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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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2014 Orange Bowl Regatta

Orange Bowl is one of the most competitive c420 regattas on the circuit and considering the challenging conditions this past year, and our the team’s limited time in the boat, the level of competition was really high and we performed really well!
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That this was the third regatta that my skipper and crew had every sailed together, considering that they proved great skills at communication and teamsmanship in the boat. HOWEVER, in a two person boat every day should be an opportunity to better communication.
There will be a time when movements and adjustments in the boat become intuitive and the skipper and crew may be able to communicate with a few efficient words, until then talk-talk-talk (about the racing, of course). TRUST each others skills, smarts, and opinions. Two heads are better than one and while you’re sharing responsibilities in racing the boat you must also share the decision making process.
Big Things To Work On- Crew:
-Confidence on the trapeze. The more time you spend on the wire the more “at home” you’ll feel out there. And the better your skipper will be at balancing the boat for you.
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-Flying at trimming the spinnaker, this comes with time and experience- lots of hours in all sorts of conditions. The good news is, you get better every day with the kite in your hands. Your hands, eyes, and body will continue to become more sensitive to each flicker and inflation of the spinnaker. Until then, hyper-focus is critical.
-Communication: both skipper & crew are smart and knowledgeable, capable of making good racing decisions. As I mentioned, its important to share those thoughts with your teammate, so the team can make the best choices for your boat. Consider each teammate’s perspective in the boat: (A) the skipper has the best position to push the boat to optimal VMG, constantly trimming the main sheet and helm. (B) the crew has the vantage of being positioned 4-5 feet outside of the boat, watching the other boats, position of mark, wind on the water.
-Speed and Efficiency with sets and douses. Practice makes perfect and repetition is the only way to master these skills so you don’t waste or give away any time/speed around marks. Ask yourself this question, how many touches/seconds/boat lengths did it take to set/douse/set the pole?
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Big Things To Work On- Skipper:
-Fleet Management. Making good choices of (1) when to cover, (2) when to separate from competitors to go for speed, and (3) how to pick off boats. This comes with time and lots of racing experience. You will get better every race if you reflect on specific situations and boat-to-boat decisions; consider how they affected your race.
-Intensity- Roll tacks, sets, and Jibes. During practice, races, and free sailing always give 100% on these maneuvers so that you can instinctively give 100%.
-Balance & Body Position: This is important no matter what the wind is doing. You know where to sit, don’t get lazy – always ask yourself “what can I do to go faster?”
-Sets: practice, practice, practice: quick pulls to get the kite up and then sit quickly to get weight forward. Here’s a great video of the Men’s 470 at the Worlds in Santandar. Check out their sets.
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Next year for OB, keep your sights on a top 10 finish in Gold Fleet. That will motivate you to work hard throughout the year. Take that goal into your boat everyday.

Club 420 MidWinter’s Regatta Report

It’s always great to get back home. In my life I’ve probably spend close to a year on those waters. (yes, probably somethings like 365 days, at least). The US Sailing Center of Martin County is where I first learned to sail a dinghy at summer camp. Where the high school sailing team that my sister and I started would practice. Where I poured my guts out during the 2004 Olympic Trials. The brackish water of the Indian River has a lot of my blood, sweat, and tears in it. And this year, it was really special to bring two sailors from the Rocky Mountains down to compete in what may be the most competitive club 420 event on the US circuit, and there’s no better time than mid-February to retreat from Colorado and spend some time  in South Florida.

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The Club420 MidWinter’s Regatta is an event that always presents a challenge. I think this was my 6th time at the event (3 times as a competitor, 3 times as a coach) and this year was no different. Bringing a team of young (in experience, not age) sailors called for a lot of preparation before each race. Lots of re-evaluation, lots of adjusting expectations, creative incentives, and pathways toward motivation. As a coach, this event stretched me in new ways. Which is good: athletes & coaches need to stretch, right.

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Here are some takeaways from the event:

  • The Set Up- The boats in our community sailing program in Colorado are not at the level of the other competitors. Our team learned very quickly what changes and new adaptations needed to be made on the boat (topping lift, trapeze wire setting, spin halyard modifications). We also learned very quickly how difficult it is to step into a new boat set up, our “toothbrush” modification was definitely a fail. This set us back during rigging on the practice day and first day of the event. This is an important lesson. I think the Dave Perry quote is something like, “The sailors who win the regatta have already done so before they hit the water.” We definitely learned the value of good preparation.
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  • Technique- Our team started and finished the regatta as different sailors. It was amazing to see the progress and development they made in such a short time. Every time we hit the water the goal was to become more comfortable and efficient. “How many steps did it take to tack?” “How many times did my hands touch the spin pole?” “How could I have completed this job more efficiently and faster?,” is a question we should always ask. This goes back to practice days before the event. Approaching practice with the right amount of focus and goal setting helps refine all the movements so that once it’s regatta time, the technique is not a deficit in your race.
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  • Communication-Something we always need to work on. I notice teenagers, especially when stressed, yelling orders at each other. More often than not a skipper will yell at her crew, all the while focusing more on their teammate than their own responsibilities. How can we fix this issue? Open conversation and telling your teammate, “I’m doing this…” is a lot better than saying “Do this now, you son-of-a….!” A successful team can work in unison both silently and while speaking, this obviously just takes time. And let’s face it, even the pros yell at each other.

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In the end, our team overcame a tremendous amount obstacles during this event. For me, it was a huge success. And now these sailors will bring their experience back to Colorado and share their stories and hard earned knowledge to uplift the skills and culture of our small sailing community. It was great to get back to Florida and catch up with many of my sailors and their parents. I can’t wait to go back net year and bring an even bigger team from the Rockies.