We recently finished a training camp leading to an important event for the team. After having worked on different racing skills and psychological aspects, we decided it’s time to test the sailors ability to put on their racing head on.
In a sailor’s career the number of times you will be postponed on shore or even on the water are countless.
When being postponed on shore due to lack of wind there are many different temptations and distractions that will keep the sailors mind away from racing. Indeed staying alert while sitting on shore is an impossible mission for most people. What differs many of the successful sailors is the ability to put on their racing heads as soon as it’s time to go racing.
There are steps to ensure you are there. Setting up your equipment for the expected light wind conditions, bringing your boat close to the water so you will have an easy non stressful launch, preparing your food and drink, repetitively observing for changes and news by the race committee.
Even though ensuring all those many sailors will still struggle to switch on to racing mode instantly, it takes knowing yourself and doing what’s right for you personally to ensure you get in the right mind set as quickly as possible.
As soon as AP flag is down you will generally get 60 minutes to your race, usually there is a lot of stress around the boat park, people are eager to launch and there will be a lot of traffic on the launching ramp, sailing out to the course also takes its toll as usually it will be in light winds and unless you have a tow you must ensure to launch early enough to make it on time to the racing area and run your pre race routines. Very often you will find yourself just making it to the course by the time the race committee gives the first warning signal.
The most crucial ability you can develop to overcome those as a sailor is your ability to switch on your head and get into the race mentally. To do this we develop psychological “triggers”. This means that we as coaches learn what our sailors need to get into the zone in order to compete successfully. It’s not a short term coaching job, but requires an understanding of where the sailor’s stress levels need to be to operate at their best, and also what routines they use from rigging the boat to the start line, and prompting them on these routines.
When we simulated this during our training most of the sailors failed magnificently as they weren’t trained to do so, even those who failed managed to get in the right mindset after a leg or 2 in the race, this might prove disastrous to your results as recovering from a bad first couple of legs in light winds is very hard for any sailor. The sailors who were able to switch on have already encountered similar situations before mainly during racing in Europe.
Ask yourself how many times have you sailed poorly after sitting on the beach for 3-4 hours? Understand it’s not a god given condition and you can actually improve your ability to switch on in training and in training events. It takes knowing yourself as a racer and learning what makes you tick to ensure your best performance no matter what.
During our training in Toplevel Sailing we ensure to allow our sailors to get to know themselves by allowing them to face such situations in a controlled environment and analyzing them so they can develop their own mental abilities to perform on demand