Monday, April 04, 2005


When I worked in the corporate world and had to write annual appraisals on my staff, it was politically incorrect to draw an employee's attention to his or her "weaknesses". We used some euphemism such as "area requiring improvement". Thank goodness I don't need to be so mealy-mouthed any more. When I come to think about my own sailing performance there are plenty of real "weaknesses". But the recommended approach in my Eric Twiname book is to focus on no more than three at a time. So what are they?

1. Starts

Sailboat racing is a silly game. The truth of the matter is that in a race that may take over an hour, it is the first 5 seconds that are the most crucial. Get off the starting line slowly and you may never recover.

In a running race it's OK to start slow. Indeed the runners that start too fast may quickly burn out and not be able to maintain their pace. But in a sailing race the reverse is true. This is because races usually start in an upwind direction and the boats that get out in front at the start are sailing in clear wind. Boats just a few feet further behind are sailing in wind that is disturbed by the leaders and so the trailing boats will sail more slowly. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

I'm not as good as I need to be at starts. If I can get consistently better at starts I know my finishing positions will improve dramatically.

2. Heavy air

Last season I sailed a lot of races in heavy wind in the fall. I can go fast in these conditions but I also capsized too much and got tired too quickly. If I can stay upright and keep going all day in heavy winds, I will do well.

3. Strategy

I know the consistent winners have a plan. They think about the current and the wind and what course around the buoys is likely to be that fastest. Do I want to go right or left on this leg? Which side of the course is the wind strongest? Will the wind change direction, and if so how, and how do I position myself to take advantage of it?

I know the theory of all this but I don't execute. I get so involved in trying to make the boat go fast and how to beat the boats around me that I lose sight of the big picture. I have to "get my head out of the boat", as sailors say, and start thinking strategically more.

So that's it. Just three things. I will start analyzing how to work on these areas and keep track through the year of how I'm doing.

In the corporate world if you don't make progress on your "areas of improvement" we may need to consider "other options". Yikes. Sounds scary.

1 comment:

Zephyr (Sail) said...

Heya Tillerman - posted a link to you on Zephyr. You have a great blog going here. Cheers!

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