Monday, September 01, 2014


Athletes in all sorts of sports believe in using mantras. But are mantras any help in sailing?

What is a mantra? An inspirational phrase that helps with your performance. Something to help keep the mind focused on what is important while you are competing.

Many runners use mantras. There is an excellent Runners' World article about it - The Magic of Mantras. It reminds us that a good mantra should be "short, positive, instructive, and full of action words."

But mantras are very personal. Different strokes for different folks. And even in a sport as apparently simple as running, a runner may use different mantras in different stages of the race and for different purposes.

Some examples of mantras from that article I linked…

To remind you to start out easy in a long race - "Pass no one."

To help you stay focused and forget how long a marathon really is - "One mile at a time." I could never have completed my marathons or half marathons without using this one.

To help you focus on good running form  - "Lighter, softer, faster, relaxer." Hey, they don't even have to be real words as long as they work for you.

Some sailors use mantras too. Christine Neville wrote about it in one of her posts about racing at CORK a couple of weeks ago. She felt she had been thinking too much about getting away from other boats to find clear air, so on this day she used mantras like "keep it simple" and "go as fast and direct as you can."

I really need a mantra to help me when I'm sailing a long windy beat to take my mind off my aching quad muscles and keep me focused on hiking hard and keeping good hiking form and sailing fast. I wonder what would work?

"It's meant to hurt." Maybe not. Too negative. A mantra should take your mind off the pain and adversity and keep you in a positive frame of mind.

"Tougher than the rest." Not true - but it would probably work.

"Grind them down. One at a time." Ha! I like this one. Just focus on sailing faster than the boat next to me until I have him in my bad air and he is forced to tack away. Children can be so cruel at my age.

But sailing is such a complex sport. We need different mantras for different wind conditions and different points of sail and different strategic and tactical situations and to avoid different mental traps.

"Keep your head out of the boat." is a very useful mantra of course.

And something like "Keep calm. Forget it. Carry on." is a good one for dealing with the aftermath of all the things that can go bad on the race course including capsizes, collisions with buoys, collisions with other boats, collisions with bridges, falling out of the boat, being pulled out of the boat by another sailor's sheet around your neck, chopping your finger off etc. etc.

What about you?

Do you have some favorite sailing mantras?


Baydog said...

No poopin on the boat..we'll be in soon

Tillerman said...

I knew I could rely on you, Baydog!

Jeremiah Blatz said...

"Stop f*cking pinching!" - me to myself. All the time.

Tillerman said...

LOL. One of my own mantras upwind is, "Bow down." Same difference!

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

"Don't pinch" became such a mantra on my boat for my crew toward me that one of them finally gave me a hat that read "Pincher". I think it's lost....

Baydog said...

Yes,'ve mentioned your penchant for pinching in the past.

/Pam said...

I asked Doug his mantra for long windy beats ... he said its all about pain management and if it's painful it's already too late and your mantra should be "more training next time."

My mantra is "I'm still in front of so and so" and when it no longer applies it's "well they're just going to have to wait for me to finish."

In the Greece Worlds, on the final day of racing, Doug was leading in both races and his mantra was "no one has the right to pass me" then he hit a wall in both races and slipped to 19th or 20th.

Now, Doug's training on his hiking bench is such that sitting on the boat and hiking feels like sitting in a comfortable chair and his mantra is simply "pace yourself."

In the Korea Worlds, with eight foot waves, Doug had the same downwind mantra as I always have ... "don't tip, don't tip, don't tip."

Pandabonium said...

I try to remember that mantras are for a spiritual purpose to aid in concentration while meditating and not to be some Western tool for "winning" or other such nonsense. So I tend to go with statements of gratitude for my being, for sailing, for learning, for sharing.
Whatever is going on regarding some race, isn't just the fact that you are sailing wonderful?

Tillerman said...

LOL Pam. I do also have a tendency to think "Don't tip" usually when I know I have to gybe in big wind and waves. But I try to avoid it and use something more positive like "I can do this" or conjure up an image of the last time I succeeded in gybing in similar conditions. I find that focusing on something bad that MIGHT happen is almost a certain recipe for ensuring it WILL happen.

Panda - I guess you're not a racer. Each to their own way.

Anonymous said...

This weekend, as I struggled up a tough, shifty and windy beat in race 3 I found myself reciting Rule #5 as a mantra. It always cheers me up to think of the "Laser Sailing: The Rules" and I giggled through the pain as I tried to remember them..... thanks Tillerman.


Tillerman said...

Aaah! Laser Sailing: The Rules. I guess some of them do make good mantras. I'm quite fond of #28 myself.

bonnie said...

Does singing show tunes as I busted my way into the stiff headwind that was impeding my progress for the last couple of miles before the Chelsea Yacht Club count?

Tillerman said...

Singing while sailing (or kayaking) is a whole other topic that I have touched on once or twice before on this blog. It does have something in common with a mantra though; both help to get the mind in a better state to deal with the task at hand.

Pandabonium said...

Tillerman - indeed, each to their own way. Not saying one is better than another. I guess I just didn't inherit the competitiveness gene. As Vishnu said, there are many paths to the same summit. See you at the top. :)

Anonymous said...

Be the strongest version of yourself that you can be

Tillerman said...

That Forrest Gump movie picture show was on the TV machine the other night and I quite liked the advice that Lootenant Dan gave to Forrest and Bubba.. "One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like gettin' yourself killed."

Pretty good advice for Laser sailing too.

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