Terry Hutchinson has sailed everything from the Quantum TP52 to Mini Maxis and the America’s Cup. Earlier this month he delivered a talk to the Buffalo Yacht Club about his sailing experiences and what he had learned. These are his top 10 tips for improving your game on the water.
1. There is no substitute for days spent on the water
It’s not enough to know your boat and your crew. Practice together often on the same boat you’ll race. Time spent sailing and practicing with the same team has a measurable, positive effect on results.
2. Practice harder than you race
Don’t just cruise with your crew. Be intense and push yourselves in practice to create difficult racing scenarios. For example, make your practice track shorter and more intense than the race track, so maneuvers on a full-sized course will seem easier.
3. Debrief with your crew and take notes
Don’t trust yourself to remember, and don’t put that responsibility on your crew. Take solid notes and get the entire team to comment on what worked and what didn’t.
4. Avoid big risks, especially early on
The old adage “you can’t win the regatta on the first day, but you can lose it” is one I’ve always liked, and it’s one Terry supported. Set goals for average scores that will give you a chance to win on the final day.
5. Know your competition
Don’t just look at their average scores. Do some research and find out what you can expect from each boat at the start line and on the course.
6. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t
Forget about the weather and other boats. Instead, figure out how you plan to respond to each possible situation.
7. Set your crew and schedule as early as possible
Terry and his teams set their schedules nearly a year in advance, including crew, flights, hotels, food, gear, etc. Plan ahead so you can focus on racing, not the logistics.
8. Have a coach and/or photographer to see watch you from outside the boat
Not everyone can afford a full-time coach/photographer, but having someone from another boat come out to evaluate what you’re doing can be a tremendous help! As for photos, taking a few pictures of your own sails and set up is free and easy. You can usually find photos of races online after the regattas. Use your coach’s comments and the pictures to study and improve your own technique.
9. Trust your teammates
Focus on your job and don’t worry about what your teammates are doing. If everyone follows your lead, no one will be worrying – you’ll all be too busy doing your own job the best you possibly can.
10. Have Fun!
If we forget to do this, our sport won’t grow and future sailors won’t stay with the sport. Whether you’re racing in the America’s Cup or sailing with your kids, don’t forget that critical ingredient – fun!