A couple of weeks ago I noticed that one of the top sailors in our Laser frostbite fleet had a bad race and was back with the tailenders. I asked him what had happened. He explained about some mistake he had made and then offered an insightful comment about the standard of the fleet...
The competition has become a lot tighter in the last couple of years. There used to be a significant gap in skill level between the "good guys" at the top of the fleet and the "OK guys" in the middle of the fleet, as he labeled them. In the last couple of years the standard of the "OK guys" has improved so that if one of the "good guys" makes one little mistake he can suddenly find he has slipped from 5th, say, to 25th or worse in the race.
The results from the spring series have now been tallied so I took a look at the standings. It's impossible to tell from the summary results whether our friend's theory is correct. But what is true is that the number of "OK guys" has increased and the competition within that group is incredibly tight.
The scores for the series are based on the average of each sailor's position in all races in which he or she sailed (excluding some throwouts). Around 90 sailors sailed at least one race in the series but only 43 "qualified" by starting at least half of the races.
The top 11 sailors managed to achieve an average score in single digits ranging from 1.968 to 9.111. Let's call them the good guys. Hey, to achieve an average position in this fleet in the top ten is truly amazing - at least to me it is
Then there are 17 sailors with average scores ranging from 10-point-something to 15-point-something. You wouldn't think that was mathematically possible but it's true. Seventeen! Seventeen sailors averaging a finish from 10th to 15th. That's the group of "OK guys" waiting to pounce on the slightest mistake by one of the top ten group, and also producing intense competition within the fleet for those places in the low teens.
I'm one of those OK guys. About in the middle of that group which also places me pretty much in the middle of the fleet of qualifiers. Somebody has to be in the middle. We can't all be winners.
Am I making any progress? Tough to tell. Perhaps our friend from paragraph one is right. Perhaps all of us OK guys have improved. Also there's a high level of turnover in the fleet, so it's tough to compare results from year to year. But if I look back to the results of the spring 2003 series, I do see that my absolute position in the fleet and my average score have improved by a few places each. And of the sailors who qualified in both years, nobody overtook me from 2003 to 2006 but I did place higher in 2006 than two of the sailors who were ahead of me in 2003.
So I'm still one of those OK, middle-of-the-fleet sort of guys. But perhaps if I work really really hard, and put into practice all the good ideas I read from fellow sailing bloggers, then maybe, just maybe, one day I'll be a good guy.