Dennis Conner, who knows a thing or two about winning sailboat races, wrote a book called No Excuse To Lose. It defines a philosophy about how to win at any endeavor, whether it be sailing, business or any other aspect of life.
At one level NETL is all about eliminating all the reasons why you might fail. "We lost because they had newer sails .... the bottom of our boat was dirty .... we hadn't practiced together." Duh! Well, buy some new sails, clean the bottom of your boat and make the time to practice. Easy to say but most of the fleet won't do it.
But the more fundamental point of the NETL approach is that in our minds, sometimes we allow ourselves to lose. Deep down we are afraid to make the commitment to win. And if we have some ready made excuses we can go easy on ourselves after the loss. This happens more often than we are prepared to admit. I do it myself in our Wednesday night Sunfish series.
Conner's point is that if you have put in the time and effort to eliminate every possible excuse to lose, then you have prepared your mind to win too. You have no excuse to fall back on if you lose, so now it's OK to win.
Apparently Dennis is fanatical about boat preparation. Before a race he and his crew will spend many hours, days even, wetsanding the bottom of their boat to achieve the fastest possible finish. Can you imagine what that does to the mental attitude of the crew? Once they have spent all that time, elbow grease and sweat on boat preparation they are not going to waste it by making stupid mental errors on the racecourse. They have no excuse to lose.
In preparing for today's Commodore's Cup regatta at the club I have done the NETL thing. Last week in light airs at the club I had difficulties in picking up the direction of the very light wind filling in after a calm and in seeing my telltales on the leeward side of the sail in certain light conditions. So I have made a new wind indicator out of recording tape for light winds and replaced the old telltales with more visible black ones. I have wet sanded and refinished my foils. I have washed and polished the bottom of my boat. I have cleaned my spars. I have checked all my lines.
I have given myself no excuse to lose. But wish me luck anyway.