What am I learning?
What am I learning with all this solo practice? That's what I was thinking this afternoon as I sailed in a gusty north-westerly, around 15 knots give or take, from Bristol to Barrington Beach. And back. Back is important. It's always good to sail back to where the car and the trailer are.
Ah, Barrington! The scene of numerous humiliating experiences in years gone by in various Sunfish North Americans and at least one Sunfish Regional. I don't recall ever having a good result in a regatta there, and worse than that I never could figure out what I was doing wrong. Was I on the wrong side of every shift for a week? Or are there some weird tidal eddies that I never understood? Happy days.
Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Learning experiences.
According to 100 Days at Sea this was my tenth day of solo practice in Rhode Island waters since the Kurt Taulbee clinic in Florida in March. So is it doing me any good? Am I getting better? Am I learning anything?
Well, it's certainly not producing any dramatic changes in my sailing ability. My mediocre result in the May Madness Regatta at Quannapowitt proved that. But I think I am making slow improvements in some areas. What else did I expect? I wrote last Saturday in What I Learned From Running Marathons that "performance improvement comes slowly and with regular practice."
I think the payoff is in three areas...
1. Boat-handling mechanics. I've been working on trying to correct the faults in my technique pointed out to me by the coaches at the two clinics I attended in Cabarete and Clearwater. Things like doing the hand swap in a tack after hiking out, and how to steer properly through a gybe at a leeward mark. And then there are some other faults -- and solutions-- that I spotted myself in practice, like how to avoid tying my feet in knots in the mainsheet when I tack. With regular repetition these things are gradually getting better. By no means consistently 100% right all the time yet but it's coming. I think.
2. Wave awareness. Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that until I moved to Rhode Island last year most of my sailing was on lakes a.k.a. flat water. This whole business of sailing in the moguls is quite new to me but today on the long downwind back to Bristol I had another of those zen-like rides that I also wrote about in Poppasquash Poppycock. Just tuned in to the waves, experimenting with slight changes of angle, boat trim, sheeting... and seeing the (sometimes dramatic) changes in speed. Again, I think my downwind speed in waves will take a long time to improve but I do believe it's coming. I can only hope.
3. Sailing fitness. Surely this routine of sailing a few times a week is better physical preparation for racing than my routine last year of doing very little practice prior to sailing an early-season 4-day national championship, being totally wasted after every day, and then being surprised that I placed badly? Please tell me this is better.
So I had a good old blast on the bay, then packed up and went home just in time to meet Cutest Granddaughter in the World and her parents who came today and are staying with us for the weekend. Life is good.