Squad or not?

The importance of solo training…

Top sailors spend a lot of time practicing and training on their own. This is against so many “words of wisdom” that the former ISAF give to emerging nations. In fact we can see that young sailors who spend a lot of time training alone are often successful. Probably the best example of this is Ben Ainslie, who used to live by the English Channel in Lymington, UK, and used to be on the water at 9 or 10 o’clock, complete with provisions of food and water, and return home much later in the day. We also have examples of a lot of Olympic sailors training solo before the Games. A really good example of this was before the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games the Israeli 470 team who came 4th and Robert Scheidt, the Laser legend and eventual Silver medalist were the only two boats on the water for a period of several weeks before the Games.

Advantages of solo training

  1. Focusing on our own technical program and challenges without being distracted by the needs of others. Sometimes a top boat will carefully select a tuning partner who is not quite as good as themselves, but can push them, to train with. This we must consider as a form of solo training, as the program is always geared around the leading boat. The competitive edge is given by the junior boat. Some people do not need this additional factor, but when they do, its solely for their own gain and not the tuning partner’s.
  2. Working through a program in your own time, getting the feeling and sequences correct without being rushed through by the group, or even worse spending too much time at a skill you know you’re already top class with.
  3. Being able to familiarize yourself with wind patterns, wave changes, tide etc so that you stop and talk to your coach, or to yourself if you don’t have a coach (!), and being able to priorities location preparation in this manner.
  4. Mentally knowing that you are able to find that little bit extra that you may not want to share with your competitors, and keeping the information as a potential source of advantage. Having proved to yourself that you can train harder and more effectively on your own, when the third day blues set in at a regatta, you are able to dig that much deeper than your opposition.


Advantages of squad training

  1. Real competition where each sailor wants to be the best of their squad.
  2. Sharing knowledge. A successful squad always shares knowledge. Some share a lot, some not so much, and no squad shares everything!
  3. Easy motivation. Its easy for a sailor to evaluate their own performance honestly as mistakes become obvious compared to the next boat, and good skill is shown in the same way.
  4. An ability to train fleet tactics in a small scale.


It is interesting to look at the evolution of training. We have productive drills and exercises that are undoubtedly helpful in development of skills at a faster rate. We also see that the successful former “emerging nations” such as Singapore and China threw out the ISAF/WS model after trying it for a few years, and had success in the classes they chose to mix with the modern coaching and training methods. Singapore is now developing their own coaches having used foreign ones, and China appears to be at a standstill, but will undoubtedly come back to the methods (including solo training with coaches) that delivered the Gold for Lilly in Radial, and the success of their windsurfers.

At Toplevel sailing we encourage our sailors to spend some of their time in Solo training either with us as coaches or on their own. During our training we teach sailors how to focus on specific skills and develop their own tools of factual assessment when training solo, and develop the feel for the boat to make sure that time on the water counts in all ways of training. We believe that a combination of solo and group training work best, tailoring the needs of the combination to each individual’s requirement

Leave a Reply

Up ↑