Monday, March 02, 2015

Finish Every Race

An Optimist sailor reminded me recently of one of the most important tips for the racing sailor.

OK. Technically Damian, of the Final Beat is no longer an Optimist sailor. But he did write a couple of weeks ago a (typically) excellent post about the British 1988 Optimist Selection Trials in which he raced along with Iain Percy and (the now late) Andrew Simpson.

And 2015 Damian passed on words of wisdom about what 12-year-old 1988 Damian learned at this event.

There was something about ferrets.

And chocolates.

But the thing that really caught my attention was this…

One of the main things I learned was that
it is worth finishing every race,
especially in breezy conditions.

Oh, man, Isn't that so true?

I have been very bad at following this golden rule in recent years.

I have become lazy.

I have become a quitter.

For example, I quit early and skipped the last race of the first day at the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds. Actually I skipped the last race of the day three times that week, and skipped another whole day of racing. Not good.

Last year I called it a day before the last few races of the day at the 2014 Newport Regatta.

And those are only two example of many.

I have even got into the habit of quitting early at local fleet racing at Duxbury and Tuesday night practices in Bristol.

"Habit" is the right word. A bad habit.

I have invented excuses… I'm getting older… I have a bad back… I'm not fit enough… I'm only doing this for fun etc. etc. etc.

I even devised a self-serving "philosophy" complete with crappy chart to justify my laziness.

But Damian is right.

You should sail every race especially in windier conditions.

Why finish every race?

1. Sailors' high is one reason. I think it's much the same thing that runners call "runners' high." It's that amazing buzz you feel when you push yourself hard at a regatta and lay it all out in the final race of a long windy day. I wrote about such a race at the 2008 Buzzards Bay Regatta in Cannabinoid Moment. The last race of the first day of the 2011 Hyannis Regatta was another example - Lawn Mower Guy Goes Sailing. I used to get high that way pretty often in the old days.

2. The personal satisfaction of completing what you started is a second reason.

3. And then even a blind squirrel finds a nut some days.

Or to put it another way, if you hang in there for every race and work hard right up to the finish of the last race, once in a while even a mediocre sailor like me can go home with some silverware. Or even better… a towel. It happened on the day at the 2008 New England Laser Masters which I wrote about at Not Throwing in the Towel.

Let me finish by quoting some advice on this topic from blog reader SoxSail which he wrote in a comment to a post titled Stamina in which I tried to justify why I didn't sail in the fourth and final race of the Saturday at the Buzzards Bay Regatta back in 2010 using the usual pathetic range of excuses… I had "put it all on the line" in the third race… I was "exhausted"… I would only be "hacking round the course" in the fourth race… blah, blah, blah.

Here is what my wise reader said...
I think you are overestimating your competition, and possibly underestimating yourself. The other guys don't run half marathons and probably hit the wall after race 1.5. You might have been tired, and not raced as well in that 4th race, but I bet there would have been tons of others who would have done even worse. Not to mention automatically beating all the other guys who wimped out early. No disrespect, but I think you should have raced, and that you would have done well. 

So this year it will all be different.

I won't be a quitter.

Laser sailors finish every race.


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I don't know. . . . . I think Laser sailors can quit if the wind is blowing 35 knots. Keel boaters (racing around buoys) can quit if the wind is weaker than the current. No dishonor.

Tillerman said...

Agreed! But they are the only excuses allowed.

Chris Partridge said...

But when it's too windy or not windy enough the decision should be the race organisers' not the individual's.

Tillerman said...

I think it's both Chris.

Yes, the race organizers shouldn't start a race in extreme conditions whether too light or too windy, (or too foggy or when there's lightning or it's too cold etc. etc.) But it's also the decision of each individual sailor (actually each boat) as to whether to race or not. It says so in Racing Rule 4.

I'm not arguing here that sailors should ignore Rule 4. We all have to know our limits and if the conditions really are too windy for us to sail without seriously endangering ourselves or others, then we shouldn't sail. All I am saying is that too often I have been deciding to quit when really I probably could squeeze out at least one more race from my aching body.

But this year will be different.

George A said...

I once stopped racing for the day during the first day of a two day regatta when an important competitor had to retire due to gear breakage. If I had continued to sail it would have become mathematically impossible for him to recover. The next day, after repairing his equipment, he came back and indeed did beat me. I lost that regatta but I still have a friend and worthy opponent.

Tillerman said...

That was very sporting of you George. I'm not sure that many other sailors would show such sportsmanship.

And, for those who don't know, George won the Gen 1 Division at the Classic Moth Midwinters last weekend. Congratulations to George. It's always good to see sailing bloggers winning stuff.

Damian said...

Good plan, Tillerman.

I enjoyed re-reading your Worlds experience at Hayling Island - the tide there is unbelievable at times. Trying to round the windward mark against the tide in an Optimist was the very definition of the word "challenging".

SoxSail said...

Tillerman, don't get me wrong, I'm not a marathon runner, and when I'm your age, I don't expect to be sailing Lasers at all, let alone sailing every race. I think everyone has the right (maybe even the responsibility?) to quit when they really can't go any more. But I also believe what I said before, that "you would have done well."

Think Summer!!

Tillerman said...

Hey, stop making it easy on me SoxSail. I found your original comment inspiring and I'm going to read it again before every regatta this year. This year will be different!

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