“Practice, Practice, Practice!” This is the common theme among all sports and is equally true for sailing. “But, who has time to practice? Who has the chance to get organized, get a coach?” No more “buts” about it. The simple fact of the matter is that practicing is much easier than people think, and the amount of time you practice is directly proportional to the amount of success you earn.
Sail Against the Best Possible
One of the easiest ways to improve is to sail against people who are equal to or better than you. In many cases its hard to find sailors better than you who are willing to spend time and practice with you. Frequently, the best way to sail against better sailors is to race in big events. Going to national, state, or district level events can be great practice. For the less experienced sailor going to a big event may be the best “practice” that he or she can get. Sure, sailing in your local yacht club or interclub event may be fun because youre winning, but the only way to increase your level of ability is to get beat up by skippers better than you.
I can relate my story of 1998 CORK, the Canadian Olympic Training Regatta at Kingston, Ontario. I sailed with my team as a 15 year old in the YouthFestival, held annually before the regatta. There were about 85 youth Laser sailors on the line and, to my own amazement, I went out and won all three races held. I came out of the event confident and cocky, ready to take on the “big boys” at CORK. As it turned out the “big boys” included names like Robert Scheidt, at that point a three-time World Champion and Olympic Gold medalist. It blew hard, and I was glad to make gold fleet much less 46th place in the event. During one race, the breeze came in from the west at 20 plus knots. Sailing upwind to the second windward mark of three beats, I looked over my shoulder and saw Scheidt bearing down hard on me, out on my starboard hip. I rounded the top mark only to watch Schiedt sail upwind 50 more yards to the finish. At that point, I realized I had much more to learn.