Building simulators have reached a level of science in some sports which includes both incredible technology and stupendous expense – motor racing and flying spring to mind. To simulate positions to practice physical movement in sailing can be done with a little ingenuity and not too much cost. This blog deals with the why, how and when of simulators and will hopefully lead to some efficient training for you!
Specific simulations are a vital part of any professional sport when reaching the top is desired, more so in sailing due to the complexity of the sport. Specific simulations can be done in many forms, but all share a common purpose, to improve a certain skill. They can be done by building a part of the boat or mimicking a certain action from our boat.
In sailing there are many skills necessary to sail at the top, the physical skills are a key to allow a sailor’s talent to show. Basically when we conduct a specific simulation we are training our nerves how to execute a certain action accurately and efficiently, with many of those skills we are teaching our body how to execute them without us focusing and thinking of that certain action hence allowing our mind to focus on other aspects of our sailing during a race (spotting shifts, gusts, other boats etc.)
The more an action is repeated the less focus it will require from us and the more efficient it becomes, for example when initially learning to sail we spend most of our time looking at the luff tell tales and making sure they fly properly, initially we only focus on that with some success, slowly we are able to fly them all the time and finally after spending enough time in the boat we don’t need to look at them all the time and our mind is able to focus on other tasks. Studies indicate that the physical actions we take are often best accomplished at a level of apparent suppressed awareness. Strange but true.
There are two major aspects to those simulations: improving a specific aspect by isolating and working solely on it, and replacing on water training (for those who can’t just go and sail everyday mainly in cold places during the winter)
By isolating a specific action, we can eliminate disruptions caused by either the sailing conditions or the boat we are sailing. The simplest equipment is the hiking bench, where we build a wooden seat of a similar shape to the boat’s, and place foot straps at the exact height and distance away from the seat. This can be built of wood and will usually take under an hour to make.
Many skiff sailors (especially 49er and 49erFX) spend hours simulating hoisting or dropping the kite. The Danish team built a boat model indoors to allow them to improve such skills. Hoisting while sailing can be very tricky, since we don’t control the conditions we can end up with big waves and strong winds, then hoisting becomes hard especially for new teams, indoors the boat will be flat, the crew can start slowly, position his body, hold the halyard in the correct manner and take slow big pulls, slowly increasing the speed he is pulling on the halyard and eventually repeat the action enough so he will be able to complete the task while sailing with better success rates (less capsizing) A really ingenuous improvised setup from Hungary can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1F6kSO6WZo
For sailors who are unable to constantly train those specific simulations are also used to maintaining their technical abilities as well as their fitness, most laser sailors are familiar with the horrors of the hiking bench. Using the hiking bench may allow sailors to maintain their ability to hike flat out for the entire duration of a beat even if it snows outside or blowing 50 knots. Some sailors will add a tiller or a main-sheet with some resistance to make the simulation more realistic.
There are many different ways of simulating necessary aspects of your sailing and at Toplevel Sailing we teach our sailors how to prioritize the skills that require some extra work and improve them back on shore in order to keep our sailing sessions as productive as possible and are always backed with suggested training programs the sailor to learn new skills and techniques and so to improve as fast as possible. Dedication takes effort!