Terry's Tip: Talk it Over

Communication on the water and off are essentially the same; but more often than not, what you talk about on shore and in between regattas will have bigger rewards on the water.

Cockpit Debrief

Constructive dialogue after racing is one of the single most important steps to improving. Designate someone on the team to lead the discussions, share notes, and carry over action items to the next day's sailing. Here, Ed Baird and Terry Hutchinson rehash a day of TP52 racing.Keith Brash/Quantum Racing

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to race the J/70 Fall Brawl in Annapolis, Md., with a few younger guys: Wilson Stout and Colin Kirby. They’re both Old Dominion alum like myself, and very good sailors. After the last race, as we were sailing in, I asked their opinion of the weekend and what they learned. As the wheels were turning I could see Wilson and Colin thinking about what the right answer was. The point of the question was to find out, as a first time together, what was good, what was bad, and as a team what could we do better.

Wilson took a few days to put his thoughts to paper and debriefed the weekend pretty extensively. Input about sails, tactics/strategy, to strengths and weaknesses of our performance, and what we could do to be successful if we were to continue sailing as a team. With the luxury of seeing each other at the Quantum facility in Annapolis, Colin gave similar insight and yet he had a completely different perspective because he was trimming downwind and didn’t get to see nearly as much. Each opinion was awesome as it demonstrated a high level of “into it” and what more could I ask for from a teammate.

The experience, however, highlighted an interesting point of focus. Communication between regattas is equally as important as communication on the racecourse, and when done right it can pave the way for success. Wilson and Colin’s communication, while different, demonstrated a high level of thought. The mistake would be to not capture the information and put it to use.

A debrief can take many different looks and may be a series of very simple questions. Using a simple 1 to 5 scale, the dialogue should include facts about the boat, team, and gear, which can range from boatspeed to lunch. In today’s world of mixing amateurs and professionals, the fun factor cannot be overlooked and yet so often crews break down or under perform for the most basic reasons. Solid communication between events allows teams to pick up where they left off and keep the mixture of fun and performance pointed in the right direction.

Who leads it? Inevitably most teams will have an opinion leader; an owner, tactician, main trimmer, or the bowman. For me, it does not matter. The only real requirement is they’re consistent to the boat and can collect the information and filter it through the group. It’s the beauty of modern technology and email groups.