In a previous blog we discussed peak performance from the psychological point of view. In this blog we discuss skills which are critical to a peak performance regatta, but must also be practiced, personalized and perfected at every other regatta to make maximum use of preparation to “sail like a local” and gain confidence in knowing the venue.
We can list the main benefits of location preparation:
- Specific venue sailing conditions
We must also consider that for a major regatta we should sail enough at the location to gain data in the entire range of winds we are likely to experience. Far too often we will train for a few days or even a week before a regatta and then the weather changes for the event. Real location preparation for a peak performance regatta involves multiple visits.
From the operational point of view location preparation has very clear benefits.
Some sailors will need to recover from a jet lag or a long trip, this will usually take 3-4 days until you reset your biological clock, eating properly and getting a good sleep. This does not mean that we go to a venue and “rest”, but it does mean we aren’t full on sailing, but we are working at achieving an environment in which we can perform at our optimum. For example, getting used to your accommodation and preparing it to suit your needs – many times we are uncertain as to what exactly our accommodation will provide we might need some time to purchase some amenities to make our living during our important event as comfortable as possible and allow us to relax after racing.
Learning your quickest routes to the sailing venue or simply avoiding traffic, knowing where to park, as being late to racing or simply getting stuck in traffic is stressful when it comes to an important event and looking for parking as well, of course some teams will decide to walk or cycle to the venue, all those require a few days to get accustomed to.
Eating well during racing is probably one of the most important aspects as your body requires fuel to perform at its best. Learning where to shop or where the good restaurants are located requires quite some time.
Sometimes we need to ship our sailing equipment, clearing the container and unpacking may prove a lengthy task and will require some time to recover.
Specific venue sailing conditions
Perhaps the single most important part of your preparation for your target event is learning the venue.
We can look at past reports of the venue we will be racing in and try to recognize wind patterns and any other information that will give us some edge, but it cannot replace sailing on the area of the race course at the right time of the day and the right time of the year.
The amount of information we can collect while learning the venue is vast and may include: topography, current, wind behavior at different stages of the day, large scale meteo interference, wave angle, wave pattern, gusts behavior and the list can go on and on.
We often encounter teams spending their location preparation racing other boats, as much as racing is important it doesn’t necessarily allow you to collect all the information you need.
During our location preparation we will usually begin with observations early in the morning and keep track of any changes that has to do with the sailing conditions, launch at various times to experience different conditions, then for the few days before the regatta launch at the time you will usually be racing at that venue and sail at the racing area to establish “race routine”. Focusing on observations and gathering information that will allow us to make the best race plan possible, sail as close to the entire length of a race to allow us as accurate information as possible and then put it to the test many times in the form of racing with a small group of other boats. This should be repeated for a few consecutive days until you have gathered the correct information and confident in making the best race plan for you.
Completing the above location preparation successfully will lead to reduction of unnecessary stress related to the discussed subjects, reducing uncertainties have proved to have a positive impact on performance and lead to a more focused and relaxed approach to what is a stressful event to begin with as any target event is stressful to most sailors.
When it comes to peak performance anything that has a positive impact on your performance must be included and anything that has a negative impact on your performance must be excluded, although some “neutral” (not really positive but certainly not negative to performance) content is allowed for the most parts. Different sailors have different needs in order to gain confidence and process new data in the way that suits themselves, so self-awareness and conscious analysis is a big deal in location prep.
A “normal” regatta would be between a five day to 2 week preparation, with the acknowledged risk that the weather may change. Just as vital as the data acquired is the method of doing it. By the time a medal contending sailor reaches the Olympics, they have usually have visited the venue on at least four occasions – sometimes many more, for periods of 7-30 days. The key is to know your own needs.
At Toplevel Sailing we provide our sailors with the tools to learn their triggers during training and racing to allow them the best possible outcome of their target events.