Monday, January 11, 2016

Looking at my Feet

Looking at my feet

Before heading off on my vacation in the BVI last month, I downloaded a copy of Nick Craig's book Helming to Win to my Kindle. After reading Damian's review of this book on his excellent sailing blog The Final Beat, I was eagerly anticipating learning some new tricks to improve my sailing.

I think I read most of the book while sitting on airplanes and/or sitting in airports while waiting to sit on airplanes.

I guess there was also a bit of time for reading too while I was at the Bitter End Yacht Club i.e. when I was not actually sailing or kayaking or eating or drinking or walking back and forth between our "tree house for grown-ups" and the places for drinking and eating, and the places for sailing and kayaking and other good stuff.

Tree house for grown-ups

Place for sailing and kayaking and other good stuff

Place for eating

Place for drinking

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Nick Craig's book.

There's a lot of good advice in it, but one thing that caught my attention early in the book was the chapter on Where to Look when Racing. Nick says there are 5 modes (places to look.)

1. Your feet
2. The telltales on your sail
3. The water
4. Spotting the next few shifts
5. The big picture

Of course there are times when you need to use each one of these modes - yes, even mode 1 - but generally speaking, as you become a better sailor, you should be spending most of the times in modes 4 and 5, with modes 1, 2 and 3 coming instinctively. Your boat handling should be slick enough without having to look at your feet, you should be able to sail fast without staring hypnotically at the telltales all the time, and a fleeting glance should let you know what the wind will do in the immediate future.


This is certainly an area in which I could improve. I think I spend way too much time looking at my telltales to focus on boat speed (mode 2.) I might occasionally look upwind to see if a gust or a lull is coming (mode 3.)

As for spotting the next few shifts, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have been able to do that. No, wait that's an exaggeration. I can remember only one single time in my whole racing career when I was in mode 4.

As for mode 5. The big picture is usually that most of the fleet are way ahead of me. What help is it to focus on that?

Turn out I was wrong. I am not even in mode 2 a lot of the time.

Here is a picture of me racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet on the Sunday before Christmas.

It looks like I am in the process of rounding a leeward mark and still sheeting in.

Am I looking up the course to see where the stronger wind might be?

Am I trying to see where the next shift - or even better, the next few shifts - are coming from?

Am I checking out the big picture of what the sailors ahead of me are doing?

No. I am not.

I am looking down at something in the boat.

Not my feet perhaps.  But there's nothing on my foredeck that's going to give me any useful information for the next leg of the course.

I am sailing in mode 1! Ugh!

One thing I learned from this photo is that I need an external view - a coach, a video, a photo - to remind me from time to time what I am doing wrong when I am sailing.

Maybe this year I will finally get around to buying a GoPro camera and videoing my own practice sessions.

As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by just watching."

And you can learn a lot by reading this book...


Damian said...

Nice feet.

It's funny - that is one of the bits of Nick's book that really stood out for me, too. I'm going to be interviewing Nick very soon, and it is one of the things I'm going to be asking him about.

Any other questions I should be asking him?

Tillerman said...

Thanks. I think my feet are one of my best features. Apart from my knees of course. I have awesome knees.

Damian said...

I'm not going to ask him if he likes your knees. Or your feet. Or any of your body parts for that matter.

I did a search of your site and can find only one photo that features your knees in any way. I can only assume that you're afraid that posting more pictures of them might break the internet. Or that they'd become so popular that you'd end up having to right a blog about your knees. Or a blog that is solely from the perspective of your knees.

You should do that. I think your knees need a voice.

Tillerman said...

What? I posted a picture of my knees?

THAT must be why I'm getting all these emails from Russian and Slovenian ladies offering to be my wife.

I could start a blog from the perspective of my knees. The photos might be quite interesting.But I am not sure whether I could teach my knees to type.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Russian and Slovenian ladies just liked my name
I didn't know I had to send them a picture of my knees


Tillerman said...

Far be it from me to give you advice, Steve, on how to woo a Slovenian lady. I understand Donald Trump has a lot more experience in this direction than I do. Maybe he sent Melania a selfie of his knees and that did the trick? I don't know.

PS. I also seem to be getting offers of love from Brazilian ladies now. Do you think they are only after my knees? What should I do?

Andrijana Kopita said...

Dear Tillerman, I am loving the legs and knees off you. Please so kind expose me the elbows.

Unknown said...

Get the GoPro Tillerman. Once you get used to it, it just becomes part of your rig-up routine, just adding a couple minutes to rigging up. Battery life on a cheapie Hero3 (what I have) lasts 2.5 hours. So, you can get a lot of sailing footage. Finally, if you do get a GoPro, spend another $40 to get PowerDirector. It's much better video editing software than the less robust video editing software that comes w/ GoPro.

Tillerman said...

Thanks for the tip Dion. I have been enjoying watching the videos of your RS Aero sailing.

Now I wonder where I should mount the camera to get the best shot of my knees? I wouldn't want to disappoint Andrijana and her friends.

Unknown said...

Hah! There appear to be three mount locations that give unique and interesting perspectives. First, at the tip of the bow. Second, around the vang swivel thing. Third, on the end of the boom. I've seen people w/ a stern-mounted angle, but I haven't figured out how they do it w/o getting in the way of the tiller. Plus, seems like a bad spot if I ever had to do a rear-entry in especially bad conditions.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Dion. I know some Laser sailors mount a camera on a long rod attached to the transom. See for example.

It gives a great view. But I take your point about a stern-mounted camera being in the way if I ever have to do a rear entry in the RS Aero after a capsize (which is actually still my normal method in any conditions, not having mastered the side entry yet.)

I guess I need to experiment a bit to find which angle shows off my knees to my Slovenian girlfriends the best.

Post a Comment