by Mark Johnson [copyright 1/19/95]

Chapter 1 - Priorities for Practice

  1. Beating


  2. Transitions


  3. Close Sailing


  4. Starting


  5. Mark Roundings


  6. Reaching and Running

This set of priorities is listed again because of its extreme importance. Too many times new racers concentrate on skills that add very little to their speed, given their skill level in other, more important areas. It is far too easy to practice skills that are fun or that have already been mastered. Also, many of the "tricks" you can learn, like the roll tack, take a great deal of concentration and practice to do them correctly in a race. Don't crowd your brain with too many things to do-the basics are what are important.

You will notice the huge emphasis on boat speed and boathandling in the discussions below. Many times you will hear the phrase, "get your head out of the boat," meaning you should watch what's going on around you. That's BAD advice for the new racer. What you should be doing if you're new to the sport is "getting your head into the boat." You must develop the skills necessary to making the boat go fast before you can worry about strategy or other boats. Learn the basics first, or you will find yourself unable to use your new tactics and go-fast tricks because you will be 1/2 mile behind by the first mark.

The remainder of this guide is ordered chronologically, given the context of an actual race. This has been done to make reference to ideas quick and simple. The priorities in this chapter, however, outline the order you should follow to improve your racing skills.

Read this guide once, straight through, to see each idea. Then, following the list above and referring to the appropriate chapters, practice each skill and idea until it is mastered at a moderate level. At that point, you'll notice different weaknesses because of your improved skill level and awareness. You can then form a new priority set, requiring new resources. These new resources can include self-speed evaluation, observation of other racers, conversation with other racers, aero/hydrodynamic texts, and sailing texts. Each offers a more detailed look at a particular area, such as downwind tactics or the causes and effects of induced drag.

When sailing, your attention should be split about 70% boatspeed and 30% other things. As you improve, you will be able to put more emphasis on the other things, since your body and senses will take over most of the boatspeed things. Going fast will just feel right. Learn to drive the car before you learn to change the radio station while flipping off the other drivers. After some practice, you can flip everybody off while listening to Led Zeppelin, without crashing.

On to Chapter 2

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