Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Words of Wisdom... and Some Questions

Some words of wisdom from the best book ever written on self-coaching in sailing: Sail, Race and Win by Eric Twiname...

Many people rely on racing as virtually their only way of learning to race more successfully. Yet race experience alone is of limited value. More racing does not necessarily mean better results. Often it brings the opposite...

To improve a technique, tacking for example, you must experiment. Experimenting means that you will be doing some tacks worse than usual... During a race you are reluctant to experiment because... it would be crazy to do something deliberately which you know would make you worse...

Normal race experience on its own tends to confirm you in what you are doing already....

Maximum benefit comes from a broad range of learning methods of which racing is only one.


Twiname goes on to list these other "ways of learning"....

  • Observation
  • Solo practice
  • Crewing
  • Physical fitness
  • Swapping boats and classes
  • Paired practice
  • Team and match racing
  • Race post mortem
  • Reading and seeking advice
  • Group coaching
  • Mental fitness

What do you think? Is it possible to race too much? Do you agree that racing "tends to confirm you in what you are doing already" (which may not be optimal)? Does it make sense that you could race less and improve faster? Are you using some of Twiname's other "ways of learning"?

6 comments:

Derek said...

While I absolutely agree that there needs to be practice time, I am not sure you can actually race too much. I think what matters more than the actual number of days racing is the ratio of time spent racing to time practicing and leveraging the other techniques you mention.

Similarly, in my opinion, not all races or regattas should be treated as a peak event. In many respects it is important to have practice regattas / races to apply and assess what is gained from the non-racing time. Things are not always what they seem and when you put a new technique, skill etc to practical use, you sometimes discover things do not go exactly as you had anticipated.

Tillerman said...

Well said Derek. Actually Twiname goes on in the section I quoted to recommend using some races for training purposes, to experiment and try new things without worrying about your result. Easy to say but I always find that my competitive juices flow too strongly when That Guy is near me on the race course!

Tim said...

I particularly value Eric's approach and I do try to practice and do use club races as a practice race. In fact if a race is going badly I sometime try new things or experiment simply because it won't be a great loss if it doesn't work.
In fact I believe that if you are to enjoy your racing then you must have a pragmatic approach and seeking to learn from each experiance is a good way to make even the worst result a positive experiance.

yarg said...

Casual racing, fun racing, non-serious racing, or whatever you want to call it works greats for experimenting - especially when races are short. When an experiment fails you only suffer for 10 minutes, then start the next race and try again. Sometimes it is reassuring to find that there are even worse ways of doing things than the ones you already use.

yarg said...

Observation seems to be working well for me. While coaching in the spring, I do very little sailing and lots of watching. Lately, some competitors are accusing me of reading the wind better, and if that is true, it is due to watching so much sailing. I really think it's cooler sunglasses. On my lake you can trip over yourself and be a complete klutz in the boat if you catch the right puffs and shifts. Luck works really well too.

Pat said...

Zach Railey, the finn medalist, in a talk he gave said that he only tries to peak for one regatta a year and treats the others as "practice".

Other possibilities...
watching the racing from the committee boat (fun discussions if some old racers are aboard!),
two-boat tuning,
getting someone to follow you around and shoot video.

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