Friday, October 19, 2012


How long should a sailing practice session be?

Read the blogs of some of the Olympic sailors and you will find that most of them spend many hours on the water each day, for day after day.

On the other hand, I remember reading a post on another blog a couple of years back (might have been Andrew Campbell's blog) that said you could achieve worthwhile results in an hour of two of practice.

But how about this post - Short but Effective Practice - on Jay Livingston's Laser Sailing Notes blog?

Excellence comes from putting one short, well-designed practice session after another short, well-designed practice session. And short can mean just 10 minutes. 
If you think 10 minutes isn’t enough, then let me give you a guarantee; I can improve your Laser sailing dramatically if you will budget just 10 minutes 5 days a week during the off or the on season. I would teach you to visualize flawless boat handling choreography, to understand and memorize one racing rule a week, to create and practice your energizing and settling self-talk, or to build your core strength.
And I’ll bet that most of you are already agreeing with me and few are actually thinking about making that minimal investment.

Wow. 10 minutes? Being basically a very lazy person, I would sign up for that.

Now, to be fair, the examples in Jay's post are more about practice sessions on the land - vizualization, learning a racing rule, working on fitness - than on-the-water sessions. I mean, who goes sailing for only 10 minutes?

But I think he's on to something.

When I go out and practice a skill, I must admit that I find it hard to concentrate on any one given activity for longer than 10 to 30 minutes say. Sure, I can be quite happy sailing around for fun for longer but that's not the same thing.

Maybe "short but effective practice" is worth a second look?

I came back from Minorca Sailing last weekend with a list of skills that I need to work on. Not a huge long list, but I did discover a few things from feedback from instructors, or my own observations, or watching my sailing track in races on GPS that need some work.

One thing is that I'm sure I'm not sailing the boat flat enough in 5-10 knots.

Another is that, although I did pretty well in most of the racing in Menorca, when I did get beaten in a race it was often because I wasn't as well tuned in to the headers and lifts as I should have been.

So on my first sail back in Rhode Island yesterday I worked on both these issues. Just sailed upwind for about 30 minutes concentrating on both issues. Is the boat flat? Am I on a header or a lift? Then had fun sailing downwind for another 30 minutes.

Short? True.

Will it be effective? Time will tell.


International Sailing Academy said...

Something we've found of the top guys is that they do 2 hours really focused and that's that. It's very structured and all their goats get accomplished.

Tillerman said...

That's an interesting perspective. Whether it's 10 minutes or 2 hours, I'm sure that it's much better to do some structured practice to achieve some specific goals (or goats even) instead of just sailing around for fun for an hour or two which is what I have been doing usually.

So that's my new mantra. Focus! Goats!

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