Monday, April 23, 2012

The Reset Button

Sometimes in sailing you need a "reset" button.

There was a great post on the Laser forum about a week ago from a guy who clearly needed a reset button...

Help!! I've been an avid laser sailor for about 5 or 6 years now. Never a top level guy, but definitely a weekend warrior. However, a few weeks ago in my frostbite sailing I had a awful crash and burn. To the point where I couldn't get the boat righted and had to be towed home.

Since then, I'm definitely not sailing as well as I did, nor being as aggressive. Today was a SW 10 to 15 and I just could not mentally get myself in the game.... I've stepped up my physical training and managing the boat wasn't an issue... I was just psyched out...

So, I'm wondering if this has happened to anyone else and the best way people have gotten back into the saddle.

Oh yes. Been there. Done that.

In fact, this issue of a bad experience "psyching me out" is probably the major problem I have had with sailing in the last few years. And it affects me on several different timescales.

First, there is the experience when I'm sailing on a heavy air day and experience several bad capsizes. Each one tires me about a bit more than the one before. And worse, each capsize saps my confidence. I start sailing less aggressively and the more tentatively I sail, the slower I become and the more likely I am to capsize again. Eventually I just give up and head for the beach. I wrote about one such day at Losing It.

On days like that I need a reset button. A way of making myself forget the first capsize, the second capsize... and just continuing to sail to the best of my ability.

Then there is the situation where one bad day on the water or a bad regatta can so mess up my head that I avoid sailing certain kinds of events for months or even years.

One example was the first day of the frostbite season in winter 2008/2009. I wrote about it at 10 Reasons Why I (Almost) Gave Up Sailing This Year.

Pretty much everything went wrong that day. The wind was nasty and shifty and gusty and chopped-up with vicious slam-dunk headers. There was a huge turnout of sailors on a short course so the start line was too crowded, the mark roundings were too crowded and there was way too much bad-tempered shouting as we played bumper-boats. I tried to make the best of it and write it off as a learning experience but I think it planted a seed deep in my mind that keeps reminding me that racing isn't always fun; sometimes it's just plain frustrating and annoying.

That one day messed up my head for at least a year. As I said in that post, "Surely all the hundreds of memories of good days on the race-course would outweigh that one bad day?" Apparently not. I really needed a reset button that year.

Another example is the funk I seem to be in now about sailing in the Laser Masters Worlds. I've had some of the best sailing experiences of my life at Master Worlds but my bad experience at Hayling Island in 2010 that I wrote about at Half a World still seems to be weighing heavily on me. I did skip the 2011 Worlds in San Francisco, partly because I am just as happy to be sailing in and around Rhode Island in the summer. But I also skipped the 2012 Worlds in Australia last month. I still don't really know why. I love Australia. I love getting away from the New England winter to sail somewhere warm.

Actually I do know why. That dismal performance in 2010 has made me question whether I still have the skills and stamina to sail the Masters Worlds any more. Totally irrational. I need a reset button.

So how do people deal with this? What advice did that guy on the Laser forum receive?

Let's see...

1. Face your fear... don't miss a week... have fun... make a reasonable goal each week.

2. It is a confidence thing. I would say sail in winds you are comfy in and then gradually push the limit back up.

3. Show the boat who's boss... curse like a sailor.


There's a lot more I could write on this topic (and I probably will.) But this post has gone on way too long and I think it's time to let someone else get a word in edgeways.

Do you get psyched out if things go bad when you are racing? How do you deal with it? What's your reset button?


JP said...

Time - given enough you'll forget the pain

Tillerman said...

Thanks JP. But I was hoping that someone might know a short cut or a magic trick!

Sam Chapin said...

Move to one of smaller sails. If you old guys keep turning over-- of course you get tired and do it some more.

The Keepers of the Vang said...


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Well, you can't quit sailing. But you might have to quit Lasering, as a way to avoid dying under yours (see motto on the top of your pages). My advice is to trade your hull in for a Laser of the 21st Century. I think you have earned it, Skip! And "Reset Button" would make for a GR8 name! If you don't take it, maybe I will.

O Docker said...

Beer - given enough, you'll forget the pain.

Tillerman said...

Sam- you have a good point. But surely 63 is way too young to be using old guy sails?

KotV - probably right, but isn't there an easier way?

Doc - you will have to pry my Laser mainsheet from my cold dead hands.

O Docker - I tried that but it's hard to drink beer when sailing a Laser in 25 knots. Isn't there some magic solution that doesn't involve alcohol or drugs?

Mrs. P said...

After a surgery, I went to rehab to regain full range of motion. I was told that my cells have a memory and they know that this motion caused pain before so they now shorten the motion to just before the point where the previous pain started. The cells don’t know I had surgery and full motion is now possible. So we repeat the same motion over and over until I convince the cells that the motion that caused pain no longer causes pain and eventually full range of motion is restored.

I would imagine the answer lies somewhere in that analysis but I’m not exactly sure where. I think most people shorten their range of motion and just begin to avoid windy, cold or whatever, and as a result, the thrill of sailing a Laser fades. Don’t settle for a shortened range of motion or you surely won’t cheat the nursing home.

Mr. P is 61 and just made the switch to a radial and I still think he's hot. He most definitely will die on his Laser some many years past his 90s.

O Docker said...

If this is some sort of mental block, you could spend hundreds of hours in analysis sorting out the deep psychological conflicts, fears, and insecurities that are at the root of the problem.

But beer has been shown to be quicker, cheaper, and a lot more fun.

Tillerman said...

Thanks for that insight Mrs P. I think your analogy is right on. I did discuss the pros and cons of my switching to a Radial a few months back at Random Radial Ramblings and did actually have my first sail with a Radial rig last year on a very windy day in Menorca. It could be part of the answer but I'm hoping that there are also some mental solutions to the problem. The other issue here is that I'm way out of the normal weight range for a Radial. I think Mr P. is about 20lbs lighter than me, so I don't think sailing a Laser in all conditions is right for me yet.

O Docker - beer is indeed cheap and fun. But it's not a long term solution to anything.

Tillerman said...

Hmm. That last sentence in the reply to Mrs. P. should say. " I don't think sailing a Laser RADIAL in all conditions is right for me yet."

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