Where, What, Why?

The end of the competitive season looms, and now we look to making things better for a happy 2019.  It doesn’t matter what category of sailor you are, which country you are from or what level you sail at, seasonal adjustments are very important to sailing.  Now, at this point I will apologise to all those sailors who read our Toplevel blogs in the Southern hemisphere, who are just launching into their summer.  Please bear this blog in mind in six months time!

The sailing circuit at world level continues around the globe. However, even for world class sailors, the real deal kicks off in Miami in about four months time… for Optimist there is some action, and for our Aussie and NZ cousins there’s plenty going on.  Let’s talk about some aspects of a European and N Hemisphere winter.

If you are a club sailor in Europe or N America or Asia, and don’t have the benefit of living too near to the equator (yes, we envy our friends in Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Miami); the odds are that you are going to FREEZE at some point in the winter.  Real cold almost eliminates the possibility of improving your technical sailing, as when fingers and feet freeze you lose the feel for the boat, so what can you do?



A typical winter program for an active club in a cold climate will probably consist of a “Frostbite” series of races.  These races are usually shorter than the summer ones, on account of the undesirability of frostbite!  The real sailing skills you can work on are tactical and process – for example how to go through a tack better, with the goal of coming out faster – how do you change or improve the sequence of what you do?  Tactically the winter is usually demanding, with usually bigger breezes and more shifts that are cloud driven.  Yes, sailing in the winter is interesting.  But here’s a suggestion from Toplevel for improvement of time use after sailing.  Make a “club debrief” in the clubhouse after sailing.  Get a list of items to cover.  Get your good sailors to talk about them and everyone contribute.  In this way you can gather information as a club and the levels will improve for ’19, with a resulting satisfaction quota (chuff factor) increase.  If everyone goes forward, the benefits of the frostbite series become more apparent and appealing.

What can these club conducted debriefs contain?  Let’s look at a suggested list.

  1. The winners of the day’s races say why they took the route around the course that they did, what happened, where they were correct or wrong, and what they observed, and how they observed the rest of the fleet. Why did they tack or gybe, why they chose the side that they did, etc.
  2. The chairperson (a top club sailor or old saltdog) then chairs a tactical question and answer session. When theories are not known someone is delegated to google the answers or write to Toplevel Sailing and ask for answers.  Tactics include weather observations, management of change of wind and shifts.
  3. The relevant rig settings and adjustments are discussed for each class.
  4. A person is nominated to look at a detailed forecast for the following weekend, and give a five minute weather briefing BEFORE sailing for the next weekend.

This program can be expanded in all sorts of ways.  The one thing for sure is that everyone benefits from sharing knowledge – even the best sailors, who will improve simply by being pushed harder by the sailors they are helping.


Please email or post on our FB page if you need more information.


International Sailors

Without going into too much detail, now is the time of year to do a big strength and weakness analysis for international sailors.  This will be based on improvements (or not) of technique leading to more speed, consistency, mistake frequency, tactical, fitness, mental strength etc.  Each of these will be broken down into sub divisions, so our full chart is an excel spreadsheet with an analysis of around 120 separate skills, depending on the class involved.

We also have already an idea of where we will be training.  If the sailors live in a nice (or even acceptable) climate, the benefits of training at home usually outweigh the benefits of training abroad.  This is admittedly dependent on the availability of training partners and facilities at home.  Indeed, the continued growth of “feel” of the boat is very important at this level, so a good training climate enables greater technical progress.  This in turn means that sailors who live in cold climates must spend at least 50% of their winter training away.  Sometimes they manage a lot more.  The benefits are longer training, enhanced feel, and more efficient development.  It is also extremely expensive to do, which means there is more pressure on funding or sponsorship.

Where to?  There are a few really good places to train, with national centres of excellence and all resources, usually at a reasonable cost. These places are also pretty good for a brief training holiday for the club sailor.  In Europe we have BISC, in Barcelona, which is one of the best facilities and a decent climate.  Various others include Vilamora Club in Portugal, La Manga, The northern part of Spain is colder in the winter, as is S France, but both have many locations that are epic.  In E Europe we have a range of locations in Greece, which again can be on the cold side but interesting, and the hidden gems such as Tel Aviv in Israel, where the Hapoel club is often keen to host.  We then go further afield from Euroland and find Indian locations, and an awful lot of good Asian places including clubs in Thailand and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.  Miami and S Florida is by far the best winter sailing in the USA, though Long Beach is also an option.  If you’re interested in any information, don’t hesitate to contact us.


The summary of planning winter training at any level of sailing is the desire to improve.  We are always planning and assisting in order to do this.  Just going sailing will lead to improvement.  Going sailing in a structured manner is ten times more effective.  Just do it!

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