Friday, April 01, 2005

12 Ways of learning

The 2005 sailing season is almost upon us. And it's time to think about what I can do to improve my racing performance this year. OK - I know it's too late - I should have started thinking about this at the start of the winter. But it's too late to worry about that now.

One of my favorite sailing books is 'Sail, Race and Win' by Eric Twiname. It is essentially a book about how to coach yourself to sail better. Twiname identifies 12 ways to improve your racing. I'll list them in this blog and then use this as a structure in future postings to talk about my sailing year and my attempts to go faster.

1. Race experience. Twiname points out that for many people this is their only way of learning to race successfully, but it's not actually all that effective. To improve you have to experiment. And most people won't make radical experiments with technique in the middle of a race. He advocates using some races as classrooms and forgetting about the results.

2. Observation. Was it Yoga Berra who said you can observe a lot just by watching? We never have the time to observe ourselves and others while racing. So get out on the RC and watch other racers closely. Have someone take photos or videos of yourself and study the results.

3. Solo practice. Sailors practice so much less than athletes do in other sports. Twiname says this is the fastest and easiest way to improve.

4. Crewing. Crew for a champion and learn from him.

5. Physical fitness. As a Laser sailor I know how important this is. But knowing it and doing something about it are different things.

6. Swapping boats and classes. Each class emphasizes different skills so switching forces you to work on different skills.

7. Paired practice

8. Team and match racing

9. Race post mortem and analysis

10. Reading and seeking advice

11. Group coaching

12. Mental fitness. Once again Yogi Berra said it first, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical". Even more true in sailboat racing, I suspect.

What Twiname recommends is to choose 3 major weaknesses that you need to work on and then think about how each of these 12 techniques can contribute to eliminating that weakness. So that's what I will do. I will use this blog to develop my self coaching plan and report on how it works out.

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