A Different Kind of Cross-Training - SailNet Community
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 1 Old 10-25-2000 Thread Starter
Contributing Author
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 251
Thanks: 0
Thanked 4 Times in 3 Posts
Rep Power: 18
A Different Kind of Cross-Training

The 33-foot IODs used in Bermuda's Gold Cup are doling out lessons to some of the sport's top talent.
This week a number of really good racing sailors are learning humility as they get schooled in the waters of Hamilton Harbor Bermuda. The Colorcraft Gold Cup—the final event on the Swedish Match Cup Grand Prix Tour—has attracted some of the top names in the sport to this little island nation in the Atlantic. Because only eight non-seeded sailors can advance from the preliminary rounds to the actual competition, some top-skilled America’s Cup veterans like Dennis Conner, John Cutler, and Chris Larson are finding themselves in the unfamiliar position of being out of the money even before the first starting gun sounds for the quarterfinals. 

The caliber of competition is certainly one reason behind these unusual results, but another factor at play is that this event is annually staged aboard International One Designs. These narrow, elegant, relatively heavy 33-foot boats with their full keels and attached rudders are a far cry from the more contemporary vessels that these racers usually have beneath them as they go around the buoys at world-class, match-racing events, and getting used to the IOD’s more-stately performance characteristics is not something easily accomplished. "I live in St. Petersburg, FL," said seeded competitor Ed Baird, "and we don’t have anything like an IOD class boat there, so it’s nearly impossible to practice for the Bermuda event. Instead we have to research boatspeed ideas, talk to locals about how they sail the boats, and remind ourselves that these boats are unique. And boy are they unique!"

Jumping into an unfamiliar boat, like the Yngling here, is a fast way to improve your sailing skills.
Another would-be finalist at the Colorcraft Gold Cup is 22-year-old Seattleite Dalton Bergan, who surprised a lot of onlookers by going 3-1 on the first day of competition. Despite his status as the 1999-2000 College Sailor of the Year, Bergen is basically unknown on the match-racing circuit, yet he beat the likes of Cutler, Larson, and Cameron Appleton (formerly of Team New Zealand). His secret weapon? Bergen and his crew did their homework by spending time training aboard two borrowed Six Meters before traveling to Bermuda. "We just pretended they were IODs," said Bergan. "That was the best we could do in Seattle." One of Bergan’s crew, Clay Bartell, put the lesson in perspective: "After the Six Meters, these boats [the IODs] are just like sports cars! The Six Meters are 3,000 pounds heavier, with smaller rudders, longer bows, and more complicated rigs." 

What Bergan and his crew did with the Six Meters was accelerate their learning process and augment their adaptability as racers. According to many sailing coaches, competing in other classes is one of the quickest ways to improve your overall racing skills. Consider that when you do this you’re thrown into what is essentially unfamiliar territory, forcing yourself to absorb new information regarding the optimum trimming and sailing techniques for that particular kind of boat. In the aggregate, this kind of experience helps to emphasize one of the most valuable lessons of competitive sailing—that we must all maintain an open mind regarding performance because we’re only as good as our most recent finish. 

Some of the crews competing in this year's BT Global Challenge trained aboard much smaller boats to fine-tune their boat-handling.
It’s easy for sailors, particularly those who own and drive sailboats, to get into a rut by sailing just one kind of boat. After a while that kind of boat just becomes such a comfortable fit that you stop asking yourself, ‘What can I do to sail better?’ Getting into an unfamiliar boat will keep you on your toes as a performance sailor because it will require that you be particularly observant to figure out how the new vessel responds. Once you realize that the sailing techniques you formerly relied upon are only alternatives, not hard, fast rules, you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a better sailor.

Jumping into a new class may be intimidating at first, but intimidation is only an initial phase. Knowing this will help you make the most of this learning opportunity and help you to enjoy what could otherwise be an awkward situation. Above all, you should avoid burdening yourself with unrealistic expectations about how you might fare your first time out aboard a new boat. Remember, Michael Jordan had no mortal equivalent on the basketball court, but in a baseball uniform he became just another guy on the roster, no more than a farm leaguer. The idea, after all, is simply to learn, so just try to absorb as much as you can about how the good sailors in this new boat set things up and how they sail the boat. You can start by asking questions, and as a rule of thumb, you’ll find that most everyone who sails that new boat will be more than willing to help you learn.

Then, when you eventually get back aboard your usual boat, you won’t realize it, but unconsciously you’ll be distilling what you learned aboard the other boat and applying it. It’s only human nature for you to make comparisons, and these will help you fine-tune your performance.

Time aboard any kind of unfamiliar boat can offer new lessons about performance.
After winning an Olympic silver medal in the Men’s 470 at Sydney in September this year, Paul Foerster came home and found himself steering a Vanguard 15 with his wife Carrie as crew in US SAILING’s annual Championship of Champions Regatta, held at the Houston Yacht Club. Foerster is undoubtedly a superb competitor to begin with, but having sailed in a different two-person boat gave him a good perspective for jumping into the V-15. "To me," explained Foerster, "the more I sail, the better I become. So training and racing in the Olmpics obviously made me a better sailor. It also helped that the 470 and the V-15 are of similar to sail." As you might imagine, Foerster and his wife won that event. 

So call up a sailing friend, or head down to the nearest sailing center or yacht club and look for a spot racing on a boat you’ve never been aboard before. No doubt there’ll be an initial awkwardness, but just be observant and ask a lot of questions, and you’ll find that the learning will start even before you leave the dock.


Suggested Reading:

  1. The Philosophy of Cross-Training by Dan Dickison 
  2. Team-Building Basics by Betsy Alison 
  3. The Pre-Race Checklist by Dan Dickison


Dan Dickison is offline  
Closed Thread

Quick Reply

By choosing to post the reply above you agree to the rules you agreed to when joining Sailnet.
Click Here to view those rules.

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the SailNet Community forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
Please note: After entering 3 characters a list of Usernames already in use will appear and the list will disappear once a valid Username is entered.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is Off
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome