Optimist Clinic – Southern YC, New Orleans

The good folks in Naw’lins rolled out the cajun carpet. I had an excellent two weeks in the Crescent City after being invited down to coach the Optimist Team for two weeks preceding the USODA MidWinter’s.

I think the most significant strengths right now in the Opti fleet is that 1) they’re a young team and 2) they have a great chemistry together, where even the oldest sailors are friendly and supportive of the young ones. Looking forward to what’s to come with these guys.

I can’t stress #2 enough. I was impressed by the team’s feedback to each other during our debriefs. Solid.

Here are some notes & specific feedback on what I focused on the during the two weekends we had during the Clinic to prepare the team for the USODA MidWinter’s.

Saturday, Nov. 15: 10-13mph, +15 gusts out of NNE. 2 ft chop. 13 sailors

Drills : Focus on Body Position/Movement, Boat Handling, Tactics.


  • Warm Up: Round the Boat, both directions.
    • Focus: Steering with body, less with rudder. Timing of turns while paying attention to chop/waves
  • Modified “rabbit” start = Follow coach boat on reach, turn up wind on whistle
    • Tack on whistle drill, start stop, 360s *needed improvement on timing of body movement & trimming to get acceleration in lighter/choppy conditions
  • Windward Sprit/Blade Adjustment: sailors must make adjustments before passing a specific boat length in time, or re-round top mark.
    • Good sail settings, smooth transitions, reduce drag w/o sliding sideways/plowing
  • Upwind Cone drill: tacking in clean air vs. dirty air.
    • Tactics of sailing with/around condensed fleet  (top mark)
  • Never Ending Race: to flip-flop fastest and slowest sailors
    • Early preparation for downwind mark rounding, timing, rounding in “current”
  • Downwind Gate Selection
    • Final Approach Race, Selecting a good lane to get to the finish.


Sunday, Nov 16: 18-20 mph, +30 gusts out of South. Flat water. Patchy & Puffy. 13 sailors.

Drills: Focus on pushing past “Survival Sailing,” Making Adjustments on the water, Finding Patterns = Strategy.

  • “Modified Rabbit Start”-Upwind: Tack on whistle.
    • Getting comfortable in breeze. Adjusting sail.
  • Starting Drills: Odd in/ Even out.
    • Focus: keeping space to leeward, double tack vs. crab/drift? Timing
  • Short course racing- emphasis on reach/jibe mark.
    • Timing, not flipping, control
  • Racing for the rest of the day
    • Recognizing pattern. Putting together a strategy. Race Smarts.
  • Preparation
    • Dressing appropriately for the conditions!

DSCN3507Saturday, Nov 22: 8-12 mph / gusts to 14 out of SSE. Light surface chop. 15 sailors.

Drills: Focus on- Body position/movement, Drag / 4 corners of the boat, Reading the water & Connecting the dots.

  • Round the boat Warm Up
    • Focus: Steering with body, timing with waves
  • Modified “Rabbit” – tack on whistle, start stop
    • Focus: Boat handling, acceleration
  • Double Line start: lower line (start 1 minute), top line (start 0 secs)
    • Position on the line, getting set up in congestion, timing
  • Long down winders
    • Pumping/surfing in waves, Acceleration  (4 corners) planing.


Sunday, Nov 23: 16-24 gusts to 34 out of the SSE. Short, tight chop. 10 sailors.

Drills: Focus on moving past survival, reading the water, Hiking/racing in breeze. Lots of video: morning, lunch, and after practice = hiking position. Keeping boat flat, position of clew.

  • Modified “Rabbit” downwind slalom warm up.
    • Timing Jibes with lulls, waves.
    • Jibing around other boats
    • Building confidence
  • Short course racing
    • Starting in breeze
    • Hiking = good angle / speed, control
    • Surfing wave downwind
  • Long course Racing
    • Endurance, holding the hike
    • Strategy upwind
    • Surfing, when to jibe?
  • “Exhaustion drill” End of day, tack on whistle endless upwind.
    • Staying strong to finish the race


Good luck to the sailors during MidWinter’s Regatta!

During the second weekend of the Clinic the Great Oaks Regatta was going on. This is a regatta I hold dear to my heart. My high school sailing team, with the help of my sister and Noel Shriner placed second our first year at this regatta back in the early 2000s. The Fall after I graduated college I coached a hot young high school team, with great help of their fearless A fleet skipper, Edgar Diminich, who performed well enough to lead the team to a first place finish that year. Those memories combined with a few I made on Frenchman Street, there’s always a sunny spot in my heart for New Orleans. This year, it was amazing to see so many teams (nearly 40) from New England to Miami to Houston & everywhere in between.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: