Tuesday, January 02, 2007


It's always interesting to read your comments on anything I write here. Most people leave their comments within a day or two of the original post, but occasionally I notice someone finds an old post and leaves an insightful comment weeks or even months after I had written the original item.

Such was the case with this comment on my post Snap! that was about a technique for consciously switching visual attention every few seconds between all the factors that are important in a race
: sail trim, boat trim, wind, heading, other boats... and so on.

TK, an avid scow sailor from the midwest left a comment about a superior technique using other senses. It is so good I will quote it in full ...


I may be late, but I found "Snap!" to be very interesting. I am an avid scow sailor in the midwest. And scows depend greatly on 'feel,' but I found the same idea transferred well to the Laser.

I think it is important to widen your field of vision and open up your awareness well beyond what your eyes are telling you.

I've gotten to the point where boathandling and sail control are done mostly by feel, with the occasional visual reference. I think moving your eyes through such a dramatic progression of "snaps" can be distracting.

When you 'hear' what your body is telling you: the boat starting to heel and respond to the breeze can be felt in the rear end and the thighs on the deck, the puff can be felt on your cheek, even the sound of the wake or bow wave...

Awareness of all these senses can tell you lots about the boat's attitude and the handling required.

This allows you to keep your field of vision up and out of the boat. Through a wide lens, watch the wind on the water, watch the angle and attitude of boats near you and those on the other side of the course. Who is up? Who is down? Where is the velocity?

Looking away to the next 'snap' on the list runs the risk of missing something in that field of vision, like that persistent shift.

Making boathandling automatic can mean keeping your eyes up on the racecourse almost the entire time. Fo me, making boathandling automatic required tuning in to what all the other senses were telling me.

With practice, awareness can be greatly heightened.
To the point of telling you almost everything you need to know. So your eyes can see what's happening on the course.

Sounds a little like Zen's Zai Chi. And it works.

Just my $.02

Hope this helps,

Thanks TK. Great advice. I will try and apply it.


Anonymous said...

Dayam! Just what I was saying!
Nice SOMEONE is paying attention & gets it

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Have you evre tried sailing with your eues shut or blindfolded?

You can learn alot about how to sail a boat automatically by doing this and you can really learn how automatically you tack and gybe by being blindfolded whilst doing it.

Obviously you need to make sure you are well away from other boats whilst doing this or sail in company with someone who keeps watch for you.

Try it, I can promise you it will really 'open your eyes' to sailing with your other senses.

AUS673 said...

It is indeed good advice.

When we learn to sail, we tend to spend a lot of time concentrating on sail trim, boat trim, waves and so on. Later on, the key to being a good sailor (a good racer, really), is being able to stop concentrating on that stuff and "get your head out of the boat". Whether that means sailing purely by feel and keeping your eyes upwind, versus taking a quick "snapshot" of the sail and surroundings every ten seconds or so, is maybe not that important.

What taught me to do this was sailing fast and tricky boats - where you are forced to rely on feel and instinct a lot of the time because things happen too fast to really think about what is happening. Boats that are a bit more "dangerous" tend to let you know pretty much straight away that your technique is a bit off - typically by pitching you head first into the water. They also reward you by "feeling" great when you get it right. When you jump back onto a more forgiving boat, good technique suddenly becomes a lot more automatic.

Pat said...

So are you saying that a West Wight Potter 19, MacGregor X, or a Catalina 42 might not be the easiest boat on which to learn great technique?

Anonymous said...

There comes a time when a sailor performs boathandleing by instinct. Kind of like walking. Whens the last time you actually thought about physically walking (OK sometimes on the way home at 2am you may have thought about it). But really with enough training and pracitce you should be able to sail by feel. The only way to know if the boat is performing right is to become one with the boat. As "TK" said, feel the boat on your bottom, thighs and body. Become one with the boat.
I think he is on the right page here. Once you can spend your time focusing on the souroundings and become more activly sailing to the conditions and the other boats and not so focused on your boat you will start to see results change for the better.
I have sailed with and against some of the best sailors in the contry and for that matter the world. One situation that sticks out in particular is when sailing with an old Olympic silver medlaist. We were crewing on a big boat out on Lake Michigan and the skipper was so focused on the numbers that his computer was giving him...then the old olympian stood up...took out some yarn from his pocket and tied it to the shrouds. He said forget those expensive instruments...watch these things.
Thats just what it takes, time and practice of the basics to make a good sailor better.
I tip my hat to you "TK" for sharing your insight with the rest of us. I'd sure like to get on your boat someday and see how it all gets put together!?!?!

Keep your feet in the straps and your head out of the boat, and remember if no one crosses you your in first.
So long from the TO !

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