Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wave Technique

First installment in my story about how I used some virtual Laser coaching resources at CORK in 2001.

Racing in the round-robin qualifiers on Saturday confirms my suspicion that I am seriously out of form. The southwest wind starts out at marginal hiking conditions and builds in strength over the day. At the start in the first race my timing is all off and I am squeezed out of the back of the fleet. Starts in the next two races are marginally better. But it doesn'’t help my performance to hit the windward mark twice during the day trying to tack around it after a port tack layline approach. But the most obvious weakness in technique is that I am not working the boat well through the waves on the beats. The final indignity is a death roll capsize on the run in the third race. At which point sailing back to the inviting shelter of nearby Portsmouth Harbor seems to make more sense than finishing the race. Oh well, I expected to be in the silver fleet anyway and now I am.

On Saturday evening there is plenty of stuff to review with my coaches. But I spend most of my time seeking their advice on how to work the boat through the waves upwind.

Steve Cockerill has a long article on his CD about upwind kinetics. He analyzes how rudder movements and body movements affect boat trim and shows a couple of video clips of bad hiking and kinetic techniques. Finally he has an 11 second clip of himself showing the recommended technique in smallish waves. Hmmm. Very analytical but a little difficult to see exactly how everything is meant to work together.

The SailCoach CD has an extensive range of video clips showing how to work the boat in a variety of wind and wave conditions. There are several minutes of video of Robert Scheidt, Ben Ainslie and Serge Kats from various angles -– above, behind, the side -– so I can see exactly how the tiller and body movement affect the movement of the boat in the waves. There is a good commentary explaining it all but, for me, it is the video images that really teach the technique. I play one of the clips of Scheidt several times and try to carry a visual memory of his technique.

Finally I consult the chapter
(written by Rod Dawson) on Straight Line Speed on the Beat, Reach and Run in Ben Tan'’s book”. There is a good short discussion on torqueing the boat through waves supported by two photos. But it is accompanied by the realistic advice that the technique requires a great deal of physical fitness and if you get it wrong you'’ll actually go slower. Rod'’s advice is to learn to hike flat-out first and then to torque the boat only on the bigger waves.

Let's see how all that helps in the real races in the silver fleet tomorrow ...

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