Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sailfit Revisited

Last week I attended one of Kurt Taulbee's Sailfit Laser sailing seminars in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Regular readers of this blog (all 673 of you, whoever the hell you are) will recall that I also did this last March. Hey, there's no law against enjoying the same experience twice if you get a chance.

Actually this year was somewhat different. It was a semi-private clinic for a group of sailors organized by some friends I met there last year, along with some other refugees from the wintry north-east whom we knew (plus one local sailor). So it was even more fun to do some Laser training with old friends, not to mention that there was another non-sailing wife there so Tillerwoman had a companion when we were all out sailing.

The format was pretty much the same as last year so I won't dwell on that too much. If you want more info on how the seminar is constructed, check out last year's posts...
You might think that you wouldn't learn much by listening to the same lectures and doing the same drills a second time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kurt is an excellent coach and gave every participant in the clinic plenty of individual feedback on their sailing. There was quite a range of sailors with different abilities at the seminar and Kurt was able to give specific, helpful advice to all of us. A couple of guys were relatively new to Laser racing and he helped them with some of the basics such as hand-over-hand sheeting and how to swap tiller and sheet hands when tacking; at the other extreme we were joined on Sunday by Emily Billings, who recently qualified for the US Sailing Team, and Kurt was also able to give her some pointers on improving her technique.

We started each day at 8:30 am with a talk and discussion on the topic of the day, and (after the first day) plenty of video taken of our sailing the previous day. It was useful to see our own faults and to compare our styles with the other students. Then off to rig the boats and launching around noon. The on-the-water drills and practice raced lasted for three to three and a half hours. And then after putting the boats away, more video feedback until about 5:30 pm. Phew. One sailor cracked us all up on the first day with his persistent bleating between the drills of "When do we break for lunch?" Never, apparently.

I learned a lot. I have 25 pages of notes from the 4 days... and I didn't even bother to write down stuff that I already knew or remembered from last year. Among other things I learned...
  • how to make a Laser do two tricks that I would have thought impossible

  • that I've had the totally wrong approach for the last 25 years to sailing upwind

  • that I need to change what I do with my feet when sailing downwind

  • that I am totally clueless about how to position my boat on the racecourse

  • and two new ways to injure myself while Laser sailing that I would never have imagined possible before.
On top of that, the weather was hot and sunny, the company was congenial, and Tillerwoman and I discovered several superb new places in Clearwater for evening refreshment. On Monday we caught a Yankees spring training baseball game in Tampa (which the Yankees won 12-0 even without the help of A-Roid) and I'm hoping that my sailing injuries will heal soon...

Life is good.

More details in future posts. Watch this space.


Mal's Team Gherkin said...

Sailing is a mirror to life - there is always something new to learn!

Enjoy :)

Pat said...

Perhaps there are no good injuries, but yours sound entirely honourable and possibly useful.

Andrew said...

Ah, where to put your feet when sailing downwind. Been waiting for that for a long time.

Smilicus said...

Glad you are back TIller. Now I have more te read in my lunch break.

Polyphony said...

Tillerman, save room for me next year! This sounds cool!

tillerman said...

Sure thing Polyphony.

MJ said...

More on boat positioning, please.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this post and I would strongly encourage anyone, at any levle of experience, who is looking to improve their laser sailing skills to attend Kurt’s seminars as much as possible. Much like the previous sailors experience, I benefited greatly during the course of the seminar last November. Although, I only had a half of a season’s experience racing a laser, I saw vast improvements even after the first day of training with Kurt. By the end of the seminar I was sailing competitively with some extremely seasoned veterans of the boat. I now know what I need to do to improve my skills and have a roadmap to do so.

Frankly, I think there are a lot of sailors out there that may think that they would not get that much out of a seminar like Sailfits. I strongly disagree with this opinion and encourage anyone especially the advanced sailor to attend. Advanced sailors really are the ones that need’s this training the most to get to the next level. More importantly, these advanced sailors could benefit even more than most from Meka’s segment in this seminar going over physical fitness and the psychological aspects of this sport.

The bottom-line is that we are lucky to have such good training options with the laser. I think this is what makes our class so great. I hope more people take advantage of this kind of learning resource. I think it is a shame that most spend so much time and effort on a something but never get the training they deserve and need.

Just my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Andrew in anything but light wind you want to keep both feet down b/c if the boat is about to roll, you can get to your feet to save it. Plus this allows you to keep stability in the boat.

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