Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

Racing or Time Practicing, What Will See Your Results Improve The Most?


To answer this question I spoke with Skip Lissiman who has sailed a myriad of different boats from Pelicans through to Maxi boats with perhaps his greatest achievement being a part of the Australia 2 crew which won the Americas Cup in 1983.

Brett: the first question I had here was how important is practice to improve your sailing rather than time racing?

Skip: Well, practice is essential to upskill your crew and yourself, to get to a point where you’re capable of being competitive at racing.

We used to have this saying on the 12 Meter, the six Ps, “Perfect Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

So, the sum of it is don’t practice bad skills when you go out practicing. So, make a list of all of your weaknesses and practice those and use the time on the water to tick them off as you improve.

And so you use the practice time to work on your weaknesses and to get your crew working and your crew’s skills up to a point where you’re competitive on the racetrack. It’s important to do it but racing is also important to just make sure your skills…and work out what your weaknesses are so you can go back out and do some practice.

But use your practice time wisely so you don’t waste time and don’t over practice. So don’t say, “We’re practicing all day.” Go out and do a two-hour session, come back in, work out what you’ve done, have a debrief, then go back out and maybe do another two-hour session the same day or another day.

But more than two hours at a time, you almost…you’re tapering off. You’re never really quite getting the real benefit of your practice time.

Brett: Now you mentioned the Ps. What do you reckon makes an effective practice session and how long should it take  You mentioned two hours is there any point in going out for a shorter time or a longer time? Are there any things that maybe you should do that take longer or shorter?

Skip: You know, the old rule of thumb. When you get in a match race event, you go off and do match racing.

This is…you’ve got a maximum of one hour on the water so you’ve really got to try and work on using your time as wisely as you can. So two hours is a pretty generous amount of time to go and use on the water.

Don’t…and start your practice as soon as you jump in the boat almost if you’re really tight for time. So whether it’s roll-tacking on the way out through the marina or whether it’s, practicing your tacking skills or whatever it is. But once you jump in the boat, effectively switch on and use the time wisely.

So if you’re out there for four or five hours, then it can be quite tedious and you’re not really maximizing your benefit that you could over a shorter period of time.

Brett: And how important do you think it is to sail in other classes? Most of us have a focus on one particular class or other. Maybe you’re sailing a one-man boat or two-man boat. Is it important, to sail in boats other than your own class or maybe even mix it up and sail with other people…sail other people’s boats within your own class?

Skip: The more sailing you do with other people, particularly people who are better than you, the more you’ll learn. And the more classes you sail, the better you’ll get a feel for what makes a boat work.

So, you know, I’ve lost count of how many different types of boats over the years I’ve sailed, everything from, dinghies to ocean racing boats to one design to match racing and you never stop learning.

So the better feel you get is by sailing different types of boat and getting a feel for what makes a boat go. And sailing just the one type of boat you get very entrenched in that particular style of boat.

But you won’t get that general basic innate knowledge of what makes a boat go until you sail plenty of boats and sail with plenty of different people and just try and work out from all the different people you sail with, particularly people better than you, what their take on a particular thing is.

You don’t necessarily have to agree with them all the time and, you know, I’m the first to admit I’m not always right. And I think most people would probably…good sailors would say the same thing.

So the more boats you…types of boats you sail, I would really encourage that. Particularly when you’re younger.


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Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

What Is The Role of A Tactician?

Being the tactician on any boat is a high pressure position with quick thinking being a pre-requisite so it’s not a job for the faint hearted .

A tactician must be a strong leader, must be a constant motivator. They are the eyes and ears onboard so they must understand every aspect of the boat.

The tactician sets the pace on the boat and when they make the right calls the boat will perform better and the racing will be more fun for everyone. 

They need to be steady, upbeat and should only speak when they have something to say. If they are not the owner, it is important to have a good relationship with them.

The tactician must understand and work with the different personalities in the team. A lot of skippers react better when they are given options with others only wanting advice after they ask for it.  

The tactician does way more than choosing the boat’s route during a race, they also make final sail selections and call for crew rotations, so they must understand all characteristics of the boat.

It is important that the tactician has spent time steering the boat so that when a manouvre is called, they understand how long it will take, how the crew will perform and how the boat will react.

Different phases of the race require different duties and responsibilities so it is worth breaking the race down into segments. 

In the prestart, study the wind conditions and select the favoured side of the course working with the trimmers to select the right sails for the expected wind range.

In the start sequence watch other boats and how they may affect you as the start time approaches, keep the helmperson and crew appraised of what is happening and alert them to what you expect as each situation develops.

Once on the course after the start, keep the team appraised of what you are thinking so that their minds are completely engaged in the race and they are prepared as each tactical manouvre is called.

Another important job for the tactician once racing, is keeping the helmsperson focused by not letting idle chatter on the boat distract them from the job of steering.

#sailingtowin #sailing #yachtracing #sail #sailboatrace #sailingcoach


Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

The Importance Of Being Consistent

Being consistent is especially important in big fleets where a small mistake can lose you plenty of places. With a large number of fast boats in an international championship, the chances of getting those places back is highly unlikely.

Great boat handling is particularly relevant and practice is an easy way to ensure that small but significant snafus don’t occur. Practice boatspeed and manouvres to ensure that in the heat of competition a weakness in either of these areas of sailing will not affect your end results.

Check your boat after every sail to look for items of gear that are wearing or need maintenance, having a gear failure can slow you down or finish your day altogether.

In many events the boat that wins the regatta sailed consistently and finished in every race and although they did not shoot the lights out, the aggregate of their score was enough to win.

For every venue that you sail at, be consistent with your preparation such as reading the weather forecasts, tidal observations, boat preparation and getting out on the water a good amount of time prior to the start.

Taking risks is rarely a great regatta winning strategy and keeping with the fleet is generally the right tactic. Make sure that you keep out of trouble as well.

Regattas are won by continually sailing fast and heading in the right direction and you don’t have to beat every boat that you come accross on the course.

Getting into a protestable situation is not smart, even if you think you are right, sometimes it makes sense to bail out if you get into a duel with a gnarly competitor and boat damage can ruin your race.

A disqualification will not only ruin your consistensy but it can effect your mindset negatively for future races.

Above all have a plan plus a back up should circumstances dictate the original was no longer relevant due to changing conditions or getting caught on the wrong side of the course. 

Staying calm when a plan goes pear shaped means that you are able to make a rational change to plan B and maintain consistent results rather than going off on a flier which more than often only compounds the disaster.

#sailingtowin #sailtowin #sail #sailing #yachtrace #sailboatrace




Competitive Sailing Sailing Sailing To Win Yacht Racing

A Checklist For Successful Trimming