Superfluidity is like the Taoist ideal of wu-wei, action without action. It's akin to what athletes call the "zone," their elusive source of effortless achievement. It's losing yourself, it's a state of grace, it's nirvana, the ultimate melding of thoughts, senses, abilities and actions into a perfect harmony of living.
Of course, the concept is familiar to racing sailors, and to most athletes I suspect. Some days you are just "in the zone". Everything on the racecourse seems to go perfectly without any conscious thought or effort. You break off the start line in clear air going to the favored side of the course. All your strategic decisions work out and sometimes you have no idea why. When you encounter other boats you automatically make the right tactical decisions and leave your competitors in your wake. You don't need to find the wind; it finds you.
It doesn't happen often. At least not for mid-fleet weekend warriors like me. I remember one regatta when I achieved superfluidity. In every race I seemed to work out to the front of the fleet without ever doing anything unusual to achieve it. It felt so strange that I actually apologized as I cruised past the local hotshot into first place. "I'm sorry Steve, I've no idea what I'm doing."
I just bought the latest version of a computer racing similar. It's the Sailing Tactics Simulator from Posey Yacht Design. In the introduction to the instructions, the software's author Dennis Posey makes this claim...
Success as a tactician and racing skipper requires quick effective decision making, ability to anticipate developing situations, and the experience to judge outcomes. The Sailing Tactics Simulator can provide you with valuable experience and condensed practice time equivalent to many hours on the water. In addition, the Coach will help you learn faster. If you stick with the simulator, you'll be impressed how clearly you perceive developments on the race course and how effectively you deal with them!
Wow! That's quite a claim. You can achieve that effortless ability to make to make correct decisions on the racecourse by playing a computer game? Superfluidity from Silicon?
Actually I do believe him. I bought an older version of this game a few years ago and played it obsessively through that winter. It was quite addictive. The next Spring I had my best racing results ever.
Of course a computer simulation doesn't even begin to recreate many of the physical sensations of sailing. But this one does do an excellent job of simulating the patterns of winds and currents and competitors on the racecourse. In a race we make dozens of decisions... shall I start here or head down the line for a better hole....uh oh the wind shifted, shall I head back up to the boat end.....is that boat to windward sheeting in early.... how was the start.. should I foot or pinch..... which side is favored....tack now or keep going....duck this guy or cross him......and so on and so on.
The simulator isolates all those strategic and tactical decisions from all the other aspects of sailing. In the same way that a chess player sees the patterns of pieces and develops an instinct for how different moves will work out, a racing sailor needs to be able to see the big picture of where his competitors are and what the wind is doing and be able to see how the game will develop in order to make his decisions.
It's only mental practice but sometimes it's easier to train the mind without the distractions of aching quads and waves splashing in your face. Like Outer Life my goals are survival and superfluidity. I'll let you know how I make out.