Why practice? Practice sailing. Or any other skill for that matter?
That's a stupid question. You practice to improve your skills.
Really? Is it as simple as that? I can think of at least seven different reasons to practice. And surely if you know the reason you are practicing on any given day it might make your practice more effective, don't you think?
1. To learn a new skill. You've never trapezed before. You want to learn. You may need a coach to explain the key aspects of the new skill and the things to avoid.
2. To unlearn an old habit that's wrong. You've always tacked a Laser facing backwards and you only just realized after twenty years that you should face forwards? It's hard to break old habits. You're probably going to get slower before you get faster.
3. To refine an existing skill. Your gybes are pretty good but not perfect. You need to smooth off the rough edges. Improve your timing. Concentrate on the key issue of speed coming out of the gybe.
4. To improve straight line boatspeed. It's magic, the more time you spend in the boat the faster you become. Persuade someone to tow your trailer from launch site to landing site and sail twenty miles downwind in waves. The magic will work for you.
5. To discover what you're doing wrong. You're always getting your feet tangled in the sheet when sailing your Laser upwind. Well, go out and sail upwind and concentrate on what your feet are doing. Are you looping your feet under the pile of sheet in the cockpit when you tack? Are you lazy about keeping the sheet tidy? You'll never find the time to discover all this during a race.
6. To work on your sailing fitness. You could run. You could bike. You could lift weights. You could watch TV while working out on your hiking bench. But nothing will improve your sailing fitness like a couple of hours on the water.
7. For fun. Hey, you do this sailing stuff because you enjoy it, right? So if you have a few free hours what could be more fun than to take your Laser down to the water and go for a blast? Hey, you might even learn something.
I went out for a practice on the bay this afternoon. Beautiful late fall day. Sunny, warm, few wisps of cloud. Around 10-12 knots with waves just big enough to surf.
Did a bit of #4 and some #5 and certainly #6. But mainly #7. Magic!
Why do you practice?