How to practice?
I went over to Bristol on Monday for some solo practice in a puffy, shifty, westerly breeze. For some reason I recalled a post I wrote about Practice almost five years ago in which I discussed the relative merits of "block" vs "random" practice. Block practice is repetitive practice over and over again of a single skill, like doing 100 roll tacks one after the other, and then moving on to blocks of practice of other skills such as gybes or mark roundings; random practice would be to practice different skills one after the other such as a gybe, a leeward mark rounding, sailing fast upwind, a tack, a windward mark rounding. Research has shown that block practice improves the given skill on the practice day; but random practice has more beneficial effects when tests are conducted on another day a.k.a. as using those skills in a regatta.
So I did some "random" practice. Actually I sailed round and round and round a windward-leeward course between a couple of "No Wake" buoys. Had a chance to work on all the things I am total crap at such as upwind sailing, downwind sailing, tacks, gybes, judging laylines, sailing fast in a steady wind, sailing fast in a shifty wind, windward mark roundings and leeward mark roundings. Come to think of it, what else is there?
For light relief I did do a bit of "block" practice on reaches and gybes, a.k.a. just goofing off and having fun.
I also remembered something that Jay Livingston wrote a few weeks ago in Practice Towards Perfection.
For me, practice is a form of meditation. And just like sitting meditation, I find my attention wandering. And just like meditation I need to draw my attention back to the present moment – the motion of my body and the boat. No recriminations for the slip in attention, just a nudge back to the task at hand. With practice my attention “learns” what it feels like to be placed in the moment and I can keep it there a bit easier, for a bit longer.
No recriminations. My performance is what it is. Let it be.