Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Three Types of Laser Fleet

There are three types of Laser fleet in the world. (Or you could probably generalize that to any one design fleet.)

1. There is the fleet where you are the best sailor in the fleet. You win all (or almost all) the races.

2. There is the fleet where the majority of the fleet is much, much faster than you. The guys at the top of the fleet are past or current national or world champions in this class and other classes. You never win a race. You feel like you've had a good day if you break into the top half of the fleet in even one race but most of the time you are chasing around at the back of the fleet with the tail-enders.

3. There is the fleet where most of the sailors are about the same standard as yourself. Maybe there are a few beginners at the back of the fleet but on any given day any one of a whole group of sailors might win a race and sometimes even you do.

Believe it or not I have sailed my Laser in all three of these types of fleet. Yes even #1. And even these days I have the choice of whether I want to sail in #2 or #3.

So I started asking myself some questions…

Which fleet would you rather sail with?

Which fleet is the best for you if you want to improve?

Are there any of these three fleets that you would never want to sail with?

And why?

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phil said...

Depends whether you want to improve and what you want to improve. #3 will hone racing skills/tactics, but not necessarily speed, while sailing with people much better than you (#2) gives you an incentive to improve speed/boat handling etc. I'm at #3, but when I started they were all miles better than me - I can now get up amongst them and might even win a race soon....

Unknown said...

I like to mix up 2 and 3. I don't like #1, because you never improve. In #3, you are free to experiment, and you can get instant feedback on whether or not something is working. In #2, you get to see what the top sailors are doing, and can take some tricks to try back home with you. You also find out pretty quickly if you are sailing like #2.

Tillerman said...

Good points phil and MYCS. But doesn't anyone have a good word to say for #1?

/Pam said...

Doug is fond of saying 'you never learn anything at the front of the fleet' but the local competition puts him in #1 so he starts late putting himself in #2 and by the end of the race he's sailing in #3.

We often talk about "muscle memory" and I think there is something to be said for developing muscle memory for being in front. It's certainly not a place where I'm comfortable and as a result if I ever manage to get there, it's really, really hard to hang onto it.

I find that Doug tends to do more front of the fleet sailing as he gets near a big competition ... I think it helps with his visualization training.

Tillerman said...

That's a great point /Pam. I hadn't thought of that. I have sailed in fleets where one guy almost always won. In one fleet I was that guy. In another (a Sunfish fleet) it was somebody else. It always seemed to me when you are the persistent winner you have a responsibility to help and support and teach the other sailors to improve. And that was my main reason at the time for sticking with the fleet where I was winning.

It is certainly true that if you are hardly ever in the lead, on the rare occasion you get there it is so easy to get over excited and tense and start making mistakes. There is certainly something to be said for developing the right mental skills for being calm and confident when in the lead.

/Pam said...

One of the exercises that Doug had me do early on when I started sailing the Laser was to start a minute ahead of the fleet. I learned what clear air felt like, what being in the lead felt like (rounding the windward mark first and stretching the lead), how to protect the lead (and lose the lead) and what it was like to cross the finish line first. I didn't really earn it, but it made a HUGE difference in my mental attitude and also seemed to make me a better sailor. There is alot to be said for sailing among the front of the fleet, matching their controls, body movements and position and observing their techniques for passing you. Something you simply can't learn at the back of the fleet and you can't learn it nearly as quickly in the middle.

Unknown said...

I don't really have anything good to say about #1. If you are in a fleet where you are consistently the best sailor, it's time to find a new fleet that's better than you.

John said...

You can improve just by sailing more, even just by yourself. There are always things that you work on in any group. However, when you are "practicing" you need to have the proper attitude and perspective. If your sole goal is to win a race or win the day you may sacrifice some opportunities to work on things you should for the sake of trying to win. I go into each day of sailing with a certain goal or goals and don't concern myself with finishes. The focus should be on preparing for the big events that you want to do well in.

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