By Diego Ravecca
We welcome Diego to the Sail1Design team. Diego is an experienced and exceptional coach, serving as National Optimist Team Coach for Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Peru, along with coaching here in the States at Fishing Bay Yacht Club. Diego also coached Argentina’s Laser Radials at the 2012 Olympics, and will be the National Program Manager for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Introduction- I would like to share some experience about speed in dinghy racing. If we analyze the system integrated by the boat, the sailor/s and medium fluids (air-wind and water-waves-current), we will find it is a complex system with a lot of variables influenced, one to each other. I want to scope this discussion on boats where the relation between crew weight and boat/equipment weight is close to 1 because the body has a tighter connection with the boat close to this rate. In this case, the Optimist dinghy is a perfect choice for study.
There can be some facts about things to do in order to go faster, and some logical conclusion on procedures to get better speed performance. The learning process to racing is a long list and discussion about all this. We can assume that if one good sailor can work on his technique, he will get excellent speed performance in most conditions. But, we must ask if there is something beyond that to go faster?
Some time ago we had a discussion between Optimist coaches about this matter. All of us observed, among years of coaching, that at certain moments some sailors got incredible speed performance. The speed difference was enough to be detected with simple observation. This usually happens at reach and downwind legs, and is more easily observed on conditions up to twelve knots and waves. For example, sailors rounding the weather mark in 20th place get downwind gate 3rd in a hundred-boat experienced Optimist fleet. Persons getting that incredible speed “momentum” are not only top sailors, and this is the most perplexing fact.
The Hypothesis- So, this deserves an explanation, and here we have a problem. When you ask those sailors what did they do/trim different from others to get so incredible speed they always say the same words: I don’t know.
First will try to describe better the phenomenon.
The boat increases speed in a period of time and touches maximum speed being sustained by a moment, then drops down to a medium speed, and again accelerates to gain maximum speed, and drops down again. It takes some time to get to the maximum speed, and boat is in a weak state there, and easily drops again to medium speed.
The observed can be explained with “jumps” between speed peaks, and maybe with higher peaks. People sailing in this “fast mode” can sustain the speed peaks and minimize the drops.
The logical way to sail fast says trim your boat/sails/body, get feedback through your senses, process logically this data, adjust trim and repeat the loop. With this process we have a roof on performance, and we may think the speed key is something more beyond, evidenced on previously described “speed events”.
Maybe we can explain this with some kind of jump in the logical data process. Apparently this “super speed mode” is some kind of direct path between sensitive data input and sail/body/boat adjustment. The “body” knows what to do, and things flow easily. Mind is blank, body and boat disappeared, and sailor is flying thinking on next tactical move.
This sounds something like the creative (lateral) thinking proposed by Edward de Bono*. Maybe the exceptional performance at speed (and tactics) pops up with this approach.
We invite your thoughts, in the comments section below. Please share your thoughts here, with us!
*Edward de Bono is a Maltese physician, author, inventor and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools. Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.
By Diego Ravecca