In a comment to my previous post on bikes and cubes, George A suggested that the reason why we lose certain skills if we don't practice them regularly could be due to a decline in "proprioception."
Proprioception. That's not a word you see every day on sailing blogs.
It's not a word I use every day in any context, so I had to look it up.
According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) proprioception is "the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement."
As a kid I was gangly and clumsy and uncoordinated. I was always knocking things over and breaking things. My father used to scold me, "Tillerboy, you seem to have no idea what your arms and legs are doing!"
He was right.
Or to put it another way I have very poor proprioception.
Of course. That's one of my major problem with sailing too. I have no idea what my arms and legs are doing.
Not only do I not usually have a clear plan of what my arms and legs should be doing while executing a roll gybe, say, but I am pretty sure I don't even do the same things with my arms and legs every time I do a roll gybe (or any other maneuver for that matter.)
Is it any surprise that my boat-handling is terrible and full of stumbles and accidents and drama and "oops" moments?
So this week I have been working on improving my proprioception in the RS Aero.
On Sunday and Monday I sailed an RS Aero 7 with the Laser training group in the mornings and received a lot of useful feedback from the instructor.
By Monday I had got over that "I have totally forgotten how to sail this boat feeling" that I had on Saturday. Maybe sailing is like riding a bike after all? You don't forget. At least not for long.
Riding a bike
We were doing long upwinds and downwind on both days. By Monday I had really found my groove upwind and was crushing - totally crushing - all the Lasers and a couple of D-zeros upwind. I love looking back and seeing all those beady little eyes looking upwind at me. Children can be so cruel at my age.
And once the instructor had pointed out to me a flaw in my sail settings I was doing much the same downwind. Now I remember why I bought an RS Aero!
But on Sunday afternoon, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, I went sailing by myself in an RS Aero 9 and worked on my proprioception. I find that if I want to focus on the nuances of boat-handling technique, and experiment with different ways of doing things to see what works best, and train myself to execute maneuvers in a consistent way, then I really need to get out on my own away from other boats and evil instructors blowing whistles and shouting, "Everybody tack NOW!" or "Follow me!"
I explored such burning questions as...
- how can I make smoother hand swaps after tacks and gybes?
- does it work better to have the front knee up or down when going into roll gybes?
- what are the best positions to sit and for my legs and feet upwind in various wind strengths and what's the best way to transition between them?
- what's the best position for legs and knees and feet for sailing downwind in various wind strengths?
- And many other similar secrets of the universe.
And then when I had figure out what worked best, I practiced and practiced to try and make all this stuff automatic.
I really enjoyed working on my own on improving my proprioception.
Or perhaps I am just an antisocial bastard.
By the way, don't ask me to explain what that picture at the top of the page has to do with proprioception.
But it does.
So what do you think?
How proprioceptive are you?