Dealing with wind changes
Sailing is a sport of infinite variables. These variables happen both inside the sailing boat and in the weather, sea state and within the psychological factors concerning the sailing team. Few sports can have the complexity that we see in sailing due to the transient nature of “change” that we experience on a boat.
The management of change then becomes a critical factor of success in Toplevel Sailing coaching and when a sailor is on the path for glory. Let’s just outline the challenges speaking entirely in terms of the nature of wind, and not the other many changes that can happen inside and outside the sailing boat.
If the wind changes in a predictable manner we can estimate the time taken on each tack and always be on the positive side of a lift. Regretfully, it rarely does change in a predictable manner. So how can we begin to build patterns of logic that may help towards our score in a regatta.
Wind has many characteristics. If we refer to areas of high wind as “pressure”, we begin to get a picture of pressure and the holes between, which are areas of low wind. These pressure patches and holes usually move, so building a moving picture and anticipating the picture in a couple of minutes time from now, leads to an ability to anticipate with a far greater probability that guessing or intuition may bring. In order to achieve this there is a requirement of only basic meteorological knowledge.
We may look at pressure patches as being fast moving, slow moving or static. Within a sailing course area there will be a variety of pressure movement. There will be a dominant side that the pressure comes from and the gusts will often lift mainly on one tack. Establishing this picture through gathering data both from observation and instruments is an essential part of the pre-start routine that we work with.
The difference between highest wind-speed and lowest experienced on the same course is often neglected. It is a factor important to all sailing classes, and critical to faster sailing boats. Whilst many sailing coaches understand this aspect, we bring a logic to finding pressure that makes our sailors appear luckier than most. Luck does come with work and a systematic approach!
“Course mapping” is where we get a mental picture of the course by the position of the marks. We may then add to the wind picture by a mental image of the geometry of the course and the wind-shifts and pressure patches. We have found that too many fairly high level sailors rely on split beats and just sailing up and down the sailing course in order to gain a feel. This part of sailing can be made far more logical and useful by routines and knowledge of how to collate information. It is, in fact, the foundations of sailing a successful regatta series.
Once we have the information and can benefit tactically from it, we begin to see a link to the technical side. Dealing with different wind-speeds is not only of tactical benefit, but also allows us to respond in the boat in a more efficient manner. When the average sailor encounters pressure, they think “great, now I can drive harder/pinch/hike harder. We go way beyond this to anticipation of the rig adjustment that is required to make benefit of the pressure, and obviously take the adjustment back after we run out of the pressure.
This is part one of dealing with change. More coming soon!