest to the pin doesn’t necessarily
to go first. can keep sailing for have the best start– if she is slow and
at least a few minutes. pinching to get around the buoy, the
Rabbit next boat up may be better off.

12 Practice drills

AB 3.5 Monkey in the middle

Windward mark C This drill is used often by team
racers, but it’s also great for any
3.3 The ‘ordered rounding’ game sailors who want to improve the
skills needed for good boathandling
Here’s a game that simulates a run, or a beat that begins and fleet management.
with rounding a leeward mark. Start by giving each boat a
letter of the alphabet (or use their sail number). The idea is You don’t need any marks for this
to have the boats round a windward or leeward mark in exercise – just three boats sailing upwind
order (e.g. A, B, C) within a boatlength of each other. toward an imaginary windward mark. The
Then they race to the next mark. goal of the drill is for the boats in first and
third place (at any moment) to work together
The boat that rounded in first places tries to stay in that to get the third-place boat ahead of the second-place boat.
position. The boat that rounded third tries to pass one or The second-place boat tries to stay ahead of the third-place
both boats. And the boat that rounded second must decide boat as long as she can. As soon as positions change, the
whether she will aim to pass the boat ahead, stay in front of drill starts over with new roles based on the new positions.
the boat behind, or try to do both. Once the boats round
the mark at the end of that leg the drill is over. Boat 1 – Goal is 1 WIND
to help Boat 3 get
Begin the next drill as soon as possible. If the first race ahead of Boat 2 as
was a run, this will be a beat (and vice versa). This time quickly as possible.
change the order by moving the first boat to the end (e.g.
if the first leg was A,B,C this one will start out B,C,A). Keep Boat 2 – Goal is to 2
repeating this and changing the order so every boat gets stay ahead of Boat 3
to sail runs and beats in all fleet positions. as long as possible.

If you want to make this game competitive, give each Boat 3 – Goal is to 3
boat a + or - for the number of boats they gain or lose in get ahead of Boat 2
each drill, and add them up at the end to see which team as quickly as possible.
has the best score overall.
Note that the numbers (1,2,3) refer to each boat’s position
Leeward in the ‘fleet’ at any particular moment; if the Purple boat
mark moves ahead of the Red boat, Purple becomes the new 2,
A Red is now 3 and the drill continues based on those positions.
B Try 2 v 2 – Monkey-in-the-middle works only with three
boats; if you have four, try 2 versus 2 team racing where
C the team with the last-place boat loses.

3.4 Three-way strategic split The second (and any other)
boat to duck the Rabbit
Here’s another exercise that can be very The Rabbit keeps plays the middle of the
helpful strategically when you’re getting going on the same course as best they can
ready to start a race. The goal is to tack toward that
figure out which side of the first beat side of the course The first boat to duck
will be better. You can do this with two the Rabbit continues
boats (see Drill 2.9), but that method is on the same tack all
limited because you can only compare the way to that side
the far left to the far right.
With three (or more) boats you can
compare the left, right and the middle.
Begin with a rabbit start near the start-
ing line. The rabbit (on starboard) goes
all the way to the left. The first boat to
duck sails on port tack all the way to the
right. The second (and any successive)
ducker plays the middle. This will give
you a better evaluation of your options.

Speed & Smarts #139


Ideas for training on land SPEED&smarts™ #139

Most of your valuable training time happens Speed & Smarts (ISSN 1075-5772) is published by
while you are on the water, of course, but that Four Winds Inc. PO Box 435, Easton, CT 06612 USA
doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills at other Phone: 203-445-0734 or 800-356-2200 Fax: 203-445-0735
times. Sailors often spend many hours on shore, E-mail: [email protected]
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efficiently to make your team better. Publisher: David Dellenbaugh Office manager: Joanne DeLuca

Whenever you have free time together and you © 2016 Speed & Smarts No part of this issue may be given to
can’t go sailing, consider reviewing your notes and others or reproduced, except subscribers may copy or print
videos from recent training sessions. There is always pages for their own personal use.
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you ideas for other creative things you can do ashore. CornerTips14

twotuHirlpgalofeitafwithcttaleolokiagnetdhghu?tast 4.1 Time-and-distance game #2

You definitely don’t have to be on the water to improve your time-and-distance
judgment. Any time you are moving from one place to another (by car, train,
foot, etc.) it’s a great opportunity to play a guessing game with yourself or with
your traveling companion(s). A few examples:

• You are walking your dog. How long will it take you to reach the church
you can see on the next block (assuming your dog keeps a steady pace)?

• You’re biking with a friend. A few hundred yards ahead you see a bridge.
Make a bet about how long it will take you to pass under that bridge.
• You see a plane flying across the sky overhead. How
long will it take the plane to reach that puffy white
cloud to the east?
• You’re driving a car on a straight highway.
At what landmark will you be in 10 seconds?

The easiest way for a 4.2 Dry run at the dock
bowperson to learn
certain techniques with You don’t actually have to be sailing to
the spinnaker pole is practice many of the sailhandling maneu-
to practice them when vers that all crews must make during the
you have no sails set course of a race. There are a number of
and there is not any things that your team can practice while
time pressure. sitting or standing in your boat at the dock,
mooring or on its trailer. These include: 1)
setting, jibing and retracting the spinnaker
pole; 2) hiking; 3) step-by-step moves to
cross the boat in a tack; 4) the proper way
to use a winch; 5) how the helmsperson
switches hands during a tack; and 6) pack-
ing and hoisting the spinnaker. Be creative
with this. You might, for example, practice
jibing by tying the stern of your boat to a
mooring and hoisting the chute.

14 Practice drills

4.3 Practice your line sights

One of the keys to getting a good start is knowing exactly where the starting line is located.
You don’t want to be over the line (OCS) or too far below it (caught in the sag). The best way
to judge the line is by getting a ‘line sight’ that involves a range through one end of the line
to a marker on shore. Here’s a good way to practice line sights while you’re on land; this
drill will also help you judge the line when you have no ‘line sight’ available.
The idea is to find two tall objects (e.g. trees, telephone poles, ‘Boat end’

lightposts, flag poles) and pretend these are the Jean X between trees
ends of the starting line. Then walk around and
try to position yourself right on a straight line Bill X Straight line
between the two objects. Try it first without
using any range markers; then use a ‘line
sight.’ Repeat this process as many times
as possible, using new objects for the
ends of the line each time. X Sue X Bobby

‘Pin end’ TRY THIS: Find two trees (or other vertical objects) that are easily visible from
each other and about as far apart as your average starting line. Ask each of your
crew members to walk between the trees and stand on the line that goes straight
from tree to tree. Site from one tree along this line and tell your crew how they did.
Then start over (using the same trees) and allow them to use a ‘line sight’ for position.
Hopefully they will end up right on the line! Repeat this process several times.

4.4 Estimate three boatlengths!

One of the hardest things to do on the race course is judge the position of the zone around a mark. It was tough enough
when the zone had a radius of only two boatlengths; now that the zone is three boatlengths it’s even harder to locate.

Bill Sue TRY THIS: Grab an inflated mark and take it to a large Mark
Jean open space such as a parking lot. Place the mark on
Bobby the ground, and ask each of your crew members to
estimate a distance of three boatlengths from the
3 boatlengths mark. They can indicate their guesses by standing
there or by marking their spot with chalk or a stick.
Then, using a tape measure, draw an arc showing the
actual location of the zone based on the size of your
boat. Discuss the challenge of doing this on the
water. Move the mark to another location and repeat.

TRY THIS: Find an extra mark and fasten it to a spot on your club’s lawn or dock. Then draw a circle
around it (or just identify a spot if you don’t have room for a circle) with a radius of three boatlengths.
This will give you a great, constant visual reminder about the size of the zone. Do this for a weekend
regatta, or leave it there for the entire racing season! Also, you can add markers to show the zones
for boats of any size that race at your club (see below). For match racers or team
racers, use a zone that is two lengths; for model boat racers, use four lengths.

Mark 3 boatlengths

Speed & Smarts #139 15


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Reinforce what you learn 5.1 Make notes while training

One big advantage of hiring a coach is that he One of the best tools a sailor can have is a small notebook
or she is always watching you, making notes with waterproof pages that lives in a handy place near your
and forcing you to think about what you have just cockpit. I recommend buying a couple of these and assigning
learned. Without a coach, you have to do all this the job of ‘scribe’ to one of your
yourself. It’s definitely do-able, but requires a good team members. This person’s job
bit of discipline, organization and follow up. is to take notes before, during
and after each training session.
The key is making a commitment as a team to These notes should include:
learn as much as possible each time you go sailing. - Things you learned
This means talking between drills, having a debrief - Ideas for future training
after every training session, and sharing online so - Boat work to be done
every team member has ongoing access to video - Anything else to remember
and notes about what you learned. Make sure you have a process for
handling these notes after practice.
Many teams organize solid training sessions They should be included in the
but don’t follow up very well. Any practice time is team’s debrief, of course, and
helpful, but it’s so much more valuable when you maybe the scribe can email them
make a joint effort to reinforce what you learned. to all crew members afterward.
Here are a couple good ways to do that.

5.2 Videotape your practice

Video is a great tool that all sailors should use for several reasons:
1. Video gives you an accurate account of your training session. Sometimes the hard

part is simply remembering what you did during practice. This is not a problem if you
recorded the session – the video provides a great chronological outline for debriefs.
2. Video is a great way to analyze boathandling maneuvers. Good boathandling
requires precise crew movements, and these are easy to see in video. You can use
slow motion, replay each move as many times as you want and easily compare one
maneuver to any other maneuver.
3. Video is easy to take and simple to share. Today’s generation of small cameras (e.g.
GoPro) can be mounted almost anywhere to show exactly what you want. Simply turn
the camera on and go sailing. After training it’s easy to upload the video to your
computer or a web site (e.g. Dropbox) and let all crew members view it.

16 Practice drills

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