Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mental Attitude

Today was the final day of the Laser clinic with Kostas Trigonis and I came away impressed with how honest and insightful he is. And I am not referring to his knowledge of sailing, although needless to say he knows sailing extremely well.

I am referring to his constant harping on how important is attitude, determination, not worrying about mistakes, etc.  I admit that when I first heard this message I was a bit impatient, thinking he should just shorten this obligatory inspirational fillip and get right into technique.

I was wrong.

No one can teach you if you are not really willing to learn - and that comes down to attitude, putting aside fear of mistakes, putting aside giving up, knowing when to push and when not to.  As he said several times, out on the race course you cannot hide.  Maybe in our day jobs we can get by with things and cover up a lot, but not sailing a race.

Today was windier than previous days - around 14 - 15 knots. Our group of eight sailors had 3 experienced ones and 5 including me, who, while not really beginners, were not in their league.  And this windier day showed very clearly, as Kostas pointed it out very graphically with examples and videos - that the main problem with our second group was, not so much a lack of technique, as behavioral/attitude issues.  For instance, one of our group gave up far too easily at the first obstacle. Another one - me - got too upset at the first mistake and, instead of putting it quickly behind, let it poison the rest of the session, preventing learning.

One common mistake today in the higher winds (although fortunately I didn't do it) was to leave the boom too far out on downwind. The further out the boom is, the more course change is required to get the wind behind it to gybe it over - if it is too far out, the boat will be on a broad reach the other way before the boom comes over and when it does in windy conditions, it is likely to push the boat around from the broad reach into a capsize. However, if the boom is trimmed into 45 degrees before starting the gybe, then very little course change will bring the boom over and stability can be maintained.

The higher wind and one part of the course with some strong current did increase the fatigue factor. As Kostas pointed out, fatigue is an enemy of learning - when fatigue sets in the body reverts too easily to old bad, ingrained habits.  He said if you are practicing and you succeed at a particular maneuver, do it at most 3 times and then stop doing it. Otherwise you risk doing it badly eventually and then you are left with the feeling that you are a lousy sailor.

On the one hand I was frustrated today with several capsizes and not having been able to master such winds.  But, although I don't like to admit it, I am convinced that the errors were, indeed, mostly mental. I did several decent gybes but capsized on others. Clearly I had the technique for some but others failed - the only explanation can be the mental attitude on those.  In fact, after the race, the fellow sailor manning the Committee Boat told me he very clearly saw me hesitate during a gybe just before capsizing - something Kostas had clearly warned about - once you start a gybe, do not hesitate, but continue through it.

During the debrief with Kostas after, I told him that I had listened to his remarks on the first day about mental attitude but didn't really understand them until today.


  1. Great advice. Thanks for these posts. There's a lot of stuff here I can use.

  2. These points of instruction confirm my learnings during my career racing Lasers. I would add one more:

    In a breeze, close to DDW, never look back!

    It's not that someone might be gaining on you, Satchel! What invariably followed my momentary distraction aft was a critical inattention to the task of keeping the boat under the sail.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...