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 IODs more-stately performance characteristics is not something easily accomplished. "I live in St. Petersburg, FL," said seeded competitor Ed Baird, "and we dont have anything like an IOD class boat there, so its 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!"
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 youre 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 sailingthat we must all maintain an open mind regarding performance because were only as good as our most recent finish.
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, youll 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 wont realize it, but unconsciously youll be distilling what you learned aboard the other boat and applying it. Its only human nature for you to make comparisons, and these will help you fine-tune your performance.
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 youve never been aboard before. No doubt therell be an initial awkwardness, but just be observant and ask a lot of questions, and youll find that the learning will start even before you leave the dock.
- The Philosophy of Cross-Training by Dan Dickison
- Team-Building Basics by Betsy Alison
- The Pre-Race Checklist by Dan Dickison
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