Thursday, June 12, 2014

Training Partners



If you want to improve as a sailboat racer should you train with the best sailors you can (even if they are much better than you) or with sailors who are about the same standard as yourself?  Which will help you the most?

I didn't sail at all in February, March or April, but I've been sailing my Laser two or three times a week in May and June. I was pretty rusty after a three month layoff, so I see all the time on the water right now as (somewhat belated) spring training.

I've done a few solo sessions.

I've raced with local Laser fleets a couple of times, six to eight boats each time with the top four or five sailors being about my standard or a little better.

And I've had a number of practice sessions with one or two other sailors. In every one of these sessions the constant factor has been my friend who is a much better sailor than me. Way better. Like one of the best Laser sailors in the world of our age.

I've enjoyed all these formats and I feel like I'm improving. Getting fitter. Smoother boat-handling. Going faster.

But I'm wondering what kind of training partners give the most benefit.

Should you always train with the best partner you can find? Someone who will really stretch you. Someone who is the best example to copy. Even if sometimes the challenge is to not let him extend his lead from ten boat lengths to fifteen boat lengths on a short windward leeward course?

Or do you improve faster working with people of your own standard or only a little better? Does the possibility that you might actually beat all these people in a short practice race motivate you to try harder? Or do you sometimes get fat, dumb and happy (and lazy) when the racing isn't quite so challenging? Do you even pick up bad habits from training with people who aren't really any better than yourself?

I really don't know the answer. In any case, even if I did know the answer, I'm not about to turn down any opportunity to go sailing with some friends.

What do you think?

What kind of training partners help you improve the most?


8 comments:

Keep Reaching said...

Your last comment about not turning down opportunities is spot on.

As for the type of training partners, if those in the photo are not available, I would always want most of the other sailors to be better. Sure, the ego gets a nice quick fix in beating someone but unless it was a real stretch or a real lesson learned it is not of much value.

But those who are better should be accessible - ideally because they are willing to give you tips or suggestions or because they are not so much better that you can't observe them and understand what they are doing differently.

Judith Krimski said...

Any time on the water is helpful. I also think setting goals is key to improving. So if you are out by yourself focus on boat handling so you increase muscle memory and execution improves: do 100 tacks or jibes. Do circles or practice mark roundings. If you are practicing with others speed and trim are good things to work on. We are super lucky here in NE to have great conditions and great sailors to practice with.

/Pam said...

A very timely post since Doug has again been told he can't join the local Laser fleet. The reason this year is that he sails too competitively and they are just there to have fun. It's the first time the rejections have made sense. No, someone like Doug does not belong in that fleet. So it would seem that the choice of training partners might depend on the end goals of both.

I'm not very skilled and certainly don't like getting beat. But, I have to sail with Doug whether it's on the same boat or one next to him and in general I'm getting better even though my goal is just to stay fit and have fun. Sailing with him, I have certainly learned what I need to do more often than not even if the execution is still lacking. Although he can offer quick tips that immediately increase my speed or stability, I rarely have anything to offer him as a training partner.

Doug would love to sail with people who regularly beat him. He says you never learn anything at the front of the fleet. He handicaps himself in various ways in order to equalize his training partner but his choice would always be the Scheidts of the world even if he only got to hang with him for a minute at the start.

O Docker said...


A training partner in any activity should be good enough to beat you, but not above buying the beers afterwards.

Tillerman said...

I give up. Since when was "sailing competitively" not the same thing as "having fun"?

Tillerman said...

Well said O Docker. Free beer is indeed the secret of happiness.

/Pam said...

Ah! Now I see where the problems began. The fleet would quit early to go drink beer and Doug would continue to sail. By the time he got off the water, the beer and the fleet were both gone. It was a doomed relationship to begin with.

Tillerman said...

Ha ha. We had that problem last night in one of our training sessions. Five of us went for some practice in waves and good breeze off Third Beach Newport. Three of us (combined age 204) came in about 6:30pm. The other two (mere kids by comparison) stayed out way longer. Guess who got the beer?

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