Some random thoughts on winter, spring, lay-offs, coming back, training, peaking...
Take a sport like Major League Baseball. The season is April to September, plus a few games in October if your team is lucky. About the same months that many folk in the north-eastern United States, Canada and northern Europe do their sailing.
Then most baseball players don't play the game at all from October to January. (Though I assume they do keep themselves fit by working out in the gym.) Likewise I did hardly any sailing this year between the trip to Spain in early October and the trip to the Dominican Republic in January.
So how do baseball players get themselves ready to play the game at a high level in April? They head off to Florida or Arizona in February and March for something called "spring training".
Leave aside for a minute how February became "spring". The important thing is that the players need a couple of months to prepare for the big games again. They do workouts and drills together as a team. They play so-called "exhibition games" against other teams. The scores and statistics in these games don't really count. They are for players to get back in the groove again, and for the managers and coaches to assess the players and decide which ones should make the team roster when "real" games start in April.
I think I need the equivalent of spring training for my sailing this year. Indeed I approached the clinic and regatta in Cabarete last month much in the same spirit as a baseball player going to spring training. An opportunity to work on my technique with a top-class coach. A time to build back my skills to where they were at the end of last summer. A chance to have a few races against good sailors without being bothered too much about the scores. Hell, if I had had to take myself out of a game after three innings it wouldn't have really mattered.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I should have written this post before going to Cabarete. Now it just sounds like excuses for my dismal results. I almost did write it before I went actually. You can believe me if you want (or abuse me in the comments if you don't).
Do you feel the same after a lay-off from sailing? Is it possible to maintain your racing skills at a high level all year-round? Or are there inevitably peaks and troughs in your performance through the year? Do you actually need a down-time for a couple of months each year? Do you sometimes feel like you need "spring training for sailors"? Do you approach some regattas with the attitude that they are mainly for experimentation and practice, and that the scores aren't too important for you?
And if I said that I am treating the Laser Master Worlds in Australia as part of my spring training would your reaction be...
a) you're nuts
b) that's showing lack of respect for the regatta and the other sailors
c) you're just setting yourself up with an excuse if you don't do very well
d) you are ensuring that you won't do very well if you go with that attitude
e) all of the above?
Hmmm, I thought you'd say that.