In any sport, the higher the level, the more important the state of mind becomes. In racing a sailboat, because of complexity, mastering this aspect is even more critical if you want to win.
Top sailors master boat handling, trimming, the rules of racing, meteorolgy, sailing in current and so on but as you reach the top few in any fleet, pschology starts to play a greater role.
At the top level, the difference in boatspeed is negligible and at this point your mental condition becomes every bit as important as your physical condition.
A racing sailor who doesn’t have a clear and relaxed mind may miss a cloud the produces a wind shift or miss seeing a tide transition line ahead.
They are also not thinking about how an opponent will react if they gybe or tack therefore they miss things which means they can no longer influence or control their competitors.
When you go racing, whether it be at club, national or international level, you need to be able to vacate your mind of your business, financial or relationship concerns so you can concentrate on the race.
Obviously we are all different, with different outside pressures, so each of us need to have our own ways to relax prior to going out to race.
For some it may be sitting quietly with a coffee and the newspaper, for others it may be tinkering with the boat whilst at the same time listening to your favourite music through headphones.
Recently I was chatting to a very successful sailor who told me that on a light wind day he tuned his earphones to gentle music and on a heavy wind and wave day, the music he listened to whilst setting up was much more upbeat and boisterous.
For some sailors it is setting up early then moving around the boat park chatting to fellow competitors about the days coming event and for others it is immersing themselves in their own boat and thoughts, blocking out everything else.
One easy win in the psychological stakes is to launch and get out to the course area early or being the first off the beach, fellow competitors who are still rigging and setting their boats up will notice and become stressed.
If you can control your mind you are a long way towards becoming a champion.
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