Sunday, April 1, 2012

Light Winds and Starts

Frustrating, boring, limp, useless – those were my feelings yesterday - sitting, drifting on the race course with no wind. The opposite of sailing, the wind gods taunting, just over the horizon.

We started our race with gentle winds but the race committee was aware they may not last and set a course close to home.  The forecasts were accurate and after about 20 minutes, the wind sputtered, wheezed and died.  After 15 minutes of drifting with the incoming tide the RC called it quits and we limped back home.

What did I learn from yesterday?  First, my start was a disaster because I was timing it based on the wind from about 10 minutes earlier and by the time I was ready to bear off and kick into high gear, the RC boat flags were drooping and my high gear was an embarrassing sputter toward the line.   I should have stayed closer to the line and assumed the worst – it is a lot easier to luff up to slow down than to bear off into non-existent wind.

And I should have known better.  In a regatta a couple of months ago, the winds were very light and the RC had fiendishly put the start line in the midst of a tidal flow heading downwind. So the boats were pointed upwind toward the line but were travelling backward with the current.  But I had one of the best starts.  Not because I did anything right, but because I had (you guessed it) misjudged the wind and was too far away from the line. But from this vantage point I was able to see the other boats' predicament and was able to point much higher going to the line to compensate for the tide. I looked brilliant, but it was just dumb luck. I wish I could say that yesterday I remembered this event and compensated for the light wind, etc. but in fact I repeated the same mistake, and was suitably rewarded by looking foolish instead of brilliant.  

So, the real lesson in all this has less to do with light wind, than with using mistakes to learn and remembering that learning is not automatic. I certainly prefer to forget my stupid mistakes and that makes it even harder to learn from them.  Which is why a journal of mistakes and lessons following each race is a good idea. I can at least feel virtuous in recording the mistakes and hopefully look at them in the future and avoid the same mistake, leaving room for a new one to learn from.

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