When you want to kick your sailing performance up to the next level, many sailors think first of spending money – buying new sails, replacing gear, or even buying a new boat.
In most cases a number of small and easy improvements in your technique can yield great results using the gear that you already have.
Over the next four weeks I will give you some sailing tips to help improve your performance, this is by no means an exhaustive list but will give you some worthwhile things to work on.
Tip One: Practice Boat Handling
This does not need to involve hours of drills and practice – 15 minutes spent practicing your weakest manoeuvre before the start of each day’s racing will rapidly pay dividends.
Once this first manoeuvre is nailed, you need to find another weakness to work on.
Buy or borrow a GoPro camera in a waterproof housing, this is an ideal self-coaching tool and will reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when played back after a race or training session.
Tip Two: Hoists, drops and gybes
Getting gybes right in a single-sail boat in all weather is an essential skill as is perfecting hoists and drops in a boat that carries a spinnaker. Practice done outside of race conditions will always give excellent returns.
The boats with polished crew work in this area always gain an advantage on their rivals in a race especially in pressure cooker situations whatever the weather. Practice manoeuvres using a mark or some other point to replicate race pressure.
Tip Three: Mark all Settings and build up a tuning Guide
Your tuning guide will be a work in progress that will be continually refined over the course of your racing life.
A great starting point is to get a guide for your class or type of boat from your sail maker and then refine it to suit yourself and your crew. This refinement will come from your own on water experiences.
Everything should be marked – halyards, sheets, vang, outhaul, shroud tensions etc. Like the tuning guide, it’s the beginning of an ongoing process that sees both sail trim and boat handling improve as you gradually refine the markings.
Tip Four: Mark Roundings
You will be amazed at how much time is lost at mark roundings and this even goes for some great sailors. One of the biggest mistakes is failing to follow the basic ‘wide in, narrow out’ principle and thereby allowing other boats inside, added to that uncoordinated sail handling by not planning ahead or leaving it too late will cost you plenty.
Sometimes an early drop will set you up to pass the boats in front, the small amount of time that you lose without the extra will be more than compensated for by an orderly roundng.
Planning ahead for your mark rounding will also pay dividends, plan where you want to be in relation to the boats around you least halfway down the leg.
Tip Five: Practice Starting
Getting away with clean air and runway below you at the start and on the first beat gives a valuable early advantage plus starting without being boxed in allows you to re-jig your plan if something changes immediately after the start.
Get a reliable transit and don’t be afraid of being half a length ahead of the boats around you as most hang back too far. Have a dedicated yachtrace timer and know how to use it.
Do time on distance drills and get to know your boats head to wind, tacking and gybing manouvreability and above all know the rules.