Top 10 coach’s tips to improve your sailboat racing

Is improving your sailing skill something that you aspire to? In no particular order, here are my top 10 tips to improve your sailing; with a bit of personal insight to boot!

1. Set goals

Dream goals (go bananas! e.g. Laser Masters National Inland Champion World Champion!), interim goals (the next 6-12months of the journey) and specific process goals (practical improvements that you can work on – see below!)

2. Identify your specific weaknesses – and be specific – REALLY specific!

Think broadly to start with then dig deeper and analyse. Make the improvement item specific; keep it real!

e.g. try to avoid ‘I’m no good at light wind racing’; instead try ‘my speed out of roll tacks could be improved’…then…as you evolve your thinking…perhaps ‘my feet position during roll tacks needs to be more against the side of the cockpit’ and ‘I could be more aware of my sail position when pumping the boat upright during roll tacks’

3. Look at what the top sailors are doing and not doing

Try to observe differences; try to understand why; don’t be afraid to ask over lunch/dinner!
Maybe be a sailing geek – watch sailing online – play sailing computer games!

4. Make time for practice, not just club racing

Most club racers race for 85% of their time and practice for 15%
Olympic sailors practice for 90-95% of their time and race for 5-10%
You might not be an Olympic sailor; but if you want to see big improvements then you may need to take an honest look at your own ratio between racing and practice – I did and it made a big difference to me
This is also about time management (being organised and a bit more focussed) and not being embarrassed that you want to improve your sailing!

5. Try using a video camera and/or a coach to help you be specific about your weakness and how to make improvements

6. Focus your practice time on improving your specific weak areas

Don’t just do the things that you are already good at

7. Find a training partner

Ideally…someone that you enjoy sailing and learning with, that provides honest feedback, and can push and develop you! But….
Be ready to make anyone and everyone your training partner(s); depending on who turns up!

8. Make each training session focussed – make the time count!

Make a quick plan before going afloat on what you want to work on; consider the conditions, training partners available, their aims and how much time you have!

9. Compete against better sailors – challenge yourself!

The best way to become a better sailor is to sail with better sailors.
Sail in a large talented fleet racing group where there are no excuses and plenty of good sailors to help you improve – tick – Laser sailors at Chew you are already doing this!
When you feel ready, test yourself and stretch your comfort zone by sailing at national/international events. You’ll learn new skills and racing at chew will feel ‘smaller’ when you return (but is still a super place to sail!).

10. Keep enjoying it – feel it – keep it fresh!

Try different things, silly control line settings, backward sailing, rudderless sailing, sailing with your eyes closed (where safe), handstands on the deck, 720’s on windy days, even try sailing other boats that aren’t Lasers (how dare I!?).

See you on the water (Spring 2018 hopefully!).

Steve Smith

Laser Radial 209926